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The most amazing charitable organisation on earth - Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen

“They are, as the name suggests, a soup kitchen. Only that isn’t even beginning to scratch the surface of what they actually do, and how it differs from what other larger trusts and organisations do.”

Sometimes I feel utterly without hope for the future. Something I imagine many feel looking at the world the way it is.

There are very few things that break through the perpetual cloud of despair and shine brightly enough to fill me once again with a sense of hope, and that is the work of people like our Andrea and the many volunteers that make up the SCSK team.

There’s something wonderful about Andrea’s view about helping people not just in the short-term but in the long-term, alongside an almost complete absence of any ideological or political bias. This is rare in itself and it isn’t through ignorance but through necessity, as what Andrea and the charity wants to do is to help everyone. Despite knowing the impossible nature of such a task, we have people who have set out to do just that and the only thing holding them back from helping many more than they already do is funding as quite simply the more money they have, the more people they can help.

As loathe as Andrea and her fellow volunteers may be to admit it, this level of commitment and wondrous empathy comes at a cost to those who commit to it; to those feeling an instinctive urge to help others, to listen to their problems, to see them at their lowest point and then to try to ease the burden and the pain of each individual and each family that comes to them for help.

We often remark to one another about our worries for the health and wellbeing of the people involved in the work the charity does, and particularly Andrea as even when she tells you she’ll ease up she doesn’t - she can’t stop herself from caring and she cares so deeply it consumes her - and without her commitment and beautifully maternal nature many more poor souls would be suffering a great deal more than they are already.

It got me thinking about how you define this work that SCSK do…

They are, as the name suggests, a soup kitchen. Only that isn’t even beginning to scratch the surface of what they actually do and how it differs from what other larger trusts and organisations do.

For a start not only do they help the homeless in our city with food, water and clothing; they help them survive the cruelty of the world, they allow them to come together. No judgement is made of what led them to the situation they’re in, no demands are made of them meeting any criteria or jumping through any hoops to get something as basic as sustenance or warmth or even just a chat. SCSK - in my opinion - try to keep people within a society that by and large tends to see the homeless as outsiders by circumstance or, occasionally, by choice.

That’s just one part of the story, and like everything else it has at its heart Andrea and the personal touch she brings to everything they do.

Not only will SCSK feed the most in need, they want to feed them well. They want to educate people on how to feed themselves well with what they provide, they want to give them hope for their own futures, and everything the charity does it tries to do with great care to the point it’s grown into something far beyond what it was originally.

As the needs of people have grown, and the numbers of people needing help have grown, the remit of the charity itself has expanded to meet all needs it comes across.

SCSK acts as a gateway to other services, it provides food, clothing, bedding, household items and emotional support to families - more and more of which are working families who still can’t survive without such assistance. Andrea has personally been dealing with people so desperate they’ve become suicidal, and has supported them as much as she can alongside her team. For example, recently she took in a veteran who couldn’t find help elsewhere due to his circumstances, allowing him to stay in her home while she worked tirelessly to find him the help he needed.

Every type of situation you can think of from people struggling with their mental health, to people struggling to keep themselves afloat financially, to those fleeing domestic violence and far worse are situations SCSK are sadly very familiar with. They will do everything they can to help and if they can’t they will do everything to help you get to the people and organisations that can help you. They’ll go above and beyond what anyone might expect.

We knew this year that fundraising would be hard because Andrea herself told us as much, and we were all acutely aware that with the cost of living, the energy crisis and the spiralling economic situation the country was in, we were asking people to part with money that they may need more than ever.

Yet people have still donated, people are still sending what little they have to help others in their city and region. You’re all sharing the fundraiser and the message, and yes it’s very evident that those who could’ve offered assistance last year are now unable to due to their own circumstances, it’s a quite remarkable amount of money given so far.

The club itself has gotten involved by pledging funds raised from tickets sold for our Boxing Day fixture with Blackburn, which should hopefully raise our total by a significant amount and is something we didn’t expect at all.

That light shines through those clouds from every single one of you who has donated and helped in whatever way you can, it’s a light I personally really needed to see after the horrors of the last year alone so thank you all for that, but we’re going to need as much of it as possible for the long hard year to come.

If you can help shoulder some of the burden on people only trying to help others and shine some more light through the clouds above us all right now, please, please do so - and hopefully if and when you need help with your own burdens, there’ll be someone there to help you lift them and a light to guide the way.

Thank you all, and a very Merry Christmas.

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