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People of Waveney, you are 'amazing'

Project Manager for East Suffolk Foodbank Philip Riley in the Lowestoft store with all the food parcells ready for Christmas.

Project Manager for East Suffolk Foodbank Philip Riley in the Lowestoft store with all the food parcells ready for Christmas.

Archant © 2012

PEOPLE in Waveney were this week thanked for their "amazing" generosity in helping some of the district's most vulnerable and under-privileged families to enjoy a memorable festive season.

Church workers and charity volunteers said they had been overwhelmed by the public’s response after appealing for help on behalf of the homeless, or those facing financial hardship and other problems.

The East Suffolk Foodbank, which covers most of Waveney, and the Lowestoft branch of the Salvation Army were inundated with food donations, which have been distributed over the festive period to those in need.

A staggering 3.5 tonnes of food has been handed out across the district by the Lowestoft-based foodbank, which was set up earlier this year, and nearly 100 people enjoyed a festive meal and entertainment at the Salvation Army’s Citadel in Lowestoft on Christmas Day, thanks to donations of food and other items.

When the East Suffolk Foodbank was established in August, it was originally called the Lowestoft Foodbank but after recognising there was a need for food parcels across the district, it changed its name and spread its distribution points to include Wrentham, Beccles, Halesworth and even down to Walberswick.

So far the foodbank has helped about 160 people – helped by donations from everyone from pensioners to schoolchildren.

Philip Riley, who helps lead the project, said: “The generosity of the public has just been amazing. It took a while for the foodbank to take off and for people to grasp what it was all about.

“But now the support we receive is simply overwhelming.”

In the run-up to the festive season, people left items for the foodbank at collection events held at Lowestoft’s Asda and Tesco supermarkets, the Morrisons store at Gisleham and at the Tesco in Beccles.

But its work is continuing, with staff and volunteers handing out lists of items shoppers can donate.

Donations can also be left at Gunton Baptist Church in Hollingsworth Road.

Since the foodbank’s launch, people have given generously – and in one heartwarming demonstration of support, pupils at primary schools, such as Gunton and Poplars, handed over Harvest Festival donations.

Mr Riley said: “We have just under 10 tonnes of food at our warehouse. In terms of food given out, we are at the 3.5-tonne mark. In the last week alone we have prepared about 20 boxes of food. But the whole project would not work without the support of the local community and it has shown a lot of generosity.

“Sadly, the foodbank is needed here in Waveney but it is nice to see the community helping other members of the community out. For me it has been the examples of individual generosity that have touched me.

“One elderly man was in a supermarket with a shopping trolley full of goods. He took out a coffee jar and I thought he was handing it over to us – but he said the coffee was for him and everything else was for the foodbank!”

This week, the Salvation Army hosted its annual Christmas Alone event – providing a festive get-together for lonely, homeless and vulnerable people, with food donated by supporters. In the lead-up to Christmas, people have also enjoyed meals at the Citadel every Tuesday and were handed food parcels.

Among those who supported the Salvation Army’s effort were kind-hearted students and staff at Lowestoft College who collected so many items that they had to hand over the goods in two giant batches.

Thanking the college, Lt Angela Wilson, head of the Salvation Army in Lowestoft, said: “The students and staff have been absolutely amazing. They have really grasped the nettle.”

And she added: “I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of donations we have received.”

A college spokesman said many of the students and staff had got involved: “We are really pleased that we have been able to do something to help people in the local community who are going through difficult times.”

The efforts of people in helping others at what is traditionally a time of giving were praised by Rev Michael Asquith of St Margaret’s Church in Lowestoft. He said: “Their generosity has no bounds.”

● For more information on how to support the East Suffolk Foodbank, call 01502 537798 or 01502 586216, email foodbank.lowestoft@btconnect.com or visit www.eastsuffolk.foodbank.org.uk

● Guests celebrate together at Christmas Alone event – page 4

● Youngsters’ festive boost for the homeless – page 13

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