We Did It!

Hartlepool Food Bank has reached its target and will open for business at its Church Street premises today. Volunteer (back, from left) Jon Wales, Al Wales, Andrew Milner, Nicola Borthwick and Michael Whittaker. Front, from left, Jon and Al's children, Hudson, Esther and Isaac Wales.

Hartlepool Food Bank has reached its target and will open for business at its Church Street premises today. Volunteer (back, from left) Jon Wales, Al Wales, Andrew Milner, Nicola Borthwick and Michael Whittaker. Front, from left, Jon and Al's children, Hudson, Esther and Isaac Wales.

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ORGANISERS of Hartlepool’s first-ever foodbank will kick off their campaign to help the needy this week after collecting four and a half tonnes of food.

Since the Mail launched the We Can Do It campaign back in September, the Hartlepool community has pulled together to help co-ordinator Al Wales and her team smash through their initial target of three tonnes of food.

Kind-hearted residents have flooded organisers with donations of non-perishable foods to help feed hard-up families, and those who qualify to get hand-outs are being issued with vouchers this week to go and pick up their food vouchers.

Schools, community groups, work places, churches and individuals have all contributed to the cause, while regular collection events at the town’s supermarkets have been well supported by shoppers who were happy to put a little extra in their trollies.

Foodbank co-ordinator Al Wales has been overwhelmed by the response the scheme has received, and is now looking forward to working with her team of volunteers to get the food distributed.

She said: “We’ve done it!

“We had set a target of three tonnes, but we’ve brought in one and a half tonnes more than that.

“We are all delighted, and I cannot thank the people of Hartlepool enough for the support they have given us.

“People have been so generous, and they have recognised us as a worthwhile cause.

“We have had people from all walks of life making donations, and to think we are in tough financial times anyway makes it all the more impressive.

“People like to give to charity and do what they can, but in our case people can hand over what they want without having to set up direct debits and things like that.

“It is easy to make a donation to us, and we’re so grateful to every single person who has helped us.

“I think it has been a real case of community spirit, and when you see the room packed with donations it is something Hartlepool should be very proud of.”

Al will work closely with professional agencies who will identify people in crisis and most in need of the help from the foodbank.

She added: “This is a sustainable project, it’s not just something which will stop when the food runs out.

“Four and a half tonnes sounds like a lot, but to put it in perspective there is a foodbank in Coventry which hands out a tonne each week.

“We will be continuing the collections, but in a week or so when we have been up and running we will have a better idea how the food is going to last.

“It’s important that people understand how we work, as the food can only be handed out to people who are deemed to be needy by professional organisations.

“They will be issued with a voucher, and then they will redeem that with us when they come to collect their food.”

The foodbank’s distribution centre is located at 28 Church Street, with donations being stored at a warehouse in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.

Al added: “Back in September I was worried we might not reach our target by Christmas, so to smash through it and get as much as we have is a great effort.

“And with Christmas so close now, it’s lovely to think we may be able to make a difference to people who may have struggled over the festive period.”