Emotional farewell as weekly Letchworth Cheap as Chips lunch runs for the last time

The Cheap as Chips team on its final day. Left to right: Accountant Sandra Lewis, volunteers Joan Si

The Cheap as Chips team on its final day. Left to right: Accountant Sandra Lewis, volunteers Joan Sibbett, George Liddle, Alan Mcmillen and Pauline Connolly, organiser and cook Pauline Worland, and volunteer Judith Butcher. Picture: JP Asher - Credit: Archant

It was the end of an era in Letchworth today, as a weekly egg-and-chip lunch for the community was served for the last time.

Brotherhood Hall on Gernon Road in Letchworth.

Brotherhood Hall on Gernon Road in Letchworth. - Credit: Daniel Wilson

Pauline Worland has been running the Cheap as Chips service at Brotherhood Hall in Gernon Road every Thursday for about 11 years, during which time it has provided a tasty service while also raising funds for town causes.

Now, at the age of 74, Pauline feels it’s time for her to call it a day – and with no-one else stepping forward to keep it going, today’s Cheap as Chips lunch was the last ever.

In an emotional farewell speech to her guests and volunteers, Pauline said that ending Cheap as Chips saddened her deeply, and that she would definitely continue if she were younger.

She said: “We’re closing today after 11 years here, from only six people coming to more and more of you.

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“I’m getting worn out in my fingers and I think it’s time for a rest. I’m so sorry, really and truthfully, that I’ve got to close – if I were a bit younger I’d stay open.

“I want to say a big thank you to all my volunteers, because we couldn’t have carried it on without them.

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“I’ll remember you all, because this is a very sad day for me. Cheap as Chips has helped an awful lot of people out along the way, and it’s helped people that have had hard times or who wanted to just come in and talk.

“We’ve done our bit, and that’s all I can say. I wish somebody could carry it on, but there’s nobody that wants to cook the eggs. It’s the end of an era, and we shall miss it.”

Sandra Lewis, who did the books for Cheap as Chips throughout its history, presented Pauline with flowers and a bottle of Prosecco – while Pauline gave gifts to Sandra and each of the volunteers who helped prepare and serve the food.

The meals cost £2.80 each – free for the homeless – with the money paying to hire the hall and buy the food. North Herts District Council and the Heritage Foundation also provided grants and other assistance.

Money the not-for-profit concern has had left over has gone to various causes over the years, from buying football kits to helping people pay for haircuts.

Pauline, who successfully campaigned to keep Brotherhall Hall open in 2011, said: “People don’t know how far their money’s gone to help the community. We’ve never sought attention – this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Those attending the final meal included Heritage Foundation charitable services development head Alastair Stewart, who noted that many Cheap as Chips regulars lived alone and came along to see other people.

He said: “This is a regular place for them to come and socialise, and that’ll be lost to them.

“Every year we’ve given a grant of about £500, which some years goes towards funding the hall hire and other times helps fund equipment.

“We recognise the role this plays within the community, so it’s a sad loss. There are a lot of churches that run lunch groups but I don’t know how they compare to this.”

Pauline and the team have made efforts to find someone to take over Cheap as Chips and keep it going, but had no luck thus far.

Sandra said: “We had a couple of people interested in taking it over, but when they realised how far the commitment and financial side of it went they backed off – they didn’t feel up to handling all that.”

As well as the Thursday lunches, Pauline also used to do full Christmas dinners and dessert at the hall on Christmas Day – totally free, with games afterwards.

Sandra added: “Pauline has helped people all her life.”

Countless volunteers contributed to Cheap as Chips over the years. The team for the final day comprised Pauline Worland, accountant Sandra Lewis, and volunteers Joan Sibbett, George Liddle, Alan Mcmillen, Pauline Connolly and Judith Butcher.

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