Two’s Company Keswick launched in early September 2021as a partnership between Churches Together in Keswick (CTiK) and Keswick Rotary Club with support from Age UK West Cumbria …. but how did we get here? I suspect we had a more unusual gestation than most Linking Lives or Two’s Company schemes.
Our journey started at the end of 2020 when Keswick Rotary Club were looking to work with others in the local community to support those in need, but to work in partnership and not to duplicate. They had been in contact with the Cockermouth and national Linking Lives teams and heard what they were doing. A series of phone conversations with CTiK ensued who were also looking for a new community focussed project to be involved in.
By mid January 2021 a Zoom meeting was set up with representatives of Keswick Rotary Club, CTiK and Age UK West Cumbria where the Cockermouth Linking Lives team gave a presentation of their journey and experience. After a Q&A session, each partner organisation agreed to consult their respective organisations and reconvene in a three weeks to agree the next steps. As a result, there was a joint desire with full and enthusiastic support for the three organisations to work in partnership to explore setting up a Linking Lives project in Keswick and the surrounding villages. Two representatives from each organisation were chosen to be members of the set-up group.
The first set up committee met in mid February and during the initial meetings we agreed priorities and initial actions were delegated to each member of the group. Each member of the group had particular skills, experience and contacts they could call upon. Initial actions included identifying our geographical boundaries, the demographics of the area, the local social prescribing referral network, potential space availability. We also had regular discussions with the Cockermouth and the Linking Lives UK team – and apologies to Angela for regularly bombarding her with questions which she patiently answered! This was also a time of transition for Linking Lives UK as we all began to explore our way out of the pandemic. Our next major actions were to get our infrastructure in place, prepare our registration with LLUK, start the coordinator recruitment process, identify a local scheme leader, apply for funding, make initial contact with referral agencies, start volunteer recruitment, and initiate some publicity and communications.
The final set-up committee was held in July when everything was in place and the Partner organisations content with the arrangements. The operational delivery was handed over to the Leader and Coordinator with oversight from a Trustee Steering Group with representatives from Keswick Rotary, CTiK and the host church.
Fiona started as coordinator on 1 July with Keith as Leader and it has been full on since then with volunteer recruitment, our first referrals, implementing a communications and publicity plan and receiving a £5000 start up grant from Cumbria Community Foundation through the Abbeyfield Carlisle Society Over 55 Community First Fund. We had a soft launch at the beginning of August and have fully launched on 8 September. We are excited about the future as we seek to reduce social isolation and loneliness in the Keswick and surrounding area and are grateful for the support of Linking Lives UK to help us reach this exciting stage.
Keith Rigg, Leader & Fiona Overend, Coordinator