A charity in Netherfield has revealed it has so far cooked over 21,000 meals for people in the community after the financial strain of the pandemic left some families without access to food.
St George’s Centre on Victoria Road has been offering cooked meals five days a week for the past year to those worst hit by the pandemic, with members of the community being asked to pay either a pound contribution for a hot meal, or nothing at all.
Tina Simpson is the treasurer for Netherfield Forum – the charity that runs the centre.
She said that although it had been a difficult year, the events of the past 12 months had really brought the community together.
Tina said: “The people of Netherfield have really pulled together during the pandemic and it’s been amazing. It’s moved me to tears at times; people have been so wonderful.
“We’ve been offering hot meals throughout the pandemic to those needing support and this has only been possible due to the generosity of people wanting to help. We’ve had people drop in to the centre and make donations of £20, £150 and even £2,000 to fund the food. It’s been unbelievable and these people donating want no recognition. They’ve made this happen; they’ve helped feed those in need.
“Many families have suffered because people were made redundant or two parents were on furlough; it’s been difficult. One person was forced to move out of their house after losing their job and losing everything. They came here for food. They sent us a thank-you card saying they wouldn’t have got through Christmas if the centre hadn’t have been open and offering meals during the winter.
“Many have expressed relief at the centre offering meals, saying that it ensured their family got fed that day.”
The team at the centre have been working tirelessly to provide the meals and only recently took their first day off in 12 months during the recent Bank Holiday Monday.
Local businesses have also showed their support for the scheme with Morrisons in Netherfield providing food on a weekly basis to the charity and Jigsaw Homes providing Christmas dinners and also Easter Eggs for kids living in the town.
Tina added: “It’s been a rollercoaster of a year but in a way the best year, as the community has really pulled together.”
The Forum are now focussed on boosting services for young people in the community with the opening of a new centre in the coming months.
The charity recently took possession of the former GP surgery on Forester Street, which they hope to transform into a young family and children’s centre that will eventually replace the town’s youth club know as the Loco Centre
The plan had initially been to knock the current building down and create a new structure, but this has been put on hold due to the pandemic.
“We did want to demolish the building, but Covid came along and we have to look at things differently,” Tina said.
“We now plan to try and change the current building and use it to help children and young people in the area.”
The charity is now asking for people in the local community to help modernise the centre.
“We’d be grateful for any support. We need people to help with cleaning and painting the inside and also helping tidying up the outside of the building.”
She added: “The great thing about the new centre is it won’t be owned by the government or council: it will be owned by the community.”
If you want to help support Netherfield Forum then visit them online at https://stgeorgescentre.wixsite.com/stgeorgescentre/stgeorges