Now in its fifth year, the Great Jewish Bake Day calls on the community to rise to the challenge of baking to raise money for Jewish Care buses, which are a lifeline for so many.

To mark this year’s event, being held on 5 July, I hopped on one of the charity’s buses to meet those who benefit most from Bake Day fundraising…

Entertainment time

I arrive at the centre just as lunch finishes and the afternoon entertainment starts.

As I climb the stairs, I hear thumping music and enter a large, airy room, and which is literally in full swing, with entertainer Will Smith crooning old tunes dancing with laughing residents.

I sit and have a chat with one of the regulars. Joan, 94, from Kenton, looks ten years younger, but has an impressive 26 grandchildren.

“Since my husband’s passing 34 years ago, I live on my own,” she explains. “My children are busy with their children, who are in turn busy with theirs, so coming to the centre three times a week has given me a new life.

“Other places do this, but nobody does it like Jewish Care. The way they look after you – you couldn’t get better treatment.”

Jean, also from Kenton, agrees with this sentiment, saying she is especially grateful for the bus as “I can’t get here otherwise”, tapping her “two new knees”.

Her husband is confined to the house and “he’s not a club person anyway”.  Jean certainly is, swaying to the beat with her friends and it is clear that the centre is an opportunity for her to get out of the house and have a good time.

“It’s a day out for me, it’s nice,” she smiles, before pulling me into the circle.

Keep fit classes

“I’m full from that lovely three-course lunch,” says Lillian, 94, seated near me. An ex-drama teacher from Stanmore, she says her family do not live nearby, so “I don’t know whether I would come without this bus.”

Naomi Creeger, of Jewish Care, says lunch is the main meal of the day for most of the elderly people here.

She tells me about the many activities enjoyed at the centre, including keep-fit classes and a discussion group.

We feast on iced cupcakes in honour of Bake Day. Jeanette, who lives in Edgware and is wheelchair bound, is helped off the bus first by Peter, a former illustrator who is now a dedicated driver and volunteer for Jewish Care. “Peter is absolutely fantastic,” Jean raves.

naomi and jeanette

Naomi and Jeanette with their cupcakes

‘A happy journey’

We wind our way through Stanmore and Kenton, dropping off clients, some of whom live in sheltered accommodation.

In between the singing of Cliff Richard’s  Summer Holiday, I speak to Danielle, a volunteer seated next to me.

“The bus is great because you get to know the members from when you pick them up in the morning and so you build a good relationship with them.”

Robyn, another volunteer in the seat behind, comments: “It’s a very pleasant atmosphere.”

Joan adds: “It’s not just a journey, it’s a happy journey. We’re happy coming out of the centre, we’re happy getting on the bus, we’re happy getting off.”

At £1.50 a time, the affordable bus ride is appreciated by its all its members, but Naomi reveals the cost of hire for Jewish Care is steep.

“You can help to raise the money that is so desperately needed by inviting friends and family over, or holding a bake sale at school or at work any time, in June or July.”

‘My family’

Hana, 91, who is one of the last to leave the bus, is originally from the Czech Republic and comes to the centre on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“I lost all my family in the Holocaust, and being the age group I am I’ve lost most of my friends,” she says, in heavily accented tones. She reveals her friends on the bus have become her family. “It’s great, because I don’t have to sit at home all the time. I was a journalist back in Prague, because I speak several languages, including French and German.I love to talk to people.”

Bake Day’s focus is indeed on people and inter-generational mingling, with schoolchildren coming to bake with the elderly in care homes.

As Jacey Harris, centre manager at Jewish Care’s Edgware and Harrow Community Centre says: “It’s an opportunity for us all to come together as a community to have fun.”

For more about Jewish Care’s Great Jewish Bake Day, visit www.jewishcare.org/bakeday, or call  020 8922 2822.

Ahead of Jewish Care’s Bake Day on 05 July, why not try Denise Phillips’ delicious blueberry muffin recipe?