20-25 families a night requiring extra help
In the heart of Rainham, near the Orchard Village Estate, a dedicated pastor chose to open a food bank to help feed local residents.
Pastor Peter has been feeding the community, along with a team of hardworking volunteers for seven years in South Street.
In a small hall, his team of helpers have set up a cafe area, where members of the community can come and not feel embarrassed to get food and clean clothes for their families.
Councillor Michael Deon Burton, from the Independent Residents Association, works alongside this dedicated group on a weekly basis, to provide much needed care and support.
Pastor Peter said: “By God’s Grace, this is our seventh year running the food bank and we average about 20-25 families each night ,but this is not our only centre we also have a centre in Hornchurch, at the Holy Cross Church of England, open every Wednesday.
“I started a church in Rainham to get in touch with the local community and from there we knew we had to feed the people and when we first opened the doors, we saw so much frustration in people.
“The cafe area had groups of families with their children sitting together in an environment where everyone felt cared for and had the chance to talk with each other about issues they all share.
“People would come here with such a sense of frustration, anger and a fear of isolation and loneliness. We began to pray together, make them feel cared for. I got information from the Trussell Trust, and from there the food bank began.”
Over 14,000 people have now been supported, fed, clothed and had the chance to speak with advisors who give them advice.
Peter continued: “We have definitely seen an increase in people, as the situations have changed we have seen increases and different categories of people, depending on various needs, and these needs are often changing.”
Volunteer Kimberly Jackson has been going to the hall for about two months, she said: “They have helped me support my family. They have supported me, not just food-wise but with clothes for my children. I began to do voluntary work here to help and I couldn’t really ask for more.”
Pastor Peter’s team of volunteers comprise from young to old, including 15-year-old Gloria Kaiza, from Brittons School, and 83-year-old Don Burgess.
Gloria heard about the food bank from her school and decided she wanted to help her local community: “I want to help raise awareness of homelessness and the shortage of food banks,” she said. The teenage student is giving her time alongside volunteers Julie Lawson and Don Burgess, who drive around collecting food supplies; often up to a tonne of food a week.
Don said: “I had a heart attack and a stroke and they told me I needed some help at home and they recommended Julie who has been helping us. Now I’ve been more busy than I’ve ever been since I retired and getting involved with the church. Julie and I go round together and collect food from Tesco, Sainsbury and local schools.”
Don also helps run ‘Alpha’ group meetings at the church twice a week for people who need support and guidance.
Cllr Deon Burton, who is involved with the food bank, said: “Work like this is absolutely priceless, the mantra of this place is ‘it does not matter whether you have had misfortune, bad luck or not made the best life choices; you can come here and get help’.
“It’s not about judgement, they can come here and walk out with three days worth of food or clothes. Its here for everyone.
“The food bank is a focal point for all its local community, and welcomes all with open arms.
“If you have an empty belly and you have to think twice about putting the heating on, being given a pen, a form to fill in and being told to come back in a few days isn’t really much help.”
“Families and individuals can one minute find themselves with a job living comfortable lives, but sometimes all it takes is one change and all of sudden you can’t buy food or pay the bills,” said another food bank user who chose not to be named.
She added: “I had a high-flying job two years ago but since being made redundant, I couldn’t pay my mortgage, this is a lifeline.”
by FRANCESCA LILLEYSTONE