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Volunteers turn Melling pub into community hub to feed the elderly and vulnerable during coronavirus lockdown

A group of volunteers are putting the ‘family’ into community by providing meals for those isolated and in need of food and supplies during the coronavirus lockdown.

It was just two weeks ago when Sue and Adam Franklin, landlords of the Horse and Jockey pub in Melling, Merseyside, came up with the idea of helping others after Sue was kept awake with worry about the elderly and vulnerable.

So she and Adam, a former military chef used to cooking in times of crisis, didn’t waste any time.

The landlords shut the pub doors three days before the government-ordered closures and began sanitising the kitchen and revising health and safety procedures.

Then, alongside Adam’s brother Dee Franklin who is also a chef, they started prepping food for hot meals to deliver free of charge.

They were just in time. Melling borders Knowsley, the second poorest borough in England, and people were already starting to struggle.

Adam & Suzanne Franklin, landlady at The Horse & Jockey Pub in Melling

But there was one problem. Adam had been admitted to hospital last summer and even lost 11 stone he was so ill. After being so close to death, the Franklin family made the decision that they would all lock down early, remaining isolated themselves to protect Adam’s health.

If they were to distribute meals, they needed help in the form of more volunteers. And they needed food donations.

The response was remarkable. A team of multi-skilled volunteers was assembled from the community and they now hold nightly virtual meetings to co-ordinate the huge effort and crowdfunding required to help those in need, utilising the very latest in technology to organise orders.

More than 2,000 leaflets were delivered to homes across Melling, with social media posts targeted towards those in the village alongside neighbouring Aintree, Kirkby and Maghull, and they have teamed up with taxi drivers, the parish council and local volunteer services to identify those most vulnerable.

Pork in peppercorn sauce with fresh veggies – some of the meals delivered to the local vulnerable

Now the Melling Community Volunteers are crowdfunding to buy ingredients for the project in bulk as demand is so high.

Sue said: “The number of people needing us and the radius that our volunteer group covers is growing each day as local authorities do not have the systems in place or capacity to help.

“They now are phoning us asking to help people until they can.

“These people include Covid-19 sufferers and their families, isolated, vulnerable, ill and elderly people, people who have carers and home helps and families that are destitute until universal credit comes through.

“We are using our own stock at the pub but are starting to run low.”

Volunteers include Sheila and Carol, both in their 70s themselves and currently isolating, but using their time to ring round and provide a listening ear.

Sheila has also been writing letters of support, while wearing gloves and a mask, to be delivered with the food in the evenings.

Other volunteers include retired police officer Mike Rawling who helps with deliveries and Lynn Rigby who works for the Department of work and pensions. Despite caring for her own mother, who is in her 90s, Lynn leaves care packages at the doors of the most vulnerable including medication and supplies.

Assistant manager at The Horse & Jockey James Duckworth has been coordinating the volunteers and delivering with his mum, Lorna (pictured)

Pub staff including James Duckworth and Meg Wright have been working tirelessly to coordinate all aspects of the volunteer activity and keep the operation going.

And they have helped so many people already, including:

· One man who is recovering from a stroke had no support system in place. The volunteers took him hot meals, toilet paper, toiletries, cleaning products and basic food like pasta and tinned goods. He told them: “You don’t know what this means to me, I cannot thank you enough, I didn’t know what I would do. You have brightened my day.”

· Another recipient is a 74-year-old widow who texted saying she had never asked for help in her life. She told volunteers she had been eating toast for each meal until her food arrived.

· A mum of four boys including two who are poorly couldn’t get Calpol to help them. An appeal across the village saw donations made and volunteers delivered this along with fruit, veg, milk and bread alongside the daily meals.

· Another family were struggling as the dad contracted Covid-19 and his 15-year-old daughter was doing all the cooking. The five-year-old girl was showing signs of illness too. Volunteers took the pressure off with hot meals so the teenager can focus on her schoolwork and dad can concentrate on getting better.

If anybody is able to donate goods, consider dropping any supplies off to the Jockey pub in a safe manner – or please donate to the crowd funder HERE

If anybody needs to request help for yourself or a vulnerable neighbour or family member, please get in touch in one of the following ways: Call 0151 7393601 or text 07971 004494 or email

Philip from PJ Produce – just one of the many businesses who have donated to the cause
ADM meats have supplied fresh meat, eggs, dairy produce and even carrier bags to help the volunteers

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