Great Yarmouth food bank honoured amid rising client numbers
- Credit: Danielle Booden
Busy volunteers at a Great Yarmouth food bank have received a special honour for their work throughout the pandemic, but their contribution to the community continues.
On April 14, mayor Adrian Thompson unveiled a plaque at the Salvation Army on Tolhouse Street.
Captain Marie Burr, leader of the Great Yarmouth Salvation Army, said she was delighted.
“We wondered why, as we were just doing what The Salvation Army does and looking after the community. We don’t do it for recognition, but it’s always nice to know you’re appreciated,” she said.
During the pandemic, the Salvation Army supported residents by handing out around 120 hot meals twice a week as well as providing food for around 450 people a week through their food bank.
Capt Burr, who has led Salvation Army churches for 12 years, said the pandemic took everyone by surprise and that the "hardest thing was that people were lonely".
"Being locked away on your own is tough, so we wanted to keep as many routes of contact open as we could," she said.
"We set up telephone trees where half a dozen people would keep in touch with each other, and we phoned church members weekly too.”
Although the award honours The Salvation Army, Capt Burr praised Great Yarmouth Borough Council, other charities, and members of the public.
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She said: “We all worked together. The council would do deliveries for us, and we worked with the other three main food banks in the town. The public was amazing, and there was a constant stream of donations whenever we were open. Everyone pulled together to get through it.”
Community manager Harry Woods, 29, said: "It was lovely to have our hard work acknowledged.
"During the height of the pandemic, we were distributing over 100 food parcels a week and provided a delivery service to those who were self-isolating.
"We couldn't do what we do without our volunteers. It was phenomenal how everyone pulled together.
"The honour we received was a big thank you to everyone who helped throughout that time."
Mr Woods explained that even though there are no longer lockdowns, the Salvation Army continues to work increasingly hard, even during difficult times.
"We have been really busy," Mr Woods said.
"We are noticing a major increase in clients due to the rise in the cost of living. And it is getting worse.
"It's also a bit more difficult now as food donations are not what they were - everyone is feeling the pinch.
"We're having to make orders with wholesalers just to make sure we have enough to put in our food parcels.
"Our volunteers, now and during the pandemic, are incredible."
70-year-old retiree Arthur Spalding has been volunteering with the Yarmouth branch since 2019.
During the pandemic, Mr Spalding often worked five days a week picking up donations or delivering food parcels to vulnerable people.
He said that time "was quite hard work", but he and other volunteers wanted to do their bit.
Mr Spalding said of the new blue plaque and the visit from the mayor: "It's nice the Salvation Army got the honour.
"But, I don't look at the praise. I'm not one to blow my own trumpet. I just get on with it."
As well as the food bank, the Salvation Army has recently opened a community supermarket - Sally's Store - on Peggotty Road. Mr Woods said it was to help encourage clients to become more independent once they are no longer reliant on food banks.
"One of the main issues we have seen with our clients is budgeting," said Mr Woods. "So, with Norfolk County Council, we are putting together budget planning workshops for clients to find out how to make their money go further."
The Salvation Army also provide assistance to residents whose first language is not English.
Partnering with Great Yarmouth Refugee Outreach and Support (GYROS), The Salvation Army hosts sessions for clients on Mondays between 10am and 12pm.
Between their assistants, they can speak 10 additional languages - with the most common being Portuguese, Romanian and Russian.