McMillan coffee morning held on Victoria Park Road

Meet the retired women who united their community from deckchairs in the park

The Victoria Park group went from helping each other beat loneliness in lockdown to helping combat food hunger

FOUR retired women who kept their spirits up during lockdown by meeting up in Victoria Park have become mainstays in the community with their fundraising events.

They first met through the Elderfit group at St Luke’s Church in Canton and are now known as the Four Fabulous Fit Females or the FFFF for short.

The group has since raised almost £1,300 for different charities and collected over 600 kilograms of food and household items for Cardiff Food Bank.

Elderfit put on exercise sessions for older people and is part of the council’s Keep Cardiff Moving campaign. Sessions are usually reserved for people over 60 and can be prescribed by GPs.

The FFFF, which has now expanded to 10 members, keep in touch via WhatsApp and weekly coffee meetings. They include a retired teacher, nurse, a military wife and a minister’s wife.

As many are widows or live alone, their friendship was vital in overcoming bereavement and loneliness during the Covid lockdowns in 2020-21.

Once the rules allowed groups of six from different households to meet socially distanced in outdoor spaces, the FFFF decided to get together regularly in Victoria Park.

“We would go with deckchairs, blankets, hot water bottles and flasks of coffee to sit in the park and discuss all kinds of things,” said member Mari Gruffydd.

As these discussions developed, they decided to hold various events, including a Macmillan coffee morning, and contribute to the Shoebox Christmas Appeal.

The socially-distanced bake sale held in Victoria Park Road raised £800 for Macmillan Cancer Care

“We created a shopfront out of clingfilm so no-one was breathing on each other, and everyone would wear masks. It was done in one of our member’s front garden to ensure social distance could still take place.”

Every member baked about six cakes each and invited the community to come along. Their most recent bake sale raised over £800.

Their table-top sale for the Shoebox Appeal, a project that provides Christmas gifts to vulnerable children and families worldwide, raised almost £500.

The FFFF has also held several food collection days for Cardiff Food Bank with the aim of boosting its stock during the festive season.

“We noticed that more and more people were doing online food shops rather than going into the shops themselves so the food bank contributions in the shops were running extremely low,” said Ms Gruffydd.

They printed flyers and each member took two streets and distributed them throughout the Victoria Park community.

This effort collected an average of 300 kilogram of food and toiletries each time, filling two cars and later a van. They also contributed to a fund to buy a new delivery van for the foodbank.

The FFFF raised 600kg of food, toiletries and cleaning products for Cardiff Food Bank

Now the cost of living has increased, the FFFF have found it harder to organise similar events.

They are hoping to collect warm clothes and waterproofs to donate to the Cardiff for Ukraine hub in Cardiff Bay in the next few months.