Food kitchen aims to meet greater need as it marks first year in Hartlepool

It is the anniversary they wish they did not have to celebrate - but a lifeline for over 100 people in Hartlepool.

St Aidan’s Food Kitchen has marked one year of helping to feed and comfort the community including the hungry, lonely and homeless.

Reverend Jemma Sampson cutting a cake at St Aidan's Church to celebrate the first year of their food kitchen. Picture by Frank Reid

Reverend Jemma Sampson cutting a cake at St Aidan's Church to celebrate the first year of their food kitchen. Picture by Frank Reid

Since opening their doors 12 months ago, the project has grown significantly from 15 visitors in its first week to now feeding more than 120 people a week.

Looking ahead to their seconds year, organisers hope to help even more people after almost reaching a £30,000 target to buy a dedicated kitchen.

Reverend Gemma Sampson said: “It has really grown over the year.

“There is a lot of people that are in real need.

Left to right: Katherine Batty, Pauline Clarkson and Paul Maddison tuck into their slice of cake at St. Aidan's Church to celebrate the1st year of their food kitchen. Picture by FRANK REID

Left to right: Katherine Batty, Pauline Clarkson and Paul Maddison tuck into their slice of cake at St. Aidan's Church to celebrate the1st year of their food kitchen. Picture by FRANK REID

“Anyone and everyone is welcome, particularly those just finding life a bit difficult because they are hungry or homeless or lonely.

“I’m really delighted with how it has built and grown and desperately sad that there is clearly such a big need in Hartlepool in the 21st Century because that’s not OK.

“But it’s a total privilege that we get to meet that need.”

Paul Maddision, 46, who was the first person to be helped by the project, joined guests for the anniversary celebrations and enjoyed a piece of cake.

The food kitchen held in St Aidans Church. Picture by Frank Reid

The food kitchen held in St Aidans Church. Picture by Frank Reid

He said: “I was the first person through the doors on opening day and I have been every week.

“I think what they do is amazing. At first I came for the help then I started meeting new people and it turned into a bit more of a social thing.”

Mother Gemma described the food kitchen as “probably the best three hours of my week”.

She said the project is blessed by a wonderful team of volunteers who help serve meals and refreshments to visitors in the church pews.

They currently manage with just kettles, slow cookers and one microwave oven.

But in only around six months, the church and supporters have raised close to £30,000 for a purpose-built kitchen.

Mother Gemma added: “The last time we counted it up we were £750 short but hopefully with a couple of fundraising events we have had last week and in the next fortnight we are going to smash the target, then we can get the builders in.”

It is hoped the kitchen will be fully installed by Christmas.

Looking ahead Mother Gemma added: “We want to open the church more often to feed more people.

“What we are doing is great but the need is greater, so we want to do all we can to give more.

“Hopefully, installing the new kitchen will allow that to happen.”

The food kitchen is open every Thursday between 11am and 1pm.