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Scottish village food bank raises vital funds to support those affected by the pandemic

Winchburgh Food Store, a community based food bank in West Lothian, has raised vital funds to support those affected by the pandemic, using group collecting platform Collection Pot.

Set up as a direct result of the covid-19 pandemic by local residents Angela Donnelly and Margaret Russell, Winchburgh Food Store provides food parcels for people in the area who have lost their jobs, are unable to work due to illness, or are in any other way financially struggling as a result of the pandemic.

The fundraiser through Collection Pot raised £1000 for the food bank, which will be used to continue the charity’s work in the area.  Staffed by a team of 22 volunteers, Winchburgh Food Store is located about 12 miles outside of Edinburgh, and is helping 20 families each month, with a food parcel delivered each week.

Winchburgh Food Store makes deliveries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Drivers collect boxes for clients from the Food Store. Food items include tins, pasta and other non-perishables as well as fresh items like milk, bread, cheese and fruit and vegetables.

Co-founders Margaret Russell and Angela Donnelly said the need for the group was immediately obvious:

“The number of families we’ve helped each month has been fairly consistent since the pandemic began,” said Margaret. “In some families the wage-earner may get a new job and go back to work, and no longer need Food Store support. We then find that other families, or couples, or individuals take their place. There have been around 3 families we’ve helped regularly and the demand is continuing. As long as these families and individuals need our help, we’ll be here to help them.”

Angela adds: “Our village Facebook page has around 6000 people on it and we have our own Winchburgh Food Store Facebook page. We also wanted to reach out to people who were not on social media but still needed our services. Word of mouth has been useful for this. People maybe don’t have money on their phone to message us or they’re worried. Losing our job or becoming ill is something that can happen to any of us. There is a real warmth and support for Winchburgh Food Store in the village and our local superstores and shops have been so kind in donating food that we can distribute. As well as the regular food boxes, we have a church planter where we put donations from Sainsbury’s that anyone in the village can help themselves to if they need to.”

Another local resident, Sharon Sheridan got involved with the group when she was furloughed from her role as Fundraising Manager.  It was Sharon’s idea to set up a ‘12 days of Christmas’ campaign on the store’s Facebook page:

“I’d used Collection Pot at work for staff leaving. It was really easy to use and suited us as a small charity. We were thrilled to raise £1000 which can be used to buy exactly the kinds of food we need to fulfil our parcels. There were also donation stations for people to donate food in the village, we even had some children donate their Christmas selection boxes. It’s absolutely amazing to see the support from our community for our community.  Additionally, the support from Scotmid, Sainsburys and Lidl in Broxburn has been fantastic.”

Wendy Crawford, a single parent with four dependents, received support from Winchburgh Food Store when she was struggling to feed her four children after losing her job due to the pandemic and subsequently becoming unwell with coronavirus:

“I lost my job and struggled week to week because I didn’t have much work coming in, then in time I became ill myself and couldn’t work at all, I knew about the food bank but was too ashamed to come forward, as I saw it as ‘I should be the one providing for my kids’. But one day I looked at my kids and thought ‘this isn’t fair on them, they don’t deserve this’, so I got in touch with Winchburgh Food Store. It took me a week to build up the courage but I am so glad I did, they are amazing. They are friendly, discreet, and confidential, I couldn’t have got by without them, they even ask what you need and deliver extra if needed, I can’t thank them enough.

“The reason I wanted to speak out about my experience is because I want other families to know we don’t ask for these difficulties we come across in life, and no family should have to go without food, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you are struggling, or someone you know is struggling, please get in touch with the food bank- that’s why it’s there. Trust me you’re not alone. I honestly couldn’t have got by without their help, it gave me one thing less to worry about while I recovered from covid-19 myself.”

Initially set up as a way for workplaces to collect digitally for office occasions, charities are increasingly using Collection Pot as a way to fundraise, as there are no monthly fees for charities to appear on the site and no gift aid processing fees.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of food banks and charities set up due to the pandemic, many of those choosing to fundraise through Collection Pot,” said its founder Wendy Carter.  “As a fintech for good, it’s our aim to ensure that as much as possible of each donation goes to the chosen charity. Community champions like Angela, Margaret and Sharon are making an immense difference in their local communities for people that really need their support.”

Donations to the Collection Pot for the Winchburgh Food Store can still be made at https://www.collectionpot.com/pot/41459/