A CHRISTMAS message of thanks has been sent out to the South Tyneside public for their generosity in helping keep vulnerable people fed this yuletide.
Hospitality And Hope is a voluntary service providing food banks and soup kitchens across South Shields.
Because of a combination of tough economic times and the impact of welfare reforms, demand for those services is increasing at a rapid rate.
At a recent pre-Christmas meal at St Bede’s Church Hall, in Westoe Road, 52 people turned up to be fed – the largest number yet.
Another Christmas meal and tea was also served out yesterday at the town’s St Michael’s and All Angels Church Hall, and the faith-based charity provides services too at the Living Waters Church at Laygate, St Michael’s Church in Westoe Road and Harton Methodist Church in Sunderland Road.
The next event on the calendar comes this Sunday, when a soup kitchen is held at St Bede’s between 7pm and 8pm.
But none of this support would be available without the “phenomenal support” of people in the borough, according to Amelia Luffrum, project director with Hospitality And Hope.
She said: “The people in this borough and their generosity is what keeps us going. They have been mega.
“For example, we collected 40 trolley loads of food from the Asda stores at Boldon and South Shields.
“We just put a leaflet in Asda asking for customers to add one item to their shop to be donated to us, and they responded brilliantly.
“I want to thank each and everyone of those who supported the appeal and the staff at Asda for their support.
“I would like to mention a huge ‘thank you’ to the Welfare Reform team at Homefinders for helping us collect and sort food donations for the food bank over the last few weeks.”
The charity has also been working alongside town MP Emma Lewell-Buck, who has raised the issue of the increasing use of food banks across the country in the House of Commons. Although it does not give the charity direct financial support, the council provides a base at Brinkburn Community Centre free of charge.
Food is donated and stored in a central location and care agencies, other organisations and charities supporting people in need will allocate food vouchers which can then be exchanged for a three-day supply of food from a distribution point.
Items can be left at Living Waters Church on a Friday lunchtime or Sunday evening, or at St Michael’s and All Angels Church on a Wednesday lunchtime.
For more information, call 0751 1617548.