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#SoupKitchen21: Come together, for Sunderland!

No donation is too small, not positive action is insignificant. Together, we can all do our bit...

We live in a fractious society right now. I’m not sure this is the right forum to go deep into the reasons for this, but we probably all recognise them, and we probably have all seen some of the heartbreaking stories that have happened as a consequence in just the last week alone.

Every day we read or hear of instances of abuse, intolerance, and other hateful actions. There has even been the baffling case of RNLI heroes being harangued simply for saving lives. Closer to home there seems to have been an increase within the Sunderland fanbase too, and with several examples of idiots showing themselves up at games, it can sometimes leave other match-goers with a depressing sense of spitting in the wind. Call people out or try and reason with them and there’s a good chance the situation will escalate, ignore it and you feel as if you are somehow legitimising the behaviour.

Problems creep up over time, misinformation is allowed to spread and insidious figureheads cultivate unrest and division to suit their own agendas. There is no quick fix sadly, but I do think there is good in almost everybody, and that this is what will eventually come through. Using the fans again as an example, we have seen before how we can come together for the benefit of others.

Roker Report’s 2021 Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen drive has already garnered an amazing response, but this is no surprise given the success of last year’s appeal.

Recent home games have also seen the more caring nature of supporters, with strangers stopping to help fellow supporters in distress.

Following the Ipswich Town game a man collapsed on Millennium Way and was tended to by fans until the emergency services arrived and brought him to consciousness, and when somebody fell on St. Mary’s Boulevard and burst their nose whilst on their way back from watching the Lads play Charlton Athletic, a group of supporters waited with him for two hours to provide first aid and ensure he was taken to A&E.

Many will have seen either these particular incidents or witnessed other similarly touching acts of selflessness. Although on a different level entirely to helping save somebody's life, I will never forget the time I took my young daughter to a game and she was upset because we had forgotten to bring her sweets. Within seconds the family sat next to us were sharing theirs with her.

It was a simple act, but it shows two things; that the real Sunderland supporters are so much more than the mindless minority, and that even the smallest gesture can have an impact.

We have seen some people apologising because they were not able to donate as much to the appeal as they would have liked, but no matter the amount it means a heck of a lot. The two members of staff and the 40-plus volunteers at the Soup Kitchen make every pound go a long way, and know full well that what might seem like a trivial amount to one person could represent a massive sacrifice to another.

It shows you care and it will be put to real use.

The pod that Gav and Ant did with Andrea Bell that was released as part of the launch of this year’s appeal is an important listen and if you have not done so yet I would recommend you listen, even if like me you usually see podcasts more as an escape. Tune in and it will soon become clear that what they do at the Soup Kitchen is about more than just handing out food and sending folk off again. There are people here in Sunderland that need practical support, and to know they are important.

Andrea and the team provide clothing, furniture and bedding. They provide forms of medical care and they think about how people can be truly helped.

You might not click about certain things until you are in a situation yourself, or you might take things for granted, but what use really is a food parcel if you cannot afford to pay for the energy to cook it? How would you feel physically and mentally if you didn’t ever eat anything nutritional? As well as the mammoth day-to-day task of welcoming in hundreds of people and giving them a healthy, hearty meal, the Soup Kitchen is trying to put things in place so people can see a way forward.

Your money and your time will make a difference, but even if you are unable to offer either of these things just your empathy and compassion will go a long way in these fraught times.

The world needs to be kinder to one another, and the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen is helping show the way.


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