A pub supports its local community

W Bro David Copeland


Although the two lockdown periods have been difficult for all pubs, The Hare in Linslade, Leighton Buzzard, run by London Mason W Bro Jim Woolley, of Fairfax Lodge No 3014, has used them to strengthen its role in the local community and has redoubled its efforts in support of army veterans.

Bro Jim, supported by his wife Naomi, along with his family and volunteers, strongly believes in the traditional role of the local pub as a focal point for the local community and a centre for support activities. The Hare won the Ei National Community Pub of the Year Award in 2012, was runner-up in 2013 and joined the judging panel in 2014. For many years the pub has been at the centre of a support network helping army veterans to re-integrate into civilian life after military service.

The need for the community pub has become even more evident during the pandemic. When The Hare closed during the first lockdown, Jim opened a market stall in the pub car park and stocked it with locally sourced produce. The stall was staffed by his family and volunteers, including London and Bedfordshire Masons, as well as The Hare’s own furloughed staff. The prices only covered the costs.

The market stall was very popular with the local community, made up of many commuters as well as more senior long-term residents. Not only did it help those not able to get to shops farther afield get their provisions, it also fostered a social contact point for people, young and old, who were in danger of becoming isolated by the changes in lifestyle patterns caused by the pandemic. The volunteers also made regular deliveries, especially to elderly and house-bound residents, in the Linslade and Leighton Buzzard area.

During the second lockdown, whilst the pub was still closed, the good work continued in the form of a takeaway service from The Hare – collect or delivery. The same mixture of family and volunteers prepared meals also priced just above cost. This, too, proved an effective point of social contact. Volunteers made themselves very popular by delivering meals, especially Sunday Lunch, to the elderly, immobile and those in need. While The Hare edges back towards pre-pandemic normality, it is continuing this service to meet the local demand.

These charitable lockdown activities are an extension of the work in the community already organised from The Hare by Jim and they will continue to operate long after the end of the lockdown.

Jim’s own background in the military has led him to support veterans. He is a Trustee of the PTSD Resolution charity, which has had remarkable success in providing therapy sessions for army veterans struggling with this debilitating condition. In 2012, Jim was made an ‘Honorary Burgess of Linslade and Leighton Buzzard’ in recognition of his charitable work with army veterans.

Jim organises several charitable support projects for veterans with the invaluable support of his family and also the assistance of members of Fairfax Lodge No 3014 and other London and Bedfordshire masons. They have operated a Veterans Food Bank continuously from The Hare since 2016, providing a source of groceries and household supplies.

Since 2016, they have designed and built the Lancaster Hotel, an accommodation block with currently twelve apartments for veterans. It offers them a steppingstone towards a more regular civilian lifestyle. In addition, residents can also have access to therapy, counselling and employment support. A typical stay is from 6 to 12 months, after which the veterans are confident enough to progress into the wider community.

Post pandemic, new lifestyle and working patterns may bring further changes to the local community, but Jim is determined to keep The Hare at the forefront of those who are in need of support – whatever those needs might turn out to be.

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 46 October 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 46.