At Christ Church, high demand for meals shows hardship level
A year into Covid-19, the number of people who rely on the meals at Christ Church, Warwick hasn’t gotten any smaller.
Many of the faces are now familiar to David Thompson. He’s been there from the start: coordinating the band of volunteers, serving up food and pitching in wherever’s necessary because he believes “in outreach, [in] helping our community”.
“We’ve hit 73,000 meals in just over a year,” he said. “We’ve fed every man, woman and child in Bermuda at least once. It’s not getting any quieter.
“The situation’s still just as bad, just as desperate. I think if anything the numbers have grown. Our weekly numbers have exceeded 2,000 meals – about 300 meals a day.”
Christ Church provides free meals six days a week courtesy of a team of about 19 volunteers who make and serve the food from its commercial kitchen at 96 Middle Road, Warwick and also deliver it throughout the parish. Corporate and private donations – of cash, manpower and food – help sustain their efforts.
“I think what’s surprised me is the extent of the hardship,” Mr Thompson said. “I don’t think you ever get immune from that. I [initially] put it down to Covid but I think a lot of this even existed pre-Covid. I think Covid just [brought] everything to the surface.
“We always had the issue with homeless people and trying to help them, but there’s a lot of families in need.”
It’s a concern that was laid bare last week, even as the demand for the programme let up because of the government-mandated shelter-in-place and a dispute between drivers and Department of Transport management stopped bus service.
Said Mr Thompson: “People were having trouble getting to us. But I had families who walked from town to come to get food – walked to Christ Church, Warwick.
“You get to know them. You have a good idea what their story is and, of course, our drivers know when they drop off food and they see where people live, the condition of the home and the family and everything. They get a good sense of what’s going on.”
A “great day” is when a person gets a job and doesn’t need any more help.
“We’ve had quite a few actually,” Mr Thompson said. “And it’s a great day when they come and share their happy story with us.
“[There are some who] if they do have free time offer to come on the weekend and help out. We’ve got people doing that. I’ve got a couple of guys who come in for their meal every day and they take all the trash out for me and sweep around the kitchen, around the outside and everything, which is really nice. They don’t have to do it. They just do it because they’re grateful. They want to give back.”
As the programme coordinator 68-year-old Mr Thompson is at Christ Church three days a week all while running his own business.
“I’m the Eveready bunny,” he said. “It is hard because you can’t stop the programme, you can’t say I don’t want to do it today. You have to keep going. But I think you get strength just in knowing that you can help somebody. It gives you that energy.
“There is a lot of uncertainty and fear about the future and how we will come out of this pandemic and what will the world be like when we do. At least for now we can provide some comfort and relief to help those who are suffering the most.”
Most surprising to him about the coronavirus pandemic is how it “has brought people together as a community”
“I’ve had people donate appliances because we know there are families out there without. So many people have come out genuinely wanting to help,” he said, voicing appreciation for the many parishioners who show up with desserts every day and also the efforts of Liberty Mutual. The captive management company has contributed financially and its entire staff – from the CEO down – spends a week each month helping out.
“It’s basically continued through the kindness of the community supporting us. It starts, obviously, with the members of our congregation giving money, people outside the church giving us money, corporations giving us money, companies. That’s sustained us. We’ve been extremely lucky.
Mr Thompson continued: “I think the outreach programme for the church, has been very successful. It sends a great message [and now] people know us for that and I think that’s good. That’s where the churches should be, among other things. Just showing the community spirit is a wonderful thing and I think Christ Church has done a great job for that.”
As one of the few churches on the island with “an industrial kitchen” it was especially important that they stuck with the programme after an island-wide feeding scheme sponsored by the Loren at Pink Beach ended last summer and other organisations were unable to continue their efforts.
“I think there is still food insecurity. I think that problem won’t go away. So will we be here in the longer term? Yes. If we win the fight with Covid – which we will – there will still be people needing food and I think the kitchen programme, as long as it can sustain itself, will continue. But hopefully not on these kind of levels.”
If you are in need or are able to donate, contact David Thompson: 705-4600 or email@example.com