Staff at The Royal Oak in Exminster partnered with Westbank throughout 2023, providing hospitality and donations totalling an incredible £2,525. In December 2022 and 2023, publicans Mel Bowden and Scott Reddin kindly hosted 3-course festive lunches to the value of £1,100 for 50 of the charity’s clients. They also organised several fundraising activities, including a raffle, a donation bucket and the sale of star decorations on the pub’s Christmas tree, bringing in £325 to enable the charity to help more people lead happier, healthier lives and maintain their independence for longer.

Katie Elliott, Westbank’s Head of Fundraising and Marketing, said, “We would like to thank the whole team at The Royal Oak for supporting us throughout 2023, culminating in a wonderful festive meal at the pub just before Christmas. They pulled out all the stops to lay on a delicious meal with all the trimmings for our local clients, many of whom live alone and find it difficult to get out and about on their own.

“We are very grateful to Mel and Scott for choosing Westbank as the pub’s Charity of the Year in 2023. Their support has been terrific.”

 Landlady Mel Bowden worked in mental health before taking on the pub and wanted to support a charity that helps the local community. She said, “Providing a free lunch and welcoming local people into our pub is a way for us to give back to the community and those who most need extra support. A pub is a vital part of a community, we have many customers who live alone and come in regularly just for the company. Many find walking into a pub alone a daunting experience.

 “However, we have a fantastic team here, who are extremely compassionate and take time to chat and welcome all of our guests. By hosting our annual Loneliness Lunch, we hope to encourage people to return knowing that we are a friendly bunch and we are always here for a chat and to lend a friendly ear.  I know from experience how big an impact people’s mental health has on their overall well-being. Something as simple as taking the time to get to know people and listen to their stories can make a huge difference to their day.

“We’ve enjoyed supporting Westbank this year and putting on community-minded events together. Whilst our annual charity partner has now changed, we hope to continue supporting Westbank with this annual festive event going forward. We encourage everyone to remember, we aren't just here to sell beer, everyone is welcome, and you will never be lonely in your local.”