I conceived the idea of the Newbury Soup Kitchen in November 2016 while working for the Newbury Food Bank at the Salvation Army hall. It came to my attention that the Loose Ends drop-in centre did not open on a Thursday, therefore there was a need for an additional resources for the homeless and rough sleepers within Newbury. With the support of Andrew Williams, Commanding Officer of the Salvation Army, I put together all the resources needed to be able to open the doors of the Soup Kitchen on Thursday, 19th January, 2017. A year on we have a regular clientele as well and new clients each week. We welcome up to 46 people with warm healthy food, drinks, compassion and empathy.
I met Meryl whilst volunteering at the Foodbank in Newbury. Little did I know then what a dynamic and inspirational person she was. She came up with the idea of the Soup Kitchen, asked if I would like to be involved and as they say the rest is history. After much hard work by Meryl we opened the doors at the beginning of this year and haven't looked back. To start with my reasons were paying something back to society after having a financially safe life but the reasons have evolved into creating a safe haven for the homeless and making many new friends from all walks of life. I genuinely believe we are making a difference to the homeless and vulnerable of Newbury, however big or small. I look forward to my Thursdays.
I moved to England from Denmark in August 2017 and had decided that I wanted to do some volunteering to get to know people. I have worked in Denmark within mental health and substance abuse and wanted to put my experience to good use. I came across Meryl and the work she was doing with the other volunteers at the Soup Kitchen from Facebook and decided that it might just be the place for me. What I found was a place where everyone is welcome. The compassion, warmth, interest and the ability to secure a safe haven for everyone is what makes the Soup Kitchen so special. I am honored to be a part of this every Thursday and always look forward to this day. What I gain from this relationship is way more than I give on a personal plan. I have been included from the beginning and it has helped me to get the hang of the English language from both from the volunteers and the users.
I LOVE helping at the Soup Kitchen on Thursday evenings! Not only are the volunteers friendly, our clients have become friends too. After serving hot food and drinks we all find time to chat and have a laugh together. There are groups playing cards or doing crossword puzzles, some read the national or local newspapers, others just like to chat. Long may the Soup Kitchen continue. It's a good way to 'give something back'!
My name is Catherine and I joined Meryl and her team right at the beginning. I am one of the older members, possibly the shortest but not the quietest! My hobbies include reading, writing and painting and I volunteer at Thatcham food bank. So why join this lot? Well I love people and my life has been very blessed. I don’t have a hoard of money, but I do have time which these days is so precious. Many of the men and women who share Thursday evenings with us just want someone to listen to them, many are lonely and need a friend. Don’t we all? That is why I love my Thursday evenings, being among my new friends, whose lives are tough now. If I can bring a smile to someone’s face or make them laugh, then just for a second, life doesn’t seem so bad. I can’t change the world, but I can give friendship and a little hope. After all we are one big family and the only difference is that my life is easier than theirs. No one should be unseen or unloved in this world.
My name is Abi and I joined Newbury Soup Kitchen in July. The first time I went was mainly just to see what it was like and do something a bit different but after one session I couldn’t be kept away. I love helping to develop a safe, warm and trustworthy place for Newburys' most vulnerable to go. I first enjoyed being able to give back to a town that I’ve lived in my whole life but now I enjoy seeing people week on week, catching up on how they’ve been and helping them in any way that we can. Thursday nights are my favourite part of the week, between the volunteers and the people we help, it’s a lovely community full of care and support
My time at the soup kitchen came after a long search for how I could make a small difference. I had always had a problem with the thought of donating to a charity, it left me feeling detached and wondering if my donation being spent wisely? Both my wife and I had often thought the best you can give is your time. I met a man rough sleeping in Thatcham and spent a long time sitting with him, just getting to know him and listening. I had never thought homelessness was a problem in West Berkshire up until then, it opened my eyes and I knew I wanted to help. Through my wife’s Foodbank work she told me about the Soup Kitchen and I got straight in touch with Meryl and I haven’t looked back. There are so many people in need locally not just homeless, but vulnerable, lonely and many other issues. The Soup Kitchen provides a warm inviting atmosphere where we are able to provide sanctuary. All made possible by volunteers who can see how great the need is.
David and Frances
We are David and Frances and have been volunteering at the Soup Kitchen from the beginning. We are well aware of the needs of so many people, even in this affluent town. We appreciate what we have and recognise that misfortune can hit anybody. We enjoy working with the team and talking with the clients. One of the things that always impresses us is how understanding and caring the users are to each other and to the staff. Many of the responses and appreciations expressed can lift the whole of the day for the staff - especially when it's been a hard day up until then!
Rough sleeping and homelessness is becoming a national concern, with many national and regional groups and charities spread across the country. It's a touching subject, being so many people could easily find themselves in such a situation and simply need a helping hand. As much as I wanted to help an individual on the street, like many I guess, I was perplexed with the media stories of professional begging, suggesting that giving money was not the right idea. I was also appreciative of structured charity management, where perhaps donated moneys support overhead rather than the person. This is why the Newbury Soup Kitchen was of interest to me. I stumbled upon them in September 2017 and perhaps initially apprehensive and nervous of 'coal face' encounters as I felt I did not have the skill set to interact, I should not have been. Each Thursday evening is more of a social club, where clients and volunteers alike interact by talking and playing games. There is a regular hairdresser, manicurist and vet in attendance in addition to the guidance and administration support given to clients in respect to benefits and finding accommodation. Donations of other necessities including clothing, tents and sleeping bags are issued when needed. It's not just food and drink and maybe the 'Soup Kitchen' name is too narrow for the services provided. My primary role here at the NSK is to support the team through online marketing and fund raising. Thoroughly enjoying my role. A sincere pleasure and privilege an to be involved with a worthy and inspirational organisation.
I started helping at the Soup Kitchen in March 2017, a couple of months after it had opened. I’d always wanted to help with homelessness in some way so as soon as I heard about the work Meryl was doing I was keen to get involved. We are all closer to being homeless than we realise, a few bits of bad luck, wrong decisions or ill health can be all it takes sometimes and I always think "there, but for the grace of God go I", when I meet people in these difficult circumstances. I was a bit wary to start with, not knowing what to expect, but I very quickly realised that homeless people are just like anyone else, they are funny, clever, caring and appreciative but also sometimes sad, scared and worried. With a busy work and family life and my involvement with the local children's football club, I don’t always get to spend as much time there as I’d like, but I enjoy my time there very much. Meryl has created something very special. It has a great atmosphere.
Having worked for a charity on the south coast for a number of years supporting the homeless and other vulnerable people I was keen to try and find a similar activity closer to home in the Newbury area. From meeting Meryl and some of the founding members of the team I was impressed by the enthusiasm and desire to make a real difference to the town and the surrounding area. There is a real sense of community already established across the mix of volunteers and users of the service with a wonderful sense of camaraderie and good humour. There is no doubt in my mind that this service is desperately needed at this time and even the smallest of contributions from us as volunteers can have an enormous impact and make a real difference to people's lives.
Being a young bloke at loose end, I decided to get involved in the Soup Kitchen as I felt sure that I should be doing something to help others, and I wanted to become a part of the local community. Thursday nights at the Soup Kitchen are often the highlight of the working week for me; both clients and fellow volunteers alike are a fantastic, friendly and diverse bunch of people whose conversation is rarely dull. Since joining the Soup Kitchen Team several months ago, I have witnessed first hand the hugely valuable service it provides to people in very tough situations and it's not just soup!