Redhill foodbank volunteers thanked for ‘extraordinary’ work during pandemic

David Grantham, 22 September 2020

Foodbank volunteers with Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey (bottom right)

Volunteers at the foodbank at St Matthew’s in Redhill were thanked this month for their efforts in supporting hundreds of individuals and families during the coronavirus crisis.

In a visit on Friday 11 September the Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey saw where food and other essentials are donated, sorted and stored, and met volunteers and clients to hear their stories first-hand.

During lockdown, the foodbank helped up to 120 individuals and families each week, handing out items such as baby milk, tinned food, pasta and packet meals.

Between 23 March and 31 July alone, 1,815 food bags were given out – more than triple the amount for the same period in 2019.

Nearly 100 households are still being helped each week, with clients referred via agencies and community groups.

The Lord-Lieutenant, Michael More-Molyneux, told the volunteers: “I feel uplifted and humbled by this extraordinary work.

“What strikes me is the wonderful family atmosphere at the foodbank, which is run in an extremely efficient way – it is very impressive.

“I have been absolutely overwhelmed this morning by the foodbank volunteers’ enthusiasm, hard work and commitment to helping others.”

He added: “One of the biggest positives to come out of the Covid-19 crisis is communities working together.

“Surrey has always been good at volunteering and this foodbank demonstrates people’s willingness to help others. We should all try to retain that spirit after the pandemic is over.”

The Lord-Lieutenant chatting to Liz Wheeler, foodbank co-ordinator at St Matthew’s

The Lord-Lieutenant also saw the future location of two new portacabins, which (subject to planning approval) the charity will use as a new base and storage centre.  The new facility will help with an anticipated increase in demand as and when the Government’s furlough scheme ends.

During the visit the Lord-Lieutenant, the Queen’s personal representative in Surrey, also spoke with three clients for whom the foodbank proved to be a lifeline during lockdown.

One man said: “This is my first visit to the foodbank since lockdown.

“I was in a desperate situation after going without food for six weeks and the foodbank deliveries to my home helped saved my life.

“The volunteers do a magnificent job and I can’t thank them enough. Without them I would not be here today. They have given me confidence and hope to carry on.”

Another client, a single mother, said: “The foodbank staff are amazing. My family and I would not have survived without them over lockdown.”

One man now brings in home-grown fruit and vegetables, as his way of thanking volunteers for the help he received.

The Lord-Lieutenant also met nine-year-old Grace Wigley who recently walked 19km up Mount Snowdon raising over £1,000 for the foodbank, along with her school friend Sadie Maisonneuve who raised the same sum for mental health charity Mind.

L-R: fundraisers Sadie Maisonneuve and Grace Wigley, with Father Cunnington, vicar of St Matthew’s

The Foodbank has been operating out of St Matthew’s Church, in Redhill’s Station Road, since 2012.

Currently it has around 30 volunteers.  During lockdown, a delivery system was set up for clients, and storage and delivery facilities expanded.

Reverend Andrew Cunnington, vicar of St Matthew’s Church, said: “We are so very grateful for the time and interest shown by the Lord-Lieutenant in visiting us today to find out more about what we do.

“Our team of volunteers – many of whom stepped up for the first time during the pandemic – do a magnificent job here and this sort of recognition of their commitment is such an encouragement at a time when we are still working so hard to keep pace with the food poverty needs in our community.”