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Community club founder fighting loneliness crowned Community Hero

PUBLISHED: 09:59 16 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:10 16 December 2018

Val Mann, sat behind the umbrella, with some of her club members. Working from her right around the table are Janet Mayhew, Gill Churchyard, Doreen Baxter and Sandy, Mrs Mann's sister. Picture: VAL MANN

Val Mann, sat behind the umbrella, with some of her club members. Working from her right around the table are Janet Mayhew, Gill Churchyard, Doreen Baxter and Sandy, Mrs Mann's sister. Picture: VAL MANN

Archant

After she lost her parents 30 years ago, Val Mann was faced with the pain of living with loneliness and depression.

You can let us know about your Community Heroes at newsroom@archant.co.uk - send us up to 200 words about who your hero is and the great work they do and they do.You can let us know about your Community Heroes at newsroom@archant.co.uk - send us up to 200 words about who your hero is and the great work they do and they do.

When she saw a doctor 30 years ago and told them how she was feeling, the usual solution of at the time - to treat those mental health problems medically - was put aside in favour of a meeting with a community psychiatric nurse.

Through speaking to the nurse Mrs Mann decided to start her first Community Club in Framlingham - and 29 years later she still turns up to serve tea every week.

Mrs Mann is now 73 and shows no sign of stopping her good work.

“When I started the first club, mental health really was a Cinderella subject, there was nothing but medication for anxiety and loneliness.

“Within three years of the Framlingham club meeting on Mondays I set up the Wickham Market club on Fridays and I go to each one every week.

“Some people may not speak to anyone else for the rest of the week so the clubs are so important give people a social activity and a conversation.

“Anyone is welcome at those clubs and some of the people have been coming for almost as long as me, the community spirit is fantastic.”

Being a Community Hero is not the first recognition of Mrs Mann‘s labours - in 1999 she was presented with an MBE for her charity work with the groups, presented by the Bishop of Dunwich.

The community has supported Mrs Mann as well. In recent years she has undergone breast cancer treatment and also care for her husband who lives with dementia, but finds strength in her volunteering and network of support.

There are regular trips, meals cooked together, group activities and a Christmas club to make sure that all the members are involved and engaged in the community.

The Wickham Market club also has a weekly meal at the Lehmann House care home in the town, which the staff cook for all the members.

“One of our members is nearly 90 years old and she will be mucking in, serving up dinner every week if she can,” added Mrs Mann.

The East of England Co-Op has supported the Wickham Market and District Club with a £500 donation through their token scheme, money which goes straight back into the clubs activities and weekly dinners.

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