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Demand for church-based Doncaster multibank on the rise

06 January 2023

Given Freely, Freely Given

Donations to the Given Freely, Freely Given project

Donations to the Given Freely, Freely Given project

A CHURCH-BASED support centre providing food, clothing, and household items has appealed for help after demand increased in the Christmas period.

The Given Freely, Freely Given multibank in Doncaster, south Yorkshire, operates from St John’s, in the district of Balby. The parish is one of the most deprived in the country, with the most cases reported of domestic abuse. The scheme was launched in 2015, but has expanded since the pandemic, seeking to improve people’s access to basic necessities, reduce isolation, and boost well-being.

An assistant curate of neighbouring St Peter’s, Warmsworth, the Revd Chris Bishop, who works with the scheme, said that more funding was needed to meet demand. “Everything we do is funded by grants and donation, and the project is seeking £325,000 over three years, because we have paid staff who help to bring that funding in.

“Heating the building is a massive outlay: you’re talking about £5000 a month just to keep the building heated; so, at present, it is often cold, as we can’t face that bill. We’re facing extra pressures as a team. There’s a great physical need born out of poverty, but also a great spiritual need.

“There have been so many additional things placing extra pressure on people, such as the pandemic and the cost of living. We’ve really seen a huge increase in people needing help. We’re trying to raise awareness as much as possible.”

One of the overarching themes of the multibank is that everything that it receives is given freely and freely given away. No questions are asked, which is different from the way in which many other organisations operate. The gifts range from household items such as microwaves, kettles, TVs, and electrical goods to food parcels. Also, professional organisations offer sessions on issues such as benefits, housing, and abuse, and there is a free café.

In November, it helped 474 people, including 178 families. Almost three-quarters come from the immediate area, but one in ten comes from outside Doncaster. They included 69 new visitors on top of the 126 fresh clients in October. There has also been a rise in the numbers of black and ethnic-minority people, and women needing support.

Mr Bishop predicted that numbers would increase into the new year. “From its conception, the whole project has grown month by month,” he said. “We’re seeing record numbers of people needing help, and are looking at seeing about 500 people a week through the church doors — possibly the highest footfall in the diocese. It’s an opportunity to share with people our gospel calling.

“I sense keenly the brokenness in people’s lives, whether that’s poverty, past abuse, or family collapse. I get a real sense that God wants to heal those people, and to help them. We’re expecting that God will bring a fruitful healing ministry to help others. We want to transform people’s lives.”

To support the Given Freely, Freely Given project, visit easydonate.org/GFFG001, or visit onekathtwojohns.church/given-freely-freely-given

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