Hundreds of donations delight for food bank

CSO Nicola Raisbeck with Jean Bell and many of the donations at the Briardale Community Centre in Blyth.
CSO Nicola Raisbeck with Jean Bell and many of the donations at the Briardale Community Centre in Blyth.

There were plenty of elves causing mischief during the festive period – if the pictures are to be believed – but one elf helped to raise awareness of an initiative in aid of Blyth Foodbank.

Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Nicola Raisbeck came up with the idea and she was joined by Buddy – the shelf-stocking elf – when she collected items from schools, agencies and local and county organisations.

From left, Mal Usher (Blue Flames), Rachel Edge, Martin Wright, Jean Bell and Billy Usher (Blue Flames) with some of the items.

From left, Mal Usher (Blue Flames), Rachel Edge, Martin Wright, Jean Bell and Billy Usher (Blue Flames) with some of the items.

In addition, local churches, businesses and clubs donated to the food bank to support families in need of help over the holidays.

Those who receive the food are referred to the charitable trust by professionals.

PCSO Raisbeck has been in the role for nine years and the last four years covering the Blyth area.

She said: “Throughout this time, I have seen the struggle some people in the community face at Christmas and I wanted to do something to help.

From left, driver volunteer Marius, Jean Bell and Mick Robinson, manager of The Railway Tavern in Blyth with some of the items.

From left, driver volunteer Marius, Jean Bell and Mick Robinson, manager of The Railway Tavern in Blyth with some of the items.

“I spoke to a family who were not aware there was a food bank located in Blyth and I took them to a drop-off point for it, Briardale Community Centre, so they could give their details.

“I then got chatting to centre manager Jean Bell, who is an important member of the food bank team, and she said the weeks leading up to Christmas is a key time to raise awareness.

“I then had a think and came up with an Elf on the Shelf twist where Buddy would be pictured helping to collect all the items.

“I am so thrilled with the response from all the donators and the reaction on social media was amazing. I’m pleased that I’ve managed to raise awareness for Blyth Foodbank.

Buddy, the shelf stocking elf.

Buddy, the shelf stocking elf.

“The items were stored at the police station, with the local RNLI station accepting donations on Sundays as the police station was closed.

“The food and other items, including donations from the Blyth neighbourhood policing team, was taken to the Briardale Community Centre in the biggest size van the force has got and it’s great that so many families were supported over the festive period.

“I’ll let PCSO Buddy have January off to rest but then we’ll start planning for next year. We want to go bigger and better.”

The organisations that donated as part of the initiative included Homes For Northumberland, Blyth Social Services and Changing Lives.

Blue Flames Walking Football Club member Martin Wright asked fellow players if they could bring one item each to help the food bank and one week later he was overwhelmed by the response.

More than 30 bags of food and items such as hygiene and sanitary products and warm hats were donated.

This was part of the collections organised by Rachel Edge from Blyth Valley Labour Party.

The Railway Tavern in Blyth was one of 120 Amber Taverns pubs that collected donations from customers for their local food bank and Jean went along to collect the goods.

Blyth Foodbank secretary, Rev Yvonne Tracey, said some items were dropped off at the warehouse on Waterloo Road and a number of donations are made by Muslim shopkeepers each Ramadan.

She added: “We’re thrilled that the community came together to provide so many generous donations for the Christmas period.”