All change as major Doncaster foodbank leaves its base after eight years
It's been helping feed people who have hit difficult times from Christ Church on Thorne Road for eight years.
But Doncaster Food Bank is set for the biggest change in its history this month – with a move to another site on the other side of the town centre.
The organisation opened its doors at Christ Church on Thorne Road in 2013, providing free emergency food to people referred to it in crisis.
Since then over 25,000 emergency food parcels have been distributed by the food bank from Christ Church.
But from Wednesday June 16, the food bank will be relocating to St James Church, St Sepulchre Gate West.
Peter Hymans, the food bank’s chair of trustees said: “We are so grateful for the ongoing support of the leaders and congregation at Christ Church for the past eight years. Without them we would not have been able to help some of the poorest and most deprived citizens of Doncaster, struggling to put food on the table.
"We hope that one day there will be no need for us in Doncaster but until that day comes, we will continue to offer the best possible service to help local people facing a food crisis.”
He said he was grateful to St James for offering a new base.
It is one of a number of big changes at the moment, with a new manager having recently come in to run the operation, too. And long serving volunteer Shirley Donnelly, who has been the main face of the operation on the ground at the church for many years, has moved to a role at the charity’s food warehouse. On top of that, there are plans for more sites in the borough.
St James Church had its own food bank in the past, and the vicar at the church, the Rev Chris McCarthy, was keen to get involved with the work done by the Trussell Trust’s team in Doncaster.
He said: “The Trussell Trust’s food bank needed a venue and we felt we could help. There used to be a foodbank run here by the church before I arrived here, and I’ve been here six years now.
"We’re very pleased to get involved because we see that there’s a need in our society that needs to be met. I have a colleague who is one of the trustees who had mentioned that the foodbank needed a new base.
"We’re also aiming to get some of the members of our church trained up as volunteers as well. We will look to see where we can meet the needs here within our local community, and I think we’ve identified the homeless community, and people with need of a foodbank on the St James estate.”
Project manager John Parr is only in his fourth week at the foodbank. He has just moved across to run the operation and started in the post on May 24.
He said: “We’ve been at Christ Church for many years now, and a lot of volunteers have been with us there a long time. It’s been our centre of operations since we started.
“I know Church Church has projects too and they need the space. But we are really looking forward to going somewhere new.”
It may not just St James Church that is set to see the footbank on its premises.
There are also plans to open up in other parts of Doncaster, too.
The trust ran a food bank in Rossington before the pandemic, at the Holmescarr Community Centre on Grange Lane. There are plans to reopen that site again shortly.
And on top of that, the organisation is looking to set up a site in Wheatley, too. Talks have been held about the possibility of basing a food bank at St Paul's Church, on Durham Road.
There is no date yet arranged.
"The main focus at the moment is the St James site, and making sure people know that we’re moving to the other side of the town centre,” said John, whose background is working in benefits advice, but has previously worked as a volunteer in a food bank. “But we will be opening at exactly the same times, Wednesday and Friday from 10am until 12 noon.”
When the food bank first set up, it kept its supplies in the crypt at Christ Church. But that is part of the operation that is not having to be moved now, as that was relocated to an industrial unit at Sandall Stones several years ago, open Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday mornings for donations.
Although there are no shortage areas in terms of stocks at present, the shortages are most common in toiletries and washing powder, as people did not tend to think of them when they were making donations.
John said the food bank would not be the only charity based at St James’, as there was already an organisation there which helps the homeless, called Doncaster Vulnerable Support Group.
He believes having the two organisations based in the same venue may be a good thing, and hopes that they may be able to work together on some matters.
"We may find we get more rough sleepers with no permanent address coming to us for help,” he said. “We work with organisations who issue vouchers for food that people bring to us. We often tell people to go to the council’s one stop shop at the Civic Offices to get them.
"Hopefully we will be able to work collaboratively.”
The food bank's first session at St James Church is due to be June 16. Anyone interested in volunteering with them can email [email protected]