Virtual Coffee Mornings

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After sadly closing our doors to our members due to the Coronavirus two weeks ago, we have been working alongside other agencies to support our members. Since 17 March we have telephoned 1,100 of our members, 223 of whom are now receiving weekly one-to-one telephone befriending calls to check on their wellbeing. We have delivered 130 free food hampers alongside art activity packs donated to our members who attend our arts and crafts groups. In addition, we are delivering food and prescriptions to our vulnerable members who are unable to shop for themselves.

Virtual Support

We knew many members would miss the routine of coming into the Scheme and seeing their friends and could feel isolated. To help combat this isolation and continue our work as an Online Scheme and Digital Health Hub we have also looked at how we could move our digital offer online and include some of the sessions we currently run in the Scheme to virtual ones.


The first challenge we had to overcome was technology. Most of the people who were interested in keeping in touch virtually had never been on a video call before so we knew there was an immediate training need which we had to address before the coffee morning could be set up. We set ourselves a challenge of one week to get the first one up and running.

How did we do it?

Our Digital Team set up a virtual meeting using Zoom with our Volunteer Digital Champions and Rachel Benn, Digital Inclusion Coordinator from 100% Digital Leeds. We discussed the different technology options and tested a few.  We considered using WhatsApp but only four people can join a call at one time and it isn’t secure enough because people can see each other’s telephone numbers. We looked at House Party which is a great App, but we decided it wasn’t right for what we wanted to run. Having used Zoom before, our Digital Worker, Sam, decided this was the best platform to use whilst also being aware of the challenges in getting people onto a call.  We wrote instructions for using Zoom and thought this would be enough for people to work through and get into the call.

When we trialled it

We trialled the instructions with our second group however, it soon became clear that they needed one-to-one support so our Digital Inclusion Worker booked a call with them all and trained them over the phone how to download the Zoom app and access a Zoom call. This gave members the confidence to join the group call as they had overcome their fear of using it.  It takes on average 20 minutes to train each person, but once trained they know how to join future calls in just one click.

Everyone managed to get on the call and some of the members, ranging in age from 60-85, had quite basic digital skills. This proved to us that this would work, and we could train remotely and set people up providing they had a smart phone, laptop with a camera or a tablet.


Our First Virtual Coffee Morning

We arranged our first coffee morning on Wednesday 25 March with the first four members who had been trained.  It worked well and everyone chatted and shared something about themselves, and enjoyed looking inside each other’s houses on the camera, it was like Through the Keyhole!” One of our members Melvin showed the group the art work he had painted on his walls and another member had just moved into her new flat and she gave us a guided tour and she was really proud of everything including showing us her new curtains.

Our First Virtual Quiz Morning

Every Friday members always enjoy a quiz whilst in the Scheme and we wanted to replicate that online as it was always popular.  It was important for us to make a fun inclusive quiz which everyone could join in on. We had more interest and more members joined in! The questions naturally opened up discussions about their memories and experiences and we all learnt a lot from each other, it was a really enjoyable session. One of our members Harold had chocolate biscuits and tried to share but they wouldn’t quite come through the camera!

Show and Tell Virtual Coffee Morning

This week we decided to theme the coffee morning with a Show and Tell. Members were emailed in advance and asked to bring something special onto the call to talk about – It could be a photo, or a hobby or something that meant something special to them. We had such a wide variety shared with us, David played his Ukuleles; Harold talked about his model boat which he had made; Christine showed us her china painting; Marie talked about her statue of Kes and Melvin showed us his art work. Every story was special and unique to that person and they really enjoyed sharing it with the group and taking questions.

Friendships were made and two women reconnected and realised they used to know each other years ago!  It was lovely and for some it was the first social interaction they had had in a day or two.

How it’s helping our members

Marie said when she joined the call that she felt so much better getting up on Friday because she had a reason to do her hair and get dressed up for the call. She was smiling throughout. Whilst on the call she got a knock at the door from her neighbour and when she came back, she told us she had told her neighbour she couldn’t talk because she was on a video link which impressed the neighbour!

We have been promoting our Virtual sessions over the week through Twitter and Facebook and Radio Aire also got in touch. Our Digital Worker sent in an interview to them which was broadcast on Sunday and they are also going to use our photos on their Social Media which is great to share some positive stories!

Some feedback from Friday which we received via email:

“I really enjoyed our session this morning I love quizzes and crosswords and it was good to do it together as a group. I felt as though I was socialising and making new friends. Thank you, Samantha, for setting it up” Chris

“It was the first time I’ve used Zoom and it was just so easy. Could see and hear everyone perfectly and even got a glimpse into their homes! It was lovely to see, hear and talk with friends from the regular coffee mornings, just a pity we couldn’t accept the chocolate biscuits that one of us offered. Looking forward to joining these coffee mornings every week now, to maintain a bit of normality in the present times. It’s so realistic that next time I’ll make a cup of coffee before we start.” David

“Thanks Sam – it was great, a really good feeling.  I look forward to more sessions – the “feel good factor” seems to carry me nicely through the day – it was light-hearted and fun, and we are all short of a bit of fun in these difficult times. Love and best wishes – keep up the good work!” Marie

Next Steps

The coffee mornings have been running just over a week now and 22 members have received training so far and attended at least two sessions. We have more members booked in for training following our recent publicity and from posts on Facebook. We’ve had that much interest we are going to use the breakout room feature on the Zoom app this week to accommodate more members on the quiz!

We are launching a timetable which will include five sessions a week including quizzes, speakers, coffee and chat, health and wellbeing, online IT classes and we are hoping to start a singing group.

We know from running the sessions over the last week that it is giving members something to look forward to and some structure. They also like to see each other on camera and get that human interaction which is missing now for many of them as they are isolated from their family and friends. We are also giving them the skills and confidence to make video calls to their family and Melvin is setting up his Art Group on Zoom instead of WhatsApp after seeing the benefits of it this week.

We’re so pleased we can now offer something daily to our members who are deeply missing the groups and sessions we ran at the Scheme.

Get in touch

Please contact if you would like more information or have any questions.