By Camilla Lake
SIX months of planning and hoping have led to the launch of a community welfare project by Churches Together In Bexhill.
Bexhill Foodbank is to help deal with the problem of increasing need in the area, whether that is from someone who has lost a job or a pension which can’t be stretched to meet increasing bills.
CTIB’s Philip de Leon reports: “The Foodbank project in Bexhill is the culmination of some very hard work by a number of volunteers who originally all came to the project through Churches in Bexhill Together. Under some incredibly dynamic leadership by Ninfield and Hooe’s parish priest, Simon Earl, a small team was formed to identify and prepare a store for food, visits to other Foodbanks around the south, and volunteer helpers sought. Under the auspices of the Trussell Trust who provide the know-how, Simon’s team succeeded in obtaining charity status, and establishing links into the wider community.”
The Foodbank is based in a room loaned by the Sackville Road Methodist Church. Volunteers havee put up shelves and collected cartons to hold dried and tinned food as well as receiving training.
Philip said: “Then came the National Foodbank Collection Day in partnership with Tesco Stores.
“December 1 and 2 will be memorable for a number of reasons. It was cold and damp. It was the start of the push that shoppers and shops make towards the annual spendfest and holiday that is Christmas.
“And for those volunteers who were at Tesco, for something else. The volunteers, some from the pool who had offered to assist the Foodbank, together with staff from Tesco, many of who gave their own time, were inundated with food.
“Trussell Trust had warned to expect up to 700Kg of tinned and mixed produce. Of course, a new venture would never hope to receive so much, and the space put aside to store the goods would be ample. The1,994Kg of food, and £213 in cash donated were simply staggering. The generosity of shoppers was magnificent.
“A trolley full of loose shopping along with a Tesco bag with a few items stopped at the collection point. The volunteer offered to take the bag from the gentleman, who rather pointedly said the bag was his. And with a huge smile, said that the remaining contents of the full trolley were for the collection. An elderly woman, clearly not wealthy, stopped and collected a list which identified the sort of goods sought. When she returned she was all smiles and said she had managed to find an example of each of the items listed, and would that be enough?
“When talking with shoppers, it became very apparent that collections for local charities, where local people benefit, are far easier to support than those for large national or multinational events, even if the scale of those large events makes the local Foodbank venture seem insignificant.
“But for those in crisis, the Foodbank is not insignificant. With supplies for three days, and being signposted to where they can find additional help, the Foodbank is the new significant help for those in need.
“But the Foodbank is far more than an outlet of free food for those in crisis. It provides a space where trained volunteers listen to those who need help. It is a calm oasis, where over tea or coffee and often cake and biscuits, there is a listening ear willing to hear and willing to reach out and help. It seems that Foodbanks don’t merely feed the unseen hungry.
“If you find yourself or your family facing this sort of crisis, you first need to go to one of the agencies who provide the vouchers necessary to access the food. CAB, Social Services, as well as a number of others, who will assess eligibility. Then its down to Sackville Road on Thursday mornings between 10-12 noon, to the Foodbank, following the signs, “Foodbank Here”. You will be warmly welcomed, given refreshment, and time to talk while food and other requisites are being packed into plain or sometimes Tesco bags. Three days’ worth of food is heavy and can be bulky, but the volunteers do their best to make sure it isn’t too difficult to carry.”
If you need help or wish to become a volunteer or a donor, please contact the team either at the Foodbank on Thursday mornings or by telephone on 07866 570468, or go to www.bexhill.foodbank.org.uk