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#SoupKitchen21: This is our club, this is our city and these are our people

Soup kitchens are important, and that’s why Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen is important to us. What’s more, this soup kitchen is of far more importance to its users than most can imagine.

Soup Kitchens aren’t just a place for a warm meal once a day - they’re an embodiment of hope for those who find themselves at their doors, and make no mistake, that could be any of us.

These are places that offer humanity and compassion, who don’t see people as a source of pity but see them for exactly what they are.

There is no shame in needing help - we all do from time to time. The severity of which will always vary and what’s so magical is that Andrea and her incredible team don’t make it feel like they’re giving out help, nor do their users have to feel as such either.

The humanity and humility on offer means everyone involved in this most wonderful of places makes it not only accessible, but also a foundation for people to rebuild their lives with quiet dignity, and unwavering support.

It’s a place that catches people as they fall through the cracks of a broken system and a society that has largely ignored the uncomfortable truths and realities of starvation and homelessness, puts them back on their feet, and gives the perfect combination of support and dignity to allow those who use it to transform their fortunes at their own pace.

The soup kitchen is used by a broad church of people, some who have lost everything and others who maybe had nothing to lose in the first place, and it’s Andrea and her team’s personal touch that allows these people to feel safe and secure even if only for a few moments a day.

By making the soup kitchen a place for the community, it has in itself become just that - not only does the kitchen help all those who come to the door, but its users also help each other, be it with friendly advice or a moment's companionship, driving away one of the most crippling effects of homelessness and starvation - isolation.

That’s the beauty of places like ‘Albert’s Place’ - SCSK’s city centre hub. It isn’t necessarily a destination for its users, but more an intersection. It’s a place where help can be accessed in all its forms and used to alter a person's destination on their own journey.

The fact is, the food is only part of what goes on here because the influence of this Soup Kitchen and others across the country is far-reaching. Places that can feed people are one thing, but places that can alter people's lives are a different thing altogether.

There are countless people nationwide who can attest to the difference these safe havens make, with many people able to look back and identify these ’intersections’ as a place where their lives started to change.

So when you donate (which you will because you’re all amazing and lovely and that), what’s better than to look at your donation and not see it for the value of the food it can buy but to see it for the value it can truly hold - this money changes lives, this money *saves* lives.

We aren’t all fortunate enough to possess the grit and determination that these amazing volunteers possess in vast quantities, but we do possess the knowledge that we can help these people no matter what the donation. It all filters into the same, never-quite-large-enough pot and that pot is a sum of money that year on year changes lives.

So remember - when that donation is made, and every single penny of that money goes into one amazing cause, that you were part of something special, just as you have been in previous years, and hopefully in years to come.

There can be no better feeling than knowing that, in some part, you have made a difference.

This is our club, this is our city and these are our people.

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