Crowstone Church, Wonderful Wednesday & Foodbank Love
What an amazing day!
Running just minutes late for picking up my lovely friend Lauren, then off to fulfil an invitation to join Melanie Smith (Reverend) at Crowstone Church for the day.
Once we arrived, we met a group of wonderful people, the group was led by Morag, a church elder, a wise, wonderful and witty lady.
During a prayer meeting, a group of amazing people started a debate about mental health issues, the question asked by Morag The Wise, “is mental health being spoken about?”
So I answered … it is more common now, but unfortunately people still have their moments.
I told them about a recent happening at my college, someone making inappropriate comments about mental health, and I tackled it, only to be scolded by the teacher and the class. They felt it was up to them to make whatever jokes or comments they wanted.
A sad indication of society, a poor reflection of the very people involved and the attitudes of all.
Lauren and I were really impressed that the older generation, aged 80+++, sorry Morag, were in touch with mental health and wanted it spoken about!
Back to Crowstone …
We had a light lunch, everyone is welcome. These lunches occur on the first and third Wednesday of the month. Come and join, plenty of room. A small contribution made, but I believe they would provide you a meal for free if you were in need.
It was lovely, welcoming and informal; lots of chatter, lots of fun and lots of tea and coffee. Waited on by the Volunteers. I felt thoroughly spoilt.
Promised with the food bank tour, I boarded the Crowstone Express to the food bank line, a meticulous operation.
Acting as clients, we were greeted by a warm and friendly Volunteer.
We had a full show around the operation and demonstration with one of the Volunteers showing us how things are done.
We gave the Volunteer a hard time, so ten out of ten for coping and getting everything right under pressure.
A few facts might help you to understand the need of a foodbank in your town: Every day people in the UK go hungry for reasons ranging from redundancy to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income.
Trussell Trust foodbanks provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK.
In 2014-15 foodbanks fed 1,084,604 people nationwide. Of those helped, 396,997 were children. Alarming!
Rising food and fuel prices, static incomes, underemployment and changes to benefits are some of the reasons why increasing numbers are being referred to foodbanks for emergency food.
The Trussell Trust partners with churches and communities to open new foodbanks nationwide. They currently have over 420 foodbanks launched, of which Crowstone is one.
When I discuss homelessness and poverty with my friends, I am often told I am pessimistic, but I can assure you I am an extremely positive individual, just realistic!
However, in contradiction of that, I often hear myself saying to people “we are all only one pay cheque away from homelessness” and the sad truth is, unfortunately I am right. I know a number of well established people that have either lost their homes or are fighting to keep their homes.
Static salaries for those in employment, but increase in costs.
For those on benefit, cuts in the benefit reform, harsh sanctions being set by the DWP and the Job Centre, people are experiencing serious struggles.
The poorer get poorer and there is no way to increase the financial help received, they run out of family and friends to ask, then the government, and then …
Individuals on zero hour contracts are struggling to find extra hours and if the Job Centre feel the individual isn’t trying hard enough, they will be sanctioned and the financial help they receive may be withdrawn.
Dangerous stuff! No money, no food, no fuel, no roof over your head, illness, poor mental health, homelessness!
The UK is in a poor economic state, families going without, a sad and honest fact. Children going to bed hungry. Extreme poverty in our UK homes.
Back to Crowstone, What Happened?
Plates of chocolate biscuits, tea and coffee in abundance! Plenty of free smiles, laughter and food. Lots of people on hand to talk to for conversation sake. People to ask for advice. Leaflets providing all important help and people there to read them.
Signposting and referral to helpful parties, organisations, charities, networks etc.
Empathy, respect and unconditional positive regard. Three things we take for granted in our daily lives, but if we are honest, we don’t always supply each other with these qualities. Today, however, they were supplied in abundance.
Sitting on table in the corner, getting some quiet reflective time things started to heat up …
After a slow start, the pace picked up, people arriving, and then it got busy. Clients arriving, singles, couples, families, children running in the foyer.
The clients were treated in such a dignified manner, offered food and drinks to warm up the instant they came in.
More than anything, I realise food is an absolute essential, although being someone with mental health problems, I would abstain from food all day for the opportunity of interaction with another human being.
