A WORCESTER mother and make-up consultant, who set up a networking group on social media for women of all ages and backgrounds across the county, has seen its membership rocket from a few hundred to nearly 11,000 in under three years.

Helen Fellows, who lives in St John’s with her husband and two young children, started Worcestershire Women’s Society in June 2015. She had been looking for a women’s organisation that did not focus on any particular aspect of female life like parenting, work, fashion or homes.

But she had been unable to find any organisation that linked local women – just because they are women – so she decided to start one off herself. She spoke to some of her friends about what she wanted to do and asked if they were interested in helping out.

They were and she set up a Facebook page and invited the women of Worcestershire to join them.

Initially Helen thought it might attract about 200 members but in three months nearly 700 women had signed up. Now, two years and nine months later there are approaching 11,000 members and it’s rising all the time.

“It just keeps growing and growing,” said Helen. “Now if I want to find a good plumber or electrician, I can post it on the Facebook page and I’ll get 50 recommendations straight away. It’s better than Google for local recommendations.

“I was hoping to get a few hundred local women involved – that was my goal. I was not expecting anything like this,” added Helen.

Another surprise was the range of ages and backgrounds. She said she had initially thought it would attract younger women but this has not been the case. The group has members of all ages – the oldest is 86.

She said some of the older women are retired or living on their own because they have lost their husband and they have been able to make friends, have someone to talk to and create a new social life through the society.

Helen added that the older members also offer words of wisdom which help to support others in the group. “Our 86 year-old member comes up with words of wisdom I would never have thought of. She is quite a wise person.”

Each person applying to join is checked by Helen and her friends to make sure they are in fact a woman living in Worcestershire before they are accepted.

Once accepted they can make contact with other members through Facebook and go along to social events like coffee mornings, nights out or other events organised by the group.

And once members have made friends, they can just do the sort of things all friends do such as go for walks, meals, visit places of interest or go to the cinema or theatre.

Helen stressed that the organisation is based on friendship and support and she takes a zero tolerance approach to anyone who crosses the line.

“I think we are quite a standard bunch of women. I do not allow people to be nasty. The group is about positivity and being nice to each other, friendly and kind. I cannot stand judgement.

“It is zero tolerance if people start getting nasty. I have terms and rules and if individuals do not adhere to these, they will be removed. There is no nonsense – I tell it how it is.”

And this may be one of the reasons why the society has been so successful, so quickly. Because the group is so active and busy, Helen has been selected by Facebook as a Power Admin. This invitation-only role means that Facebook considers her to be a community leader - leading the most active, engaging and influential groups on Facebook.

Helen said since the group started there have been many occasions in which members have supported one another. “It is pro women and pro women in business and supporting each other.”

She said people had been able to do anonymous posts asking questions about things they would be too embarrassed to talk about otherwise and she has personally heard some “absolute horror stories” about abusive relationships.

There are numerous of examples of the members helping each other out and doing good deeds in the community too.

“Sometimes you just want to have female support with something. In the first couple of weeks, we had one lady who had lost contact with her dad and wanted to find him but didn’t know where to start. One of the other members knew how to go about searching for someone and helped her.”

There are many cases of members who had felt isolated and alone before joining the group who have now made friends and feel part of something they can join in with.

The members of Worcestershire Women’s Society recently responded to an appeal by a member of staff at Worcestershire Royal Hospital for a sofa for the staff room. They provided a sofa, a coffee machine and artwork to go on the walls meaning it is now well used and a relaxing space for staff when on their breaks.

Another appeal for DBS checked women who could offer cuddles for the new born babies of drug dependent parents in the Neonatal Unit at Worcestershire Royal Hospital resulted in 60 responses from members of the group.

“There are amazing things going on all the time,” said Helen. “The person who asked for a sofa for the staff room ended up with the whole room being kitted out and, in a matter of weeks, it was all sorted.”