Watching members of the Halifax Oddfellows sitting down for a chat over a cuppa, you’d have thought they were lifelong friends.
Oddfellows is a not-for-profit organisation and annual membership costs £35, while individual meet-ups or sessions range from £1.50 to £4.
The Halifax branch has around 280 members and the group holds keep-fit classes and healthy lifestyle advice, trips out to bowling and museums as well as walks and lunches.
But they enjoy nothing more than sitting round a table having a natter.
“One of our members was telling me the other week that she lost her husband a couple of years ago and her life changed massively in an instant,” says development officer Debra Haley.
“Even looking round her living room just felt odd because his chair was empty.
“She felt afraid to walk in coming here, but she says she’s found her new normal, which I found very moving.
“If more people could do that it would be wonderful.
“I think there are a lot of people who feel isolated but there’s no need for them to be, that’s the sad thing.
“If they took that first step, they could be having a cup of tea, having a giggle and meeting people.
“A lot of the time they might not know there are groups like this. Or people don’t want to say they feel that way.
“Even people who I’d have thought were confident and have had great careers have said to me ‘I felt really scared’ to open the door and walk in.
“But within minutes they said they felt totally comfortable.”
Another regular who is glad she took that first step is Barbara Durrans, who lives in Holywell Green.
“I split up from my partner a while ago and my two children eventually grew up so I was left on my own,” she said.
“I didn’t go anywhere. I was really isolated and I needed to get out.
“You’re in your own little bubble but how do you get out of it? What do you do?
“I saw the group on Facebook, but I didn’t have a lot of confidence so I thought ‘should I go, should I not?’
“My son said ‘mother, just go, you need to get out’. It’s just taking that first step.
“Just get out and do it. You’ve nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
Barbara says her social life has been transformed by attending the group.
“My day was just boring,” she said, “I wasn’t going anywhere, and I needed to get fit for my health.
“I had high blood pressure and diabetes and this has helped so much with that by just coming and getting some exercise.
“Just getting out and meeting other people that are in the same position is so positive.
“Everybody’s so friendly here. Often we’ll just sit and chat, which is really nice.
“A lot of people don’t have anyone at home to talk to, and they would really benefit from coming to a group like this.”
“When people get up to do exercise now they’re right up off their seats, whereas when they first came they were taking ages to stand up,” adds
Debra, who says most members live on their own.
“And I think it’s the same with people’s moods. At the end of every group, everyone just sits around chatting and giggling.
“Two of the ladies were saying if you live on your own you don’t have any human contact. But we’re quite tactile and give each other a cuddle.”
If you are interested in joining the Halifax Oddfellows, call 01422 205280 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.