Doncaster food bank helps people to have a merrier Christmas

At this time of year, many of us are looking forward to receiving presents from friends and family and sharing our Christmas lunch.

Friday, 23rd December 2016, 9:20 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 2:11 pm
Thorne and Moorends food bank founders Glenys and Michael Hennessey

But, for some people in the borough, the season fills them with dread because they can not afford to buy their loved ones presents or cook a festive feast.

That’s where the Thorne and Moorends food bank comes in.

Thorne and Moorends food bank volunteer Denise Witton.

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The facility, which was opened in 2014 by Glenys and Michael Hennessey, has provided help for 400 people since its launch. On average, the food bank provides food parcels for between 24 and 28 people a week, but around Christmas time this increases to around 32.

Glenys said: “I think our service is a Christmas life line to some people.

“This can be a very difficult time of year for some, during the year we see people who are choosing between food or heating, but at this time of year they are choosing between food, heating or buying Christmas presents.I think most parents would choose to buy their children Christmas presents, but they still need food to eat and that’s where we come in.

“Throughout the year we save up some Christmas goodies, like tinned fruit, stuffing and salmon so that around Christmas time we can give everyone an extra bag of food to enjoy - on top of the usual bags of food.”

Thorne and Moorends food bank volunteer Denise Witton.

Retired couple Glenys and Michael, and their team of 14 volunteers, also hold an annual Christmas party for local children and their families. This year’s was held on Wednesday December 21, at Thorne Rugby Club, Church Balk, and was attended by around 50 children.

Glenys said: “We’ve had a Christmas party for the last three years. Every year, we ask people to donate Christmas presents for the children, and then one of the volunteers dresses as Santa to give them to the children.

“This year, we’ve had about 100 presents donated as well as about 90 selection boxes. It was the same last year. A lot of people have been very generous. The people of Thorne will pull together when they have to.”

Volunteer Gordon Powell added: “The first Christmas party was on Christmas Eve in 2014 and it was the best Christmas Eve I’ve had.

“It was so lovely to see all the little bairns enjoying themselves. I find it particularly hard to see people with children who you know won’t get much for Christmas. We make sure that all the children who come have some food and get a present, so that they have had something even if they won’t get much else.”

When people walk in to the food bank, which is held every Wednesday morning at Thorne Rugby Club, they are greeted with tables of food, a rainbow of colours and flavours.

There is lots of choice; fresh vegetables and fruit, tinned foods, sauces, bread, cakes and pastries. Some of the tables are overflowing, and extra food has to be placed in boxes on the floor - a sign of the generosity of the local community.

In a back room, a group of volunteers work to get all the food in to bags so it can be given to individuals. The large cupboards in this room are also overflowing - another sign of the kindness of local people.

At this time of year, Christmas music plays in the background, a Christmas tree stands in the corner and decorations hang from the ceiling - a sign of Christmas spirit in what is a difficult circumstance.

The volunteers believe that everyone should have a happy Christmas, whatever their situation and work hard to make that happen.

Michael said: “We’re so busy in the run up to Christmas, collecting donations, sorting and storing it all, and wrapping Christmas presents for people, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The volunteers collect food from a number of sources, including supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury’s and bakery Greggs who all give unsold food for free each Tuesday evening.

Other food is donated by local residents, as well as churches, school children and the volunteers themselves.

Looking forward to 2017, the couple would like to open their own premises so that they can offer their service five days a week.

Glenys said: “I think next year we will see even more people coming through the door. We’d like our own premises so we can open five days a week, but at the moment we can’t find the right place. It would need to be in Thorne so people can access it easily, and then we would need funding to help.

“We would like to have a proper kitchen area so we can provide proper meals for people and also teach them how to cook.”

The food bank operates at Thorne Rugby Club, Church Balk, from 9am to noon every Wednesday. You can also go to the Hedgerow Children’s Centre, Marshland Road from 9.30am to 10.30am.

The facility is, however, now closed for the Christmas break and will re-open on January 4. However, Glenys said people can still call her if they are in need of food.

“We are closed for a Christmas break because we need to be able to spend time with our family and friends, but there is an emergency number and if anyone is in desperate need of food we will make sure they get some. People can call that any time, even Christmas Day.”

Visit or search Thorne And Moorends Community Hub and Food Bank’ on Facebook.