So it was welcoming to me that Melanie stresses the importance of the Volunteers, the conversation they offer to the clients, the numerous teas and coffees, and random meals prepared.
What I do understand is that the Volunteer could be the very first person the client interacts with today, in fact, they could be the only person they interact with today and this makes this conversation all so important.
No huge issue made when the clients collect their food. It was all completely seamless and processed with ease, kindness and respect. Everyone was made to feel valued, welcomed, loved and important.
It is so important to listen to the clients.
You could be the only person they have spoken to today.
The parcels were absolutely amazing, in a word “BIG”! Different weights of food for all – single person, couple, family of four, family of five etc.
The variety of the boxes brilliant, they held an eclectic mix of anything and everything you would need to cook at least three or four meals and more if you were careful.
Rules to be Broken
The client is allowed three emergency parcels in a period of six months, this is set by The Tressell Trust. Why? It is about emergency supply.
The client needs to remedy the situation, they are encouraged to do so. They can source a long-term permanent food supply, perhaps gain employment or benefits.
At Crowstone being the person Melanie is, she encourages the Volunteers to use their discretion about the “three in six months” rule. With the refugee crisis on our doorstep, there may be extrenuous circumstances involved for the client, which is why an alternative solution may be derived.
It got extremely busy; noise levels raised, you could feel excitement in the air. At least four pick-ups whilst I was in the café, people welcomed and food distributed a’plenty.
We trekked to the storage area and I was impressed by the boxes, their size, their weight, their codes, each one organised methodically for collection. Each one filled with love and compassion, not just stuff!
As Melanie excitedly chattered about the foodbank, she commenced to rearrange the boxes. Not to be beaten by her height and slight build, the manoeuvre of many boxes began!
Crowstone Church Foodbank, Boxes Ready for Collection by the clients.
She thought it funny that the previous vicar remodelled the church and she had one wall erected. I simply laughed, she wasn’t looking for an ego to be stroked, in fact, I haven’t seen one, but I get the joke!
So what can we do?
Well pasta being the most common item that we donate is not required, but thanks anyway! A shopping list of baked beans, food sachets/mixes, tuna, tinned fruit, sugar, jam, sauces, tea, coffee, cereals, UHT milk, sanitary products, juice, toilet rolls, rice pudding, tinned meat, tinned pies, deodorant, cream, shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste, toothbrushes… seriously anything you would utilise yourself.
Our contribution does not have to be large, when you shop next, instead of one jam jar, buy two. Instead of one packet of tea, buy two…. You get my drift.
You can leave the items in a shopping trolley in the church lobby or you can pop in to the café for a warming cuppa and a word with a Volunteer.
How I Felt
I am constantly searching for the one thing I absolutely desperately need to make a difference and frankly I do not know what it is.
I know this sounds strange, but whenever I visit Crowstone, I find it energising and I have no idea why. One day I was walking back to the church with Les and as I stopped to gather my breath, we took a minute to look at our surroundings.
For our absolute pleasure, we were shown a stunning pink cloudy sky, sun just gone down, truly majestic. I know it is mild for autumn, but Les and I couldn’t believe how many flowers were in flower, it was as if the church willed the surroundings to have colour for as long as possible before winter moves in.
Crowstone Church, Sundown
I continually strive to find something, someone, somebody who is making a difference.
I found something today, I found a group of people led by Melanie actually. A group of determined, courageous, intelligent, caring and genuine individuals. Friendships being formed and progress being made for the community in such an unlikely place.
I felt the energy of the others, some to fairly awesome people.
I was somewhat overwhelmed at times and found myself sloping off to reflect quietly in the corner, somewhere to write and think, only to be offered more tea and biscuits.
Each time I started to write, I witnessed people coming out of the crevices of the church being busy doing other things, being involved in other projects.
Lauren and I were debating what words would describe the group of people and we finally settled on “genuine”, and they certainly were that, no pretention whatsoever.
When I left Crowstone Church, I looked up at the stunning sky and I comment to Les, an elder, how it always appears to be so when I visit.
As I look back, I see the church standing steadfastly on the hill like a well oiled machine. This machine is a business and the business is community.
Have a wonderful day!
Love Me x