Alex Walker has recently become the new Chair of Trustees at Trinity Network, the charity that runs services for older people from their bases in Beeston Hill and Belle Isle.
I spoke to Alex about the organisation’s work through the pandemic and their excitement about reopening face to face services from 17 May.
Alex, who is a teacher and plays in a punk rock covers band in his spare time, was recently invested as church leader for the United Reform Church (URC). The church runs a charity called South Leeds Team Ministry, one of whose projects is Trinity Network.
Like CEO Lynda Williamson, Alex sees the reopening as an opportunity to refresh how they serve and engage with older people in the area. His ‘barometers’ are his mother who is retired and missing the many activities she was part of before Covid, and his grandfather who is in his nineties, lives alone and just wants to meet people. Alex believes Trinity Network can meet both these needs.
The service runs from two very different church sites. The Victorian URC church on Dewsbury Road site has had to be closed during Covid due to financial pressures and will not reopen immediately due to the difficulty of running Covid-secure activities in an old church building.
For now, Trinity Network will focus on its modern Nesfield Road site in Belle Isle. But their minibus will be available to bring people from all over South Leeds
“We’ve used the minibus throughout lockdown to collect shopping for people, to take people to the supermarket and to their vaccinations, which we’re very pleased about” explains Alex. “We’ve also delivered food parcels, we sent out a Christmas lunch hamper to members and we did an afternoon tea for Easter, which was very gratefully received.”
The centre is already running outdoor keep fit classes and from Monday 17 May you will be able to come inside, sit and have a cup of tea and use the centre’s facilities. There will be some pressure on numbers so to make sure you get a space in the main room you are advised to book in advance and bagsy a table.
“First and foremost, we just want to get back in touch, properly, with our members. As good as the volunteer team have been, and I cannot stress my thanks to the volunteers enough, who have been ringing people to check they are OK, that they have food in the house and to chat, but it’s not quite the same as having them back in the centre and talking through the issues of modern-day life. Many find themselves out of the loop when so much has been going on over facetime and zoom this last year. We’re really looking forward to welcoming them in.”
There are plans to make much more use the garden this summer. The south facing space, a bit of a sun trap, will help cater to larger numbers safely. The current memory room is to be renovated and converted into a pamper room, where members can have your hair, make up, nails, etc done.
Alex stresses that Nesfield Road is a safe space. Everything is cleaned regularly; the staff are tested and vaccinated; visitors sign in for track and trace purposes.
“We don’t want people to feel anxious, they can relax sit and have a cup of tea and a chat. And everyone is welcome, whether you’re a member who has used our services before or not.”
Looking ahead they plan to offer light, healthy, nutritious lunches over the summer. They will be restarting trips out and have already booked a holiday in Blackpool in September.
“The members who we’ve contacted so far are very excited, which is very encouraging.”
Alex pays tribute to the staff for their “onging and sustained support for the people around them even times have been tough.”
“This is not an evangelical project, it never has been. The church wants to provide a space where people can go and feel warm and safe and welcome and loved.
“The Trinity Network team want to run a space where people get something out of it – baking, new skills, gardening and meet new people.”
With Alex at the helm, I’m sure they’ll achieve it.
To contact Trinity Network ring (0113) 270 3935 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org