Meryl Praill - Founder And General Manager

I conceived the idea of the Newbury Soup Kitchen in November 2016 whilst volunteering at our local Foodbank at the Salvation Army Hall in Newbury.  It came to my attention that local food provision for the homeless and vulnerable was not available on a Thursday or Saturday, therefore there was a need for an additional resource within Newbury. I had no experience with Mental Health, Addiction or Homelessness all I knew at that point was how to provide, compassion, kindness and a non-judgemental listening ear. With the support of The Salvation Army who provided me with a location, I put together all the resources needed to be able to open the doors of the Soup Kitchen in January 2017.

This experience has been an enormous learning and emotional experience for me and taught me about myself also.

I am Norland Trained, used to own an employment agency in London recruiting Nannies, Maternity Nurses and Mothers Helps but most importantly a mother of three children, who are all now off on their chosen paths each with a master’s degree and wife to very patient Nick who has supported me tirelessly since the beginning.

We have been so fortunate as a family but experienced difficulties because of the recession in 2008. This was the catalyst for me to work in the voluntary sector to ‘give back.’  At that point not for one moment did I envisage I would set up a charity of my own. This has evolved into something I am immensely proud of. Sometimes with imposter syndrome and sometimes overwhelmed but I would not change it for anything.

Since opening, I have mentored and supported individuals working hard to establish trust and friendship with our guests that come in, this hopefully makes this dreadful situation people find themselves in more comfortable. I work to make everyone feel valued and try to help them on their chosen paths to a better life. The Soup Kitchen has become a place of trust and support for many people. It has enhanced my life and I look forward to each day with anticipation sometimes but excitement too. The volunteer team and Trustees are outstanding, dedicated and I am proud to be part of their team.

I am excited for the future of Newbury Soup Kitchen and will continue to work on the expansion of our food provision and outreach until we achieve our long-term dream which is to open a Community Support Centre in the town providing a safe welcoming place for homeless and vulnerable people in our community. To provide outreach, food and support by working with other organisations to help fill all the gaps that people need to improve their lives and future.