From Being Swamped With Debt and Mental Health Issues to Freedom Without Debt
I was swamped with debt and hiding it from my partner... I was no longer running my self-employed business and was signed off ill with mental health issues which have been with me as far back as I can remember.
I felt like I was at the bottom of an ocean which just kept getting deeper and as a result was hiding from the mail, from the door and robbing Peter to pay Paul.
I began work with the CMA team in Blandford Food Bank and it was surprisingly much easier than I imagined. To be honest I was dreading the meeting. I remember leaving the very first meeting with a feeling of surprised relief and at long last being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
They take a lot of the burden and will guide you to a new freedom, a different kind of freedom but a freedom without debt!
I cannot recommend their services more and if you are feeling anything like I was then just bite the bullet and take the weight off your life. It is so easy in comparison to how you feel right now.
We believe that everyone should have access not just to enough food but to fresh, nutritious food. We therefore work closely with local organisations to ensure that fresh fruit and vegetables are included in our food parcels on a regular basis.
During 2020 we launched our Recipe Bag scheme providing bags containing all the ingredients for a wholesome meal and a recipe card with instructions. Meals provided to date have included: Chickpea and Spinach Curry; Chilli Con Carne; Corn Beef Hash; Corn Beef Stew and Spaghetti Bolognese.
School Holiday Parcels
2020 also saw the launch of our School Holiday Parcels - these contain arts and craft activities as well as the materials needed such as pens, paper, stickers and more! These have been invaluable during a year of lockdowns when parents have been furloughed, had to home school and challenges have been many for families. With these packs, we aim to provide a way for children to be entertained at an affordable price to enable stimulation for young people and to provide a well needed break for parents!
During the school holidays we have provided a wide variety of themed activity packs including: Reading Together - two age-related fiction books, a jar of hot chocolate and a box of biscuits; Growing Together - soil, plant pots, a tomato plant and a packet of lettuce seeds; Baking Together - the ingredients for flapjack, chocolate nests and jelly and fruit along with a baking tray, baking cases and measuring spoons.
CMA (Community Money Advice)
We provide far more than just food parcels - we now have a well established CMA team at Blandford Food Bank including five Debt Advisors and Budget Coaches. The CMA (Community Money Advice) team is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. All those who come to the Food Bank are offered support by the CMA team, to ensure everyone has access to support with budgeting, debt and money management.
I remember leaving the very first meeting with a feeling of surprised relief and at long last being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel - CMA client.
CMA Buddies launched
The CMA Buddies scheme exists to provide extra support. The importance of this was demonstrated when *Mary opened up to the CMA team about trauma she had been through. The team advised her about the Buddies scheme that provides regular phone calls, support and someone to talk to. Mary was so grateful for this service and was immediately referred for a Buddy. Demonstrating love, care and compassion in action! The CMA team provide much more than just debt advice and budgeting support! *Name changed to protect identity
Our Amazing Team
We are blessed to have an incredible team of 36 volunteers at Blandford Food Bank, including five Debt Advisors and Budget Coaches. Our tireless volunteers are the feet and hands of the Food Bank.
To ensure we could continue our service as much as possible throughout the pandemic, we formed a bubble with our team. While our delivery drivers enabled food to be transported safely to those we were supporting.
Over the past year I have enjoyed helping at the Food Bank as it gives me companionship.
Heidi joined our team as Deputy Manager in the middle of lockdown. Heidi rose to the challenge and is now Gail's right hand woman!
Having lived through nearly a year of restrictions Heidi was most excited when lockdown was eased and people could be welcomed back to the Food Bank premises!
We could not operate without the very generous support and donations of many individuals, groups and organisations. We would like to say a particular thank you to:
All the dedicated delivery drivers who collected food parcels and delivered them weekly throughout 2020 including the summer and Christmas holidays.
Our venue hosts, The United Reformed Church, without whom we would be a lot colder and damp! Our local supermarkets and village stores - Morrisons, Tesco, Lidl, The Cross Stores in Child Okeford and the Coop in Shillingstone.
The villages of Winterborne Zelston, Hazelbury Bryan, Shroton, Stourpaine, Durweston and Pimperne for their regular donations.
Our eighteen local schools for their donations of food at harvest time. Bryanston School for all the Recipe Bags they have provided and their wonderful help with packing boxes and delivery during the pandemic.
The Lions for their donation of toys at Christmas and meat vouchers. The Blandford Stour Rotary Club for weekly donating fruit and vegetables for families and Blandford Rotary Club for supplying lettuce growing kits for families over Easter and so much more!
We are also very grateful to our local churches for all their donations, volunteers and prayer support.
From Debt to Thriving as Launch Start Up Business
*Lauren, a single Mum of three children, approached the Food Bank for support with her finances. She is a carer for her mother and her eldest son, aged twenty, who has Down’s Syndrome. Lauren was also suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder herself. However, despite all this she had managed to recently finish a college course and was keen to start her own business.
After receiving support from the Food Bank's CMA team Lauren has expressed her thanks, explaining that she does not trust many people but she trusts everyone at Blandford Food Bank. She knows that she is not alone but has support as she addresses debt and works towards making her new business start up a success. *Name changed to protect identity.
What an Amazing year we've had, with an amazing team of volunteers, and being able to help amazing people within our community. Over the past year we have had far more contact with local schools and our CMA debt advice and budgeting support work has continued to grow.
Having greater contact with the schools in the area has enabled us to connect with a far greater number of families who need support. Ensuring that families are offered both food and support with managing debt and budgeting.
We continue to develop our Life Centre model and are planning on launching a food pantry. This will enable us to provide a more holistic model of support where people move from food crisis, through to connecting with the CMA team and once they are financially more stable they will then be able to shop at the pantry, therefore developing independence and resilience.
Gail Del-Pinto, Manager (right in photo) & Heidi Roberts, Deputy Manager (left)