The doors have officially swung open at Chorley’s state-of-the-art food bank.
Less than five months ago the Chorley Guardian launched its Project Feed Chorley campaign to build a new warehouse at the LW Storehouse.
Operating from the damp LivingWaters Church cellar, the food bank was in dire need of a more suitable premises for its selfless volunteers to work in.
Now after raising more than £20,000 in six weeks – and nearly £30,000 overall – the food bank officially opened the warehouse yesterday morning.
Carol Halton, co-ordinator at the LW Storehouse, said: “We have been overwhelmed with the response from the people of Chorley. They have been so generous and caring.
“It just goes to show people care about their community being a part of it.
“It’s just been a total miracle.
“We have never stopped at any point the whole way through. Everyone has wanted to help and it’s just made a massive different to who we can help in the future.
“If we had carried on in that cellar who knows if we would have to show down going forward?”
To celebrate the opening, the food bank and church held a coffee morning for all those who helped make the warehouse a reality.
Carol said: “I wanted to personally thank people that have been a part of the project.
“We couldn’t invite everyone that gave to the project because we would simply not get them in the building.
“We have focused on those behind the building of the warehouse to give them an update and give them a thank you while showing them where the money has gone.
“Every penny has gone to the project. Whether people gave £10 or £2,000 it has all gone into that building; it was all needed to make it a reality.
“Everything is finished and we didn’t have to put any extra appeals out because as we needed the extra little bits of money it came in at the right time.
“Just as we were running out of the money for things like the flooring it would come in. Near the end when we needed tables there would be an extra £50 donated to help push us over the line.
Pat Webb has been volunteering at the food bank since the very beginning, working as the head of distribution and goods arriving and leaving.
Pat said: “We’ve gone from being down in the cellar all the time where it was cramped and damp – and now we’ve got this beautiful purpose-built building.
“It’s all down to the community. It’s overwhelming to see all the generosity. It’s always been there for us but considering this was only and idea five months ago and now we have it in front of us is amazing.”
Manchester-native Pat added that the cellar is now being used as overflow for goods.
“We recently had a van load of jam donated so we keep it downstairs because its a nonperishable,” she explained.
And while the morning was a celebration of the community’s ability to rally together, the situation is getting worse in Chorley.
Referrals to the food bank have jumped from 70 to 90 a month to more than 260, with Carol highlighting problems to do with the Universal Credit roll out.
Referrals themselves come from the food bank’s partners which includes GPs, schools, job centres, and churches.
Carol said: “Since January our referrals have tripled. It’s unbelievable.
“We thought it might be because it was Christmas but it’s not been the case. We are in April now and the figures have not gone down. It’s really troubling.”
But as ever, the community “steps up” when needed, Carol said.
She revealed how last Friday St Joseph’s Church in Adlington brought in 100 Easter eggs.
“People just don’t forget about us,” she added.
“We are remember all year round.”
Carol added: “It’s not good that our community has to fight this poverty but it’s brought our community together to help those in need.
“Where there is bad there is good alongside it.”
The hope for the food bank team now is to make Project Feed Chorley an annual event to help the borough’s most vulnerable people around Christmas.
Carol: “We’re hoping it will be a yearly thing now raising money for things like Christmas turkeys or Christmas supermarket vouchers.
“We don’t want to stop here.”