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Feeding the community

Emily Myers talks to Nicky Gladstone, project leader of Carecent, about providing for the less fortunate of York this Christmas

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[caption id="attachment_116050" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Image: Carecent
Image: Carecent

As Christmas approaches, many people look forward to the festive meals associated with the occasion. Thinking little about their financial circumstances, people flock to the supermarkets to buy turkeys, puddings, gingerbread and pie. This luxury is not available to the most deprived in society: however, there are certain organisations in York which ensure that nobody goes hungry at Christmas.

Carecent is a volunteer-led community based project at the Central Methodist Church in York city centre. The ecumenical centre provides food, clothes and support to York's most deprived individuals. Nicky Gladstone, the project leader, is helped out by around 50 volunteers.

The centre provides breakfast seven days a week from 8.30am to 10.45am, and on a "daily basis feeds between 40 and 60 people".
At Christmas time, the centre hopes to spread festivities and "on Christmas day there is an average of about 40 people". Nicky explains that their customers are socially isolated, often homeless or generally deprived.

She goes on to explain that there are currently around "12 people who are actually rough sleeping on the streets of York at the minute" and not only do they cater for the homeless, but also for "people who feel they slipped outside of society a bit". Despite the circumstances of most, Nicky stresses Carecent has a great community feel.

The centre is completely funded by donations, and hopes to spread the word of what can be donated. As the centre only provides breakfast, they rely on certain types of food: "On one day we will go through about 12 cans of beans, between four and six cans of tomatoes, about the same of tinned spaghetti, three or four cans of corned beef, three or four tins of ham, huge amounts of cereal and two massive pots of porridge."

Of course, every day is different, and the volume of food needed fluctuates depending on how many people attend the breakfasts and how much people consume. The centre provides free food to those who are in need, and at each breakfast time the customers are allowed as much food as they want. Nicky tells us how they'd "rather give four small portions and have it all eaten than give a massive piled up plate and see half of it come back."

The extreme generosity of the centre ensures that people have a good start to the day and are full as they leave the premises. The centre hopes that the community atmosphere allows "people to connect to the right agencies", whether this be the Salvation Army or Job Seekers.

Nicky tells us how the volunteers interact with the customers and ensure they chat regularly as breakfast is enjoyed. The centre likes to promote the fact that within the community you are "treated like the human being that you are." She continues by stating: "I think that's really our strength, because we're not professional, we're not joined up to any big organisation but we're just genuine and kind to people."

Although the centre is open all year, a special effort is made at Christmas to help those in need. Nicky describes Christmas at the centre as "lovely", she tells us how on Christmas Eve they're "open as usual, and when we shut, a whole team of volunteers and customers come in, sit down together and prep all of the veg and decorate the room". Nicky indicated that the day encompasses the true values of Christmas, as it becomes such a "shared experience."

On Christmas Day, the centre opens later than usual, and a full Christmas dinner is served. This provides much joy as deprived people are able to be part of a community on Christmas Day and celebrate the event with others.

"Christmas is always mixed, because spending Christmas in a hostel or going for a breakfast centre Christmas dinner can be a terribly sad thing to have to do ... But it's actually very happy on the day, it's very, very lovely."

The centre has been around for 30 years, and is well established in the area. It provides a place for people to go and get food, clothes and support from volunteers who really want to make a difference in York.

Nicky smiles as she tells us that the customers often refer to the centre as 'carebears', as opposed to Carecent. This clearly shows how grateful many deprived people feel towards the centre and its volunteers.

At Christmas time many are very charitable and often donate to such causes. The centre currently needs donations of tinned meat, such as corned beef, spam, ham or hot dogs. They also are in need of sugar. The Carecent website has a full description of what would currently be most beneficial to its customers, so take a moment and have a look online.

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