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2018 reports from Exmouth Community Larder

Happy New Year - January 2018

"God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good."   A quote from Pope Francis, preaching about the poor and homeless in November 2017.

So, THANKS to all who provide help in our community; agencies and support workers who have a sometimes thankless task to steer people in a better direction, our own volunteers in the Community Larder, the volunteers we never see who provide a regular supply chain from collection points to our door, and of course our many donors across all denominations, faiths and walks of life without whom we would be totally stuck!

December 2017 was a very busy month, but not quite a record. December is always the busiest month and 2014 was very slightly ahead of 2017. The website shows month by month statistics since we started, below is the graph of six month periods, showing the second half of 2015 with the record!

Monthly usage

So the rounded average of demand is currently fairly steady, despite comments on the news. Maybe we should brace ourselves for the next few years, but with your past and current generosity we have reserves - we continue....!

Larder update : February 2018

Our Volunteers keep us going - in effect the intermediaries between the generosity of the whole community and the needs of our disadvantaged neighbours.

Different skills and personalities are needed. Without flexibility and compassion we would not connect with our most vulnerable clients; without firm attitudes we would not help those who lack a sense of direction; without detailed organisation the many and varied donations would not combine into balanced packages for our clients

Our working has evolved over our first five years; volunteers have come and gone. Some with excellent organisational skills guided the set-up of our systems; others with previous "people" experience give insight into the real needs of clients; the stockroom continues as the "engine" of the ship producing balanced boxes of supplies on which our clients depend; delivery drivers deliver and the whole is joined together by a small army bringing and collecting food and dating tins!

THANKS to all the Larder volunteers, past and present!!

The monthly need has been very variable over the five years since we started, but the rounded average has not changed much, including a surge every December!

The graph on the website is in a new format, to make it easier to follow. Previous years average is shown in blue, last year in red and the current usage in black.

January was up from last year, but no more than the previous average, this month has started busy

The Christmas donor rush has slowed, but we have reserves in stock, and money to fill the gaps..
Monthly usage

These statistics are updated monthly and available from the website
THANKS as always to all our donors and supporters

Larder Lent report : March 2018

"Lent" derives from the old Anglo-Saxon word for spring; it is a good time to review and renew, just as buds and new life spring from the cold of winter.

The Exmouth Community Larder has now run for just over 5 years; which is also a good time to review how we work and set our direction for the future.

The original group from Christians Together that set the Community Larder in motion have met and agreed to remain under the umbrella of the Salvation Army - which is no surprise! The Larder Leadership Team, drawn from key working volunteers, will be augmented by some members of this group, so combining practical operation with an overall direction; internal workings with outside perception and experience.

A more orderly organisation is being put in place so that the Larder is not dependent on any one individual - formalising what has already evolved. We already have emails to our "help" address circulating to several of our key volunteers to avoid dependency on any one person.

By November, Anthony will have been Manager for six years which is long enough! So in the next months various tasks will be allocated ready to propose a clear job description before advertising for a new manager, whether from amongst our present volunteers or from outside.

Beyond the visible work on Monday and Friday afternoons, we have back-room tasks sorting and storing the reserve stock off site, purchasing to fill the gaps on shelves with cash so generously donated, writing a monthly update which is printed in many church magazines, maintaining the website and many other routine tasks.

MEANWHILE ..... the work continues .....

On "Frigid Friday", 2nd March, we did open as usual - three of us trudged through the snow to provide a skeleton service to the half dozen people who came in need - also trudging through the snow without cars or buses. The following Monday was very busy as we thought it would be. We didn't run out of bread or milk!!

February was another very busy month, exceeding the previous February average but the record is still held by 2016. We will see how March progresses.

There is a saying: "don't let the organisation get in the way of "the work".

We all firmly enjoy being part of a team in which everyone rallies round to provide to people in need, and in which everyone supports everyone else. The plan is that a more formal organisation should not reduce the sense of team spirit.

As ever - THANK YOU for all that you do - this report is just how we go about connecting the generosity of the community with the real needs that also exist.

Larder update : April 2018

With so much trouble in the news it is easy to feel indignant. But the real question is what will we do. The Exmouth Community Larder only helps a tiny fraction of world problems, but the problems are real, local and immediate - and we can do something. it is a great pride to report how positively the Exmouth area community rises to help.

Our clients and customers have a wide variety of needs and problems, but none of them are helped by going hungry! There are unexpected mishaps, and people also get into silly situations. It is easy to think it is their own fault - it may be, but there are children and other people caught up in the problem. A couple had been separated, but reconciled and came back together ..... all their benefits were stopped due to their change of circumstances.

Family breakdown is too common, but can result in one partner having all the money and the other partner all the children! There is often no real doubt about rights and entitlements, but legal and other persuasions take time - The Larder bridges the gap.

