Thursday evening, settled into a corner of very comfy chairs at UrbanNine in Reigate, we met up with 6 local Casserole members to chat about the service, plans for the future, and hear their honest thoughts on where things are headed.
We talked about everything from how they found out about Casserole and why they decided to sign up, to the future of the service in Reigate and Banstead and how Casserole might be funded. Everyone who showed up had some brilliant and insightful things to say – some of which confirmed ideas that we’d been thinking about already, and others which opened our eyes to some new opportunities within the community.
“I want someone down my road who I can pop round and visit on a saturday morning” – Ruth
“I would love for [my grandmother] to have this type of service, and that’s why I signed up.” – Natasha
We talked about the potential of connecting with local churches, primary schools and nurseries (where parents are most likely seeking ways to get involved in the neighbourhood and word can spread quickly across the playground), and sheltered housing to reach more potential members. When discussing the idea of expansion and scale, we talked, and all agreed in the importance of having someone dedicated within the community to help manage members and be a face to the service in the area. We chatted about how Casserole could be a source of great comfort and assurance to adult children who may live far away from their ageing parents, and how there shouldn’t be set criteria for who qualifies as a Diner.
I can’t fit everything we talked about into this blog (otherwise you will be here for ages) but one of the greatest moments of the whole evening was watching as new members asked one of our more veteran cooks, Maggie, about her experience in Casserole – what it’s like delivering meals, how does she arrange them, does she enjoy it, etc… Maggie’s accounts of getting on with her Diner Pam, the laid back way in which they arrange their meals (Maggie cooks once a fortnight, and just rings Pam up at the beginning of the week and says “Do you fancy eating ____”) seemed to appease some of the apprehension new members may have had about arranging their first meal and by the end of the night, you could tell they were inspired to get cooking as soon as they can.
While most people who sign up to Casserole are avid cooks, one of our members signed up in spite of the cooking – “Even though I hate cooking, I think the idea is amazing, so I signed up.” So no excuses – even an aversion to the kitchen doesn’t have to be a reason to not get involved in something good!
One final word – our Casserole members are bloody supportive. Every ounce of challenging questions, local advice and words of encouragement they supplied were exactly the type of constructive feedback we thrive on to improve and develop the service. When we spoke of the difficult nature of finding Diners, Ruth immediately piped in, “It’s a slow burn, but you will get there,” with a circle of nods and comments on how a service like this, one built on trust, inherently takes longer to grow, but that it becomes all the stronger because of that. So a huge thanks to those members who took time out of their evening to drop by and talk to us – we couldn’t do it without you!