Local lunch club receives special visit as part of the Big Help Out initiative
Diners at a lunch club in Rickmansworth were left feeling grateful and thrilled after a surprise visit from the Prime Minister and his wife, who served them a delightful lamb casserole accompanied by wine. The special guests, Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty, joined the local residents, mostly elderly individuals, at the Mill End Community Centre’s dining room.
The Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), which organizes the lunch club from Monday to Friday, primarily caters to individuals in the community who lack strong family networks. The visit was part of the Big Help Out initiative, encouraging people nationwide to volunteer during the coronation bank holiday weekend.
Ahead of the day, Mr Sunak said: “I hope that as part of the legacy of this historic moment of national unity, people will be inspired for years to volunteer, to help out and to make a difference to others around them.”
In black aprons, Mr. Sunak and Ms. Murty contributed to the meal preparation by chopping parsnips and strawberries in the kitchen. They then joined the diners for a toast, which culminated in the group exclaiming “long live the King” and offering three cheers.
The unsuspecting diners engaged in conversations, took selfies, and shared moments with the Prime Minister, who was surrounded by Union flag tablecloths, napkins, and golden paper crowns. They were delighted to hear Mr. Sunak recount his attendance at a vibrant street party held the previous day on Downing Street to celebrate the coronation.
During his interactions, Mr. Sunak discussed the number of courses typically served at the club and inquired about any particular favorite dishes. One diner, Val Leach, a former teacher from Rickmansworth, shared her past affiliation with the Conservative party, explaining how she had “lost her way” as the party itself did. However, she expressed her renewed support, stating, “but I’m back now.” Notably, the 77-year-old proudly mentioned her possession of a bottle of whiskey signed by Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron, adorned with a miniature crown around her neck.
The unexpected visit by the Prime Minister and his wife left a lasting impression on the diners, who felt incredibly fortunate to have had such esteemed individuals serve them. This heartwarming event exemplified the spirit of volunteering and community support, which the Big Help Out initiative aims to highlight.
Another regular, 89-year-old Peter Worthington, called the Prime Minister “brilliant”.
“What a relaxed person,” the former vet said. “He was just like one of the crowd.”
“It was a lovely surprise. What you see is what you get. They are natural.
“They don’t appear to be career politicians – so refreshing.
“We’ve been really fortunate.”
Pauline Warren, who has a brain injury and struggles to cook for herself, said she made Mr Sunak laugh.
She told PA: “He brought my lunch and put it down in front of me. I said I always vote for people who feed me and he thought that was quite funny.”
Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of RVS and co-creator of the Big Help Out campaign, told PA that the charity runs hundreds of lunch clubs for people in various local communities – catering for the elderly, people with learning disabilities and those with long-term health conditions.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s visit, she said: “It was brilliant, absolutely amazing that they took the time to come in.
“What was really impressive was that they just wanted to help out.
“They came in, they donned their pinnies, they helped prepare the lunch, served the lunch and then they spent a lot of time with a lot of care talking to the clients that came here.”