In the lead up to the October 2020 half-term holidays, the UK government decided they would not extend free school meals over the holidays.
With that in mind, two Lancashire business people joined forces to form a voluntary group called Holiday Hunger East Lancashire.
They said, “We recognise that many people are going through really challenging times at the moment, and so we, as a community, have come together to provide lunches for East Lancashire children next week.”
Within 24 hours they were up and running and had raised thousands of pounds to cover their costs.
A friend of mine, Nicola Holding, a photographer local to Colne, Lancashire, began participating in Holiday Hunger East Lancashire, and was hosting the Colne Hub for distributing the meals.
When she told me that they needed volunteers, I knew I could help by using social media to get the message out to as many Church members as fast as possible.
I contacted some of the Bishops and Relief Society Presidents of the Chorley England Stake and by Monday morning they were headed to various designated distribution ‘hubs’ for the Holiday Hunger East Lancashire initiative.
These wonderful friends and members of the Church showed up on multiple occasions, willing to serve with no questions asked, to collect bags full of meals that had been prepared by established local food businesses.
It was inspiring to see willing volunteers, from the Church and community, queuing out of the doors. Some would pick up the lunches, go to more than ten addresses, and then come back asking if they could do more.
Some volunteers even helped in the kitchen preparing those meals. As the professionals worked tirelessly cooking endless amounts of pasta, sausages, sauces, vegetables and so much more, the volunteers got it all packed in individual takeaway tubs; one meal for each child for each day of the half-term week.
Carol Brelsford said, “I really enjoyed being part of the team. I was grateful to be asked to help.”
Two faithful sisters of the Burnley Ward, Debbie Patton and Andrea Pickles, were heroes in the kitchen. They walked in bright and early on Monday morning to serve. I knew they had no idea what they’d signed up for, but they were there and ready to serve alongside me and my husband, Jordan.
Debbie said, “I felt great to be at least doing something in the middle of a global pandemic.”
Andrea added, “When I was asked to help in this venture, I was grateful for an opportunity to serve these kiddies. I was amazed and touched by the kindness of all the volunteers of all age groups, who cheerfully set about making and packing the meals. They worked for long hours, over several days. Other volunteers delivered the food to the families. I came home tired but very happy to have been able to help to a small degree. It made me realise we have wonderful people in our community, and when we all pull together, we can achieve amazing things.”
On more than one occasion, I was able to help with giving drop-off location details to the deliverers, and sometimes deliver lunches myself.
The stories we heard of grateful mothers, fathers, and children kept us all motivated when things got hectic, when we became weary with the load, and felt we couldn’t get the food out on time.
Jenny Forward of the Blackburn Ward in the Chorley Stake said, “Bishop [and I] felt the joy in every ‘thank you’ from one of the recipients, knowing they really needed and appreciated the meals. It warmed our hearts.”
Jenna Beverley of the Chorley Ward said: “I knew that so many families would be without [food] over the holidays, so when I heard Holiday Hunger East Lancashire needed help, I knew we could use our car and time for good. It was great to see people come together, with what they had, to make this happen at such short notice. What I thought would be a one-hour service project turned into a six-hour quest to provide some relief to as many families as we could, but it was incredible to see the community come together for so many who requested help.'
Jenna’s son Isaac, aged 12, described the experience, 'It was kinda stressful to deliver so many meals to people's houses, especially when it was bad rain and then the phone battery died, so we didn't know where we were going … but we did it!'
Jonathan and Rebecca Abery of the Rossendale Valley Ward in Chorley Stake shared their thoughts: “[We] felt it an honour to be involved with so many other people from the community. It was humbling seeing the genuine gratitude and relief in the eyes of some of the recipients. It reminded me of the importance of working together to meet the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters and showed me that service brings its reward.”
Janet Leeds of the Burnley Ward, Chorley Stake said, “The project came together so quickly there was no time to think about whether to get involved or not or wonder if it was possible; everyone just pulled together and got on with it! So much love was shared, and hard work done, by so many volunteers that went into the project. It felt so important to make sure each child received their lunch packs every day—so much so I went back to one house three times on the first day and finally pushed it through the cat flap so that they wouldn’t miss it! So proud of everyone who made it all possible.”
Rachel Pattenden said, “It was heart-warming, humbling and rewarding to be a part of this project. I know it was meant to bless others, but it also truly blessed my children and me. They felt good inside and want to help again in the future.”
What brought us all together was an unfortunate turn of events, but it united us in our determination to feed the 3,000 signed-up children who would otherwise have gone hungry that week. I’ve never been a part of an event on such a large scale. It was overwhelming at times. Some days I would be up and out the door by 7:30am and not return until 8pm. As a stay-at-home mum, it was quite a change of pace! But I know that the Lord required my help for that one week. He guided me to bump into the friend that got me involved. By no means can I take any of the credit, but I know that I was a tool in the Lord’s hands. It was my purpose to help gather those volunteers so that essential work could get done—to feed His children.