At Christmas and new year, families gather to enjoy the festive season together. For many, that means enjoying food; for young children, it means playing with toys.
Thanks to volunteers and supporters at Oswestry and Borders Foodbank, there were people who were able to do just that – when they didn’t think they would.
The foodbank, based in Beatrice Street in Oswestry, is part of the nationwide Trussell Trust charity.
Liz Jermy, manager of the foodbank, said Christmas and Harvest are the busiest times of the year.
When you step in to the foodbank, there are hampers filled to the top, boxes of toys ready to be passed on and piles of food, all generously donated by the community and various organisations.
“It’s the generosity of the community that allows us to be generous to the community,” said Liz.
“It’s amazing how much people bring in, especially at Christmas.”
The foodbank works with frontline agencies that refer clients for help with supplies. People visit the foodbank for a number of complex reasons, which can vary from having a low income, despite being in work, to having no fixed address, to facing a delay or changes to benefits.
“We accept people as they are when they walk through the door. We really enjoy meeting people from all walks of life and being able to sit down with them and listen to their stories,” said Liz.
“We know it is very hard to walk through the door and ask for help – it takes a level of courage to do it.
“The people who get sent to the foodbank are referred to us through frontline agencies, such as housing trusts, health visitors, and schools. There is an element of us assessing the level of need, but through working with these agencies we are able to give specific items to those in need and help get people back on their own two feet.”
Over Christmas, Oswestry and Borders Foodbank made 125 hampers, bespoke for clients who visited.
The volunteers at the foodbank pride themselves on giving high standards of products – whether that be food, clothes or toys.
“We do check every item that is given our clients is of the highest quality,” said Liz.
“Just because the items are donated, it does not mean we accept out-of-date food or damaged clothes.
“Why should these people have anything less than the best? We wouldn’t want to eat out-of-date food or wear clothes with holes in, so why should they?”
The Foodbank has also seen generous donations from 40 churches and 16 schools across the area that support them, including three boxes of toys donated by Oswestry School’s Bellan House.
These toys went into the hampers for families, so children had an extra little present on Christmas Day.
“The standard of things that have been donated has been amazing – we’ve had some really beautiful gifts sets, like toiletries, as well as boxes of food from Tesco,” said Liz.
“It really is amazing how people really pull out the stops to help those in need.”
And while the foodbank was stocked with donations, it was down to the busy volunteers to package everything in a bespoke hamper and prepare the supplies for clients to pick up before Christmas.
There are 44 volunteers who make time to help out at Oswestry and Borders Foodbank, and manager Liz says each member of the team goes the extra mile to make sure people have their supplies.
The volunteers not only work in Oswestry but at the foodbank in Ellesmere, at the shipping container, as well as driving supplies around and creating rotas.
As well as distributing food, there are also volunteers who help out at the foodbank’s IT club and job club, which can help people search for jobs, carry out benefit checks and maintain credit accounts.
“We thoroughly enjoying working at the foodbank – it’s a pleasure for us to do it,” said Liz.
“Myself and all the volunteers enjoy meeting all different kinds of people. It’s especially great when people come back and let us know how they’re doing – we’ve had many clients get back on their feet who return to actually donate food themselves, which is amazing.
“It’s great to know you’re making a real difference to people.”
n If you wish to contact Oswestry and Borders Foodbank, ring 01691 671940, or 07399 291955. Foodbank volunteers are happy to come and speak at events and anyone is welcome to visit the centre in Beatrice Street.
There are more than 40 frontline agencies who hold vouchers. Call the foodbank if you need help accessing a voucher.