This was why our Society, The Oddfellows, was established over 200 years ago. To offer friendship and support to those in need.
Back then it was to offer a means for workers and their families not covered by traditional trade guilds to pay small regular sums to protect themselves should they fall on hard times.
Today, nothing has changed really. Our members pay £25 or £35 a year to have the support of local social events, care and welfare, and financial help, as well as having the comfort of knowing there’s someone they can call on.
The majority of our 43,500 UK Branch members are over 60 and, as we know, this age group faces many different challenges to those of other stages in life. This might include their family growing up and moving away, living alone or not having family, coping with financial or health problems, or grieving the loss of a life-long partner, or friend.
These issues have not been replaced by others during this pandemic. Unfortunately, they have been exacerbated and added to, such as the worrying knowledge that their age group is one of the most vulnerable to Covid-19.
At the end of March, we pressed pause on no less than 1,600 of our local Branches’ face-to-face social events. It was a heart-breaking decision, because we know that they are a lifeline for a huge number of our members. They’ve something to look forward to, they can spend time in the company of friends that look out for them, it gets them out of the house.
As lockdown commenced, we needed to know that every one of our members was OK. It resulted in a national check-in of our membership. Our 121 Branches contacted each member household to let them know what support was there for them, such as our local and national care and welfare teams, our dedicated Citizens Advice Line, benevolence grants, or simply that there was a friend to talk to at the end of the line. As with all support organisations, we’ve been inundated by requests for help, which has been made all the harder by having to navigate new situations, issues and ways of working.
Our check-ins continue to happen regularly, because we know that people are often too proud to ask for help. The challenges of week one of lockdown, or of shielding, is also presenting different challenges to that of a month or two down the line.
Where we can help our members, we always will. And if we can’t solve it ourselves, we’ll find people who can. We know that The Silver Line is an incredible example of such an approach, too – offering unconditional round-the-clock friendship and support.
It’s so very true that friendship shines brightest at times of darkness. But we know, that if we’ve got each others’ backs, we’ll weather this difficult time together.
We’re also confident that our experiences over the past couple of months, and the new knowledge that we’ve gained, will make us even stronger and more resilient as a Society. Strength that we can pass on to our membership, and our communities.
If you want to find out more about the Oddfellows, then please take a look at our website. It’s at www.oddfellows.co.uk. You are most welcome to visit us at any of our Branches, or to give an event a try – that is when the time’s right to meet up and shake each other’s hands again.