A View from Westminster – My column for the Tameside Reporter

adsasfdfdfdfdfdfdfd at 17.03.43The Christmas season is here and many of us will be looking forward to some well-earned rest and time away from work to spend with family and friends. Whilst this time of year is enjoyable and full of joy, it is also important as it’s the time of year where we should remember our shared values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, and humility.

There are thousands of small acts of kindness seen in our community every day by people inspired to try and make the world a better place. St Mary’s Foodbank in Haughton Green is just one example of a group of ordinary people doing truly extraordinary things.

St. Mary’s Church and Community Food Bank on Meadow Lane was the first food bank to be opened in Tameside and has operated uninterrupted since 2011. What was a 3 month local church outreach programme has now entered its 7th year and demand continues to grow.

Each year and with the help of a growing army of volunteers they run their Christmas Campaign which acts as a lifeline to families in need. Families are provided with enough food to see them through the whole festive period, as well as a Christmas meal and toys for every child.

Families across the Tameside area are referred to the food bank by schools, social services, housing associations, health visitors and other agencies that collectively work with vulnerable families.  Last year St. Mary’s provided 178 families – over 500 people – with essentials over Christmas and this year looks like their busiest year yet.  To date, they’ve received 102 referrals and that’s only for the first week of December.

The food bank itself is open on four occasions a week, 52 weeks a year and provides a continual life line for families across the community who find themselves in food crisis.  Currently the food bank is run by a team of about 10 volunteers that work in the food bank on a weekly basis with countless others who devout a few hours each week. Recently their ranks have included students from the local high school who are lending their time in the run-up to Christmas.

Over the Christmas holidays there is a volunteer spike with anywhere between 50-100 people signing up to sort, check, parcel up, and deliver to families all over Tameside. The whole project is an amazing community effort and is supported by businesses who also send in teams of volunteers to help St. Mary’s reach everyone that needs it – this year, St. Mary’s have teams from Swinton and Aon insurance coming to help.

I want to thank Helen Holland who organises the food bank as well as Reverend Mark Glew and the countless volunteers who help make what St. Mary’s do, a reality.

We’d all love to see a world where food banks were not needed, sadly failures by central government have meant that poverty continues to rise meaning more and more families across the country need our help..

St. Mary’s is entirely reliant on the generosity of the public, whether through donations or by those offering their time so I’d encourage everyone to consider signing up.

For more information please visit www.stmaryshg.org.uk/food-bank or contact Helen Holland on 07964 994 008

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