THE future of a once-flourishing lunch club, which gives Marlow's oldest residents a vital chance to get out of their homes and socialise, is in crisis because of a lack of staff.

Known as the Friday Club, it is run by the Marlow Community Association and gives elderly people in their 80s and 90s who live on their own the chance to enjoy a hot meal and some companionship as they play cards and have a "natter".

Organisers pick up the pensioners and take them to the club in Liston Hall, Chapel Street, before driving them home in the afternoon.

The club has been running for more than 25 years and has at least 15 members who enjoy going every week but it could close as early as September if a paid cook and more volunteers are not found.

The staff shortage has already forced the club to consider running once a fortnight instead of once a week.

Organiser Caroline Wesson said: "We did have six or seven people until recently but now we have not got them any longer. There's currently a small team of four of us and it's just becoming more difficult for those of us who are still there. This puts the Friday club in jeopardy unless we can find some more people."

She added: "We also need a paid cook. We have advertised for this position but we have not had any success so far. We do transport the pensioners as well, so that's another job."

Roger Wilson, the club's chairman of ten years, said: "It would be terrible if it had to close just because we have run out of volunteers and staff. They provide a place where elderly people look forward to going. It will have to close down if they cannot get a new cook."

Regular member Mrs Kay James, 90, who lives near Riverpark Drive, said: "If you do not get out much, you look forward to going out and having a meal. What a shame. I'm too far away to get anywhere. I'm not near a bus route. I'm not near anything so I cannot get out.

"I've had arthritis very badly, otherwise I would help them in the kitchen. You only need someone to give a few hours of their time. You would think that in Marlow a few people would be able to help.

"At one time the club used to be flourishing they had an "A" and a "B" team and they worked it out between them."

Beatrice Josey, of Queens Road, who turns 90 in August, said: "I have been going for a long time. I'm restricted because I broke my hip. If it had to close I would be more than sad, I would be furious."

% If you are able to give up four hours of your time every other Friday, or even one Friday a month, then contact the Marlow Community Association in Liston Hall, Chapel Street, Marlow, on 01628 472558. The office is open from 10am until noon.