Ipswich's foodbank needs more volunteers to help feed families at Christmas
Ipswich foodbank's army of volunteers have been hard at work, packing and wrapping thousands of Christmas food parcels for families in need - but founder Maureen Reynel says they need even more help as demand for the service soars.
Around 80 people give up their time for Families in Need (FIND), Ipswich’s foodbank charity, during the festive period to make sure those in need have something to eat and unwrap on the big day.
However many can only afford to pop in for a few hours a week, so the need for volunteers is higher than ever.
Ms Reynel, the charity’s founder, says demand for the parcels has doubled in 2018, with even more families reaching out for help on the run up to Christmas.
Despite enjoying the hard work and the company of her loyal team of volunteers, it is a service she says she would prefer not to have to provide.
Those lending a helping hand with the parcels say there is a great feeling of camaraderie among the team and that they like a laugh and a joke while doing their vital work.
Paul Kendrick has been helping with Christmas food parcels for the last two years.
“I was at church and Maureen came to have a bit of a chat with us and I was hooked,” he said.
“I have just delivered a load of food parcels this morning and the families have been so thankful.
“Volunteering is a very worthwhile thing to do.
“We do like to have a good laugh while we are doing it too.
“It is very social - it’s nice to have a bit of a laugh with people.
“But we are in the 21st century and we are going round giving food to people.
“I have got to question why it is happening.”
Shirley Skinner has been volunteering for six years.
“When I had retired I felt I wanted to do something useful,” she said. “I heard Maureen speak at a Pentecostal service at the Cornhill and it felt like God was calling me to do it.
“I feel very fortunate I am comfortably off but realise there are not as many people as lucky as me out there.
“I sometimes take out the food parcels, sometimes I sort items, sometimes I pick items.
“When you deliver a parcel the families are extremely appreciative.
“What FIND does at Christmas with the hampers and presents is absolutely fantastic.
“All the things we take for granted, some people just can’t afford.
“Ever since I started coming here we seem to be delivering more and more food parcels each week, each day even.”
Dalise Fahy said: “I have been doing this for five years now.
“I used to refer people to the charity when I worked as a midwife.
“I thought when I retired I would come and work here - I’m one of the Tuesday girls.
“People come to the foodbank for various reasons. They could have lost their job, they could have become sick.
“It is best not to be judgmental. Anyone could be in that position at some point in their lives.”
Mrs Reynel said the demand for the charity’s food and Christmas parcels was higher than ever.
She said: “The new unemployment figures are another indication that the numbers in need is rising, it is widespread.
“The week before last we did over 100 food parcels. The week before it was in the 90s.
“It’s not good.
“There’s a huge increase in individuals and families in need.
“So many people are isolated too, people of all ages.
“The numbers have gone up, a lot of people are waiting for Universal Credit which can take at least five weeks.
“Then a lot of them will have deductions coming out of that.
“They then think they can borrow money from someone until they get it but by the time they get it, they have accrued a debt.
“It’s just really sad.
“I have also noticed there are so many single men and women in need.
“At least if you have family, you can cry and laugh about it but there are a lot of people on their own.
“There are also people who feel too embarrassed to ask for help.”
“A lot of people use what money they have got for Christmas day but by Boxing Day the cupboard is empty.
“Everybody on my referral list gets a gift.
“It shows them people actually care.”
To support the charity, visit www.findipswich.org.uk