Members of Five Ash Down Pop-in Club celebrated its 25th anniversary with friends and guests this week.
A party was held at Barnsgate Manor and attended by about 100 people.
Club founder Jane Sturt was there with a team of volunteer helpers, and members of her own family.
She launched the club on July 28, 1992, to keep the village community together after the closure of the village shop.
It continued as a Post Office but in more recent years the shop was resurrected, has grown and is thriving along with the Post Office under the leadership of Maggie Dopson and her daughter-in-law Kim. Working with them are Charlotte Bourne and Sam Coltman.
The pop-in club has grown too, continuing to foster its aim of helping people to keep in touch, alleviate loneliness and enjoy a social ‘cuppa’.
An original document about the club says: ““We have our own library of books and puzzles, information leaflets, sale of bread and teabags plus delivery of fresh fish.
“We have a Birthday Book and Get Well cards are signed by all present which are really appreciated by the receiver.
“Car owners pick up people that are unable to get here under their own steam. We invite any of you and your friends to come along any Tuesday morning between 10:00 to 11:00am.”
The club continues as it was started, apart from the sale of bread, teabags, and fish, say the current members.
More events have been added to the calendar including celebrations for Valentine’s Day, Easter and Harvest Festival – where proceeds go to the Royal British Legion – and a Christmas party.
Biscuits and cake are served with the cuppa and there are flowers on the tables to be enjoyed by all. Bingo is organised in the school holidays for children, and there’s a Penny Jar for spare change which goes to Demelza Hospice.
Member Jane Brazier said: “The pop in has no membership, everyone mucks in, with Jane at the helm. It is just a get together for people of all ages to chat and enjoy. Many lasting friendships are made. It helps put a smile on people’s faces. That says it all.”
Maggie and Kim Dopson took over the Post Office 13 years ago after Maggie received a note through her door saying it was to close.
She hadn’t even known somebody else was needed to take on the business but spoke to her daughter-in-law and the rest is history. At the time there was very little in the shop, “just the opportunity to buy milk and a Mars bar”, said Maggie.
It is very different now. She and Kim continue to innovate and are currently planning to redecorate the outside and replace electrical wiring.
Over the years they have introduced fresh fruit and veg, meat, bread, frozen food, general household products, pet food, newspapers, greetings cards, hot and cold drinks and hot pies.
So now the village benefits from having both the successful pop-in club and thriving Post Office/shop.
And Maggie pointed out that it also has a flourishing pub, The Pig and Butcher, which is doing well thanks to landlord David Gardner.
David said the pub is going from strength to strength with its Sunday carvery particularly popular. “Last week we had 30 bookings and catered for 70. It’s good to see people dropping in like this,” he said.
He added that a wine tasting evening went down well on Wednesday too and music nights are also well attended.
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