When invited to talk about what we do, audiences have been disappointed that I don't talk about actual cases - but the really interesting stories could too easily be identified. The saddest situations often involve violence and abuse - and of course confidentiality is especially key to those situations.

A lorry driver got into discussion with me some time ago, and pointed out he had a regular job and was well paid. After a long pause he added ".....but I was off work from a Rugby injury for 5 weeks, and it was getting very tight.....".   It is said that most people are only a few pay slips away from a problem, and this certainly seems to be the case. On the other side it is a pleasure to see old "clients" on their feet and coming in with donations to help others.

Loneliness is another issue - we are not really geared to help that, but tea and coffee are generally on the go and we usually have volunteers free to chat to people. Perhaps it is not loneliness, but a feeling of being lost and rejected when the food runs out - and feeling embarrassed to ask help from charity. No-one should ever feel awkward about needing help; no-one is immune from a disaster, whether accident, illness or a relationship breakdown. The time to feel embarrassed is when you are well on your feet and failing to contribute to other people's needs.

Thanks as ever to the whole community for enabling the help we give : I hope these comments give a snapshot of how needs arise. The overall observation is that demand on The Larder is generally about the same since 2014 as the statistics show, contrary to various news reporters angles and spin!!

Anthony Bernard, April 2018

Exmouth Community Larder update : May 2018

To Love one another is one of the great Christian commandments, and love has certainly figured in church Bible readings for the last few weeks.

All our human DNA has caring for others buried within it, as evidenced by the heroism of emergency services in a crisis and the regular and boring hours put in by support agencies trying to help and guide people out of troubles - and of course the Health Service treating people.

In the Community Larder we are geared to provide supplies to people in a food emergency - no money to buy food, no food in the cupboard. Some people seem to have chronic problems and we take care that their situation is evaluated by support workers to guide them out of their underlying crisis - and we expect them to come with a referral from whomever is helping them.

More worrying are those we don't see, who are struggling without support but perhaps pointed towards us by a church or health visitor. It is tempting to describe particular cases, but that would reveal recognisable detail.

Anyone can come into the Community Larder without a referral voucher for review by our welcome desk, and that is the main message of this update. Anyone in a food emergency will get provisions and probably signposting to support workers who can help. A major issue has become the filling of forms for the welfare system; skilled workers with problems can still be baffled by bureaucracy!!

Exmouth Larder Logo Demand has been a little higher than previous years, though 2014 still has the record for the first four months. Usage graphs can be seen full sized with the link on the home page.

Love for others is sometimes complicated. In English we have many words for rain, but only one for "love", whether we mean "tough love" or deep emotions.

The point is caring positively for other people, and we continue to be amazed and grateful for the donations and support of the community towards those less fortunate in our own midst.

Larder update : Summer June / July 2018

The world has become a difficult and dangerous place. East Devon seems relatively calm, but here too there are individuals and families facing problems. The 40,000 people in our area mostly live quite well but a few have serious difficulties - some even run out of food and find the Community Larder. A little while back Pope Francis addressed a gathering of those helping the homeless and dispossessed .....

"God will not ask if you expressed righteous indignation,
    God will ask what you did"

Most of us can't actually do much about problems in the wider world, but we can address the issues on our own doorsteps. So THANK YOU to those who work in the support services giving advice, counsel and help to people in trouble. Finding a safe place and a sympathetic ear can be vital to improving an apparently overwhelming situation. Having enough to eat helps too - so THANK YOU to those who contribute provisions or money to help "the Ministry of the Larder" - to help us to help others.

In nearly six years in The Community Larder we have seen all extremes of problems. We see people whose prolonged difficulties have made them brazen, assertively asking for help and describing their apparent situation clearly. We see others, shy and embarrassed at needing help, not knowing how to ask. A little exploration reveals that the actual needs are not so different, but situations and personalities vary. Some need help, some need HELP and others need....H E L P !! ......

Our volunteers are the backbone of what we do. Over 6 years The Larder has evolved into a Monday team and a Friday team. Both have a group of experienced volunteers who take turns staffing the welcome desk, most with relevant experience and training in their professional past. At the other end, the stockroom is preparing packages to go out. Some less defined roles can be even more important to our visitors, talking informally to them as they wait for attention. Meanwhile the basics of checking dates on donations and marking with bold felt pen continue - currently at a steady pace, but manic when Harvest Festival donations arrive - which we rely on.

So have a good summer. We continue working around the breaks we all take. Quite why demand fluctuates up and down we cannot understand, but the rounded average remains about the same since we got going. Meanwhile, a few volunteers leave and a few newcomers join the team - anyone thinking of joining us should simply come when we are open to see how it works.

Anyone just interested is welcome - Monday 2-3.30, Friday 1.30-3pm

And, of course, THANK YOU to all who contribute in making The Larder work.

Larder update : August 2018

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Larder update : September 2018

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Larder update : October 2018

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Larder update : November 2018

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Larder update : December 2018

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