Friday, 21 February 2020 16:30

Foodbank lunch well supported

Written by Donald Fullarton

MEMBERS and guests turned out in force — despite torrential rain — for today's lunch at Helensburgh Tennis Club in aid of the Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank.

Organisers Ann McKelvie and Phyllis Fullarton were delighted with the total of £435 raised, plus three boxes of assorted foods.

Club member Barbie Paterson, who was the Foodbank's secretary for its first four years and still serves on the committee, described the work of the charity.

She said that a group of eight local people thought they should investigate whether Helensburgh really needed a foodbank. The Trussell Trust, who organised most of the foodbanks in the UK, came to do a survey.

Barbie said: "They said, yes, there definitely was a need for a foodbank in Helensburgh. We did an investigation into how the Trussell Trust operated and how the independent foodbanks operated, and we decided we would prefer to be independent.

"The Royal Navy very kindly let us have a very large storeroom on the Churchill Estate, and that is where the non-perishable food is stored.

"Our distribution centre is the Red Cross Hall in East Princes Street, and both these venues were given to us free of charge although we do make a donation to the Red Cross.

"We went on from there. We packed bags up at the food store. And we have three different sizes of bags.

"We have the bag for a single person or a couple, which helps people through a crisis. We have a large family bag, which is really like two bags.

"And then we have quite a small basic bag because we recognised that there would be some people who weren't actually going through a crisis any more, but were still finding it very, very hard to make ends meet.

"We open now three times a week, Monday morning, Friday morning, and Thursday evening for the people who are in very low paid jobs.

"We have around 40 volunteers and it is entirely run by them. We interview the clients. Our chair, Mary McGinley, is very involved with the poor in Helensburgh, so a lot of the faces who come in are well-known to her.

"We assess what their needs are, whether they are in a crisis and need one of the larger bags or with most cases. It's usually the basic bag, which doesn't have very much food in it.

"We give them this bag and say please put the food in your own bags — because we re-use the hessian bags — and leave behind anything you really know that you're not going to eat.

"I used to have sleepless nights at the beginning as to how we were ever going to have enough food for the people who came.

"And of course the numbers have increased hugely over the last five years. Whereas on a Monday morning we had about five people coming in, now we regularly have 15. The other one Monday we had 21 people.

"At the beginning the worry was how were we going to get the food? We had no money at all, so it was entirely dependent on donations. And the amazing thing is that the community supports wonderfully.

"They give donations of food. They give donations of money. Sometimes we run out of a certain item — maybe we've run out of rice pudding or something, and that's when we use the money to go out and buy.

"There has never been a time when we've had to say we've run out of food, or we're giving you far less food because we just don't have the food.

"So it is the continuing support of the community that is so important to the ongoing life of the foodbank. And it is needed now more than ever. The people who come in — it breaks your heart sometimes. They are just struggling with life."

Organisers Ann McKelvie and Phyllis Fullarton.

Alison Fotheringham, Fiona MacLaren and Anne Tebbutt.