The pandemic put many community services on hold, but the success of the vaccine programme together with the easing of restrictions has happily brought the return of many vitally important social groups and communal activities.

One such group is The Fed’s popular ‘Coffee Stops’ programme run by our Volunteer Services Team, who organise the monthly get-togethers across north and south Manchester. These gatherings provide a few hours companionship and conversation – making the difference to some between total isolation and a sense of community and belonging.

For Sonia Stevens, the introduction to the Coffee Stops came from a referral to the team.

“I hadn’t been out for a long time,” she said.

“My bad legs meant I was unsteady, and I was resigned to simply being at home alone. Suddenly that changed – it was so wonderful to get involved with The Fed!

“A lady in Gan Eden who was a regular attendee referred me to The Fed’s volunteer team and they contacted me to discuss my needs. It was delightful.

“The Fed sent their own bus to pick me up, and when I arrived there were so many faces I recognised – people I hadn’t seen for years who all made me so welcome that I’ve been back many times since.

“I worked in State Fayre for 20 years and was so at home in the community, but recently I’ve found myself totally alone. Isolation was something people dealt with even before the pandemic, and The Fed are the ones who have changed my life.

“The socialising does me good and the girls from The Fed are simply amazing. Meeting for a chat and a coffee and a change of scenery is the perfect way to get out of the house for a few hours.

“It has been so horrible missing everyone throughout COVID, but I cannot wait to get together and see everyone again.”

For Lionel Benson, The Fed was a part of his life long before he joined the Coffee Stop crowd:

“My wife was a resident at Heathlands Village, and I would visit her every day. I was encouraged to join the Male Carers’ Group which provided a lifeline for me and was very active before the pandemic.

“A social worker visited me last year – some five years after my wife first moved into Heathlands – to offer advice and support on a few crucial issues and told me about the Coffee Stops.

“I’m on my own most of the time and the group has introduced me to a load of other men and gives me the chance to socialise with real people.

“I’m really quite shy and was nervous when I went, but I was made so welcome by the other guests and all the staff. It’s a great thing to have in your life – that sense of human connection and interaction. At my age it’s invaluable.”

The Fed came into Elizabeth Limevall’s life at a particularly distressing time.

“In 2012, my husband was very ill, and I had absolutely no help from anyone. I simply didn’t know where to turn. In desperation I called The Fed, and someone came the very next day.

“They offered both myself and my late husband advice and have been a constant support to me ever since. I live outside of the main areas of the Jewish community and having The Fed has meant the world.

“After some time had passed, one of the coordinators at The Fed called me informing me of a ‘Coffee Stop’. I wasn’t going out at all, I was at home, all day, totally alone – but I went along with her encouragement.

“I was welcomed with open arms and immediately felt so much better. To have people to talk to, to have friends to see – The Fed had saved me again.

“I would be absolutely lost without the organisation, and they are still there when I need them to this day.

“It’s so hard being on my own – but it’s so wonderful to be among Jewish people.”

The Fed’s Volunteer Team manager, Juliette Pearce, is thrilled with the return of the Coffee Stops.

“The Coffee Stops are a truly special service offered by our Volunteer Services Team. We often have guest speakers and sometimes theme the afternoon around the yom tovim throughout the year.

“The room is always full of friendly faces, laughter and warmth. Attending a Coffee Stop gives our clients the ‘feelgood factor’, and we are so delighted to be organising them again.

The Fed’s next Coffee Stop will be held on 17th February in a north Manchester location. For more information, call 0161 772 4800 (option 2, Duty Officer) or email

Full names reproduced with express permission.