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VERA to support three worthy organisations

Published: 02/09/2020

Shortly after the lockdown Ashford Borough Council launched our Voluntary Emergency Response Appeal (VERA), setting ourselves the ambitious target of raising £10,000 to help with the borough’s response to and recovery from the pandemic.

Seventy donations were made to the fund, with contributions from residents, councillors, ABC staff and local companies such as Givaudan and Countryside Properties.

Over the last few months many local voluntary organisations have helped supply food and essentials to those most in need during the height of the crisis.

The council is pleased to announce that three key organisations that are continuing to deliver across the borough and serve those that need support will receive funding from VERA - Ashford Vineyard Foodbank, Bright City Church Foodbank and Repton People’s Pantry

The funding will specifically support Ashford Vineyard in their aspiration to move from a foodbank system to a ‘social supermarket’ referral system which as well as supporting food poverty, will take a longer term approach to supporting local people with money management, cooking and personal development. 

Bright City will continue doing the good work they have been doing for years from their Bank Street venue while Repton People’s Pantry will extend their community led food bank providing food, hygiene items and cleaning products to residents across the borough that are in need.

As our Corporate Recovery Plan highlights, we will continue to look at ways to strengthen the voluntary sector such as networking valuable groups so they can help each other and share resources in the future.

Officers will also continue to look out for, and secure, further funding support for these three strategic community organisations, as well as other borough wide groups and projects who are helping those that are struggling with the most basic of necessities.

Cllr Peter Feacey, portfolio holder for community safety and wellbeing, said: “At the beginning of the pandemic, it became clear that certain communities would be affected more than others. Our vulnerable residents and those on shielded lists who were and continue to self-isolate, became our priority. How could we help them when they needed it most?

“Getting the food and supplies required by these people to survive is vital, and while many deliveries were being made free of charge, we realised that this wasn’t sustainable in the long term. So we launched VERA – the council’s Voluntary Emergency Response Appeal.

“Thank you to everyone who supported, promoted and helped create this appeal. The money raised will be used by these three worthy organisations to continue to help our most vulnerable residents as we look to recover and continue to respond to the impact of COVID-19 – something which is at the very essence of caring Ashford.”

Beth Rice, Trust Director at Repton Community Trust, said: “We are so grateful to receive VERA funding which will help us continue supporting our community. The People's Pantry, our community lead, independent food bank has been providing people with food, hygiene, and cleaning products for the last year.

“We supported 500 people during lockdown and this funding will help us expand the service. It will also enable us to look at new ideas to reduce food insecurity in Ashford. For more information check out our website reptonct.uk.”

Jeremy Norman, Bright City Church Foodbank Co-ordinator, said: “The Bright City foodbank had been operating for some time, up to the end of March, this year, but lockdown, due to the coronavirus, saw our foodbank take on a whole new responsibility. Where before, we had been supplying 30 to 40 food parcels a week, the number steadily climbed over the weeks that followed, until, even with an easing of restrictions, we are now consistently supplying and delivering, 150+ food parcels every week, to our local community, and to places as far away as Brookland, Sellindge and Tenterden.

“We have been supported by local caterers, Chives (Aldington) and also Cinnamon Spice restaurant (Kennington), who supply fresh, pre-packed meals to put in our food parcels. Many supermarkets in Ashford (and Morrisons, in Folkestone) also make available surplus food, to help keep our shelves stocked. However, stocks continually run down, sometimes to the point where we have feared we would have to close. 

“The very generous VERA funding will be used to purchase much-needed food stock, which will include, most importantly for those we serve, fresh fruit and vegetables, which have often been both difficult and expensive to source. From our foodbank volunteers, and particularly from those we serve, a massive, heartfelt, thank you to ABC!”

Chris Tatton from Ashford Vineyard, said: “We are so grateful for the contribution of Ashford Borough Council and the VERA fund to the work of AV Compassion. When lockdown started we set up a food bank alongside our other projects in order to meet the practical needs of people across Ashford. In doing so, we have provided food to around 500 families across the borough.

“As restrictions have been lifted, we have been considering what the future holds for this project and longing to do so much more than just give away a food parcel. The finance and food we have been given will enable us to launch Renew, our new social supermarket, empowering people with a renewed vision for food, finance and lasting stability. As a church, our vision is to bring life to Ashford and it is an honour to know we are valued by the community and Ashford Borough Council as shown in the support we are receiving at this time.

“If anyone would like to find out any more information about any of our projects they can visit www.ashfordvineyard.org, search for us on social media or email info@ashfordvineyard.org.”