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Free dinner is being laid on for the unemployed

Touched by the growing number of Bermudians out of work, a missionary society attached to St Paul AME Church will host a free dinner tonight for the unemployed.

Admission is free but tickets must be obtained in advance and residents who are struggling financially are invited to attend.

The event is the first in what is hoped will become a regular service to the community by the Rose Bell Missionary Society.

Society president Madree Lindsay said: “There are a lot of Bermudians who have been unemployed for extensive periods. A lot of people are having a hard time just feeding their families.

“People are being made redundant. I have a 44-year-old son who was made redundant two years ago. It trickles down. He was living in one of my apartments, therefore I had to accept less rent from him.

“There is a lot of hardship in Bermuda and I believe there’s a lot of people who are hurting.”

Fellow member Lois Weeks has been with the society for more than 40 years. She was born in 1924 and remembers the days of food rations after the war. “I was one of 13 children, I remember when they rationed things like sugar, we were allowed one pound per family, and you needed a voucher for shoes.

“I have two grandchildren who were forced to return home from college because their parents are out of work. My daughter is struggling, it has a domino effect.

“She has a home school and the parents of her students are losing their jobs so she is losing students. But I believe that nothing stays the same and there’s always hope.

“But when I look at what’s happening today it reminds me of how bad things were back then. There are too many people out of work, it’s sad and it causes deep depression.”

Fellow member Suzette Butterfield -Gowrie owns Immigration Advisory Consultancy Services. In recent months she has seen several clients who have lost their homes by foreclosure.

“I’ve had people sit in front of me and just cry, they’ve lost their house, they’ve lost everything. My own husband got laid off indefinitely about three weeks ago, he was a glass installer. I’m the only breadwinner now, and I know firsthand about mortgages not being paid on time.

“When the household salary gets chopped in half a lot of stuff goes out the window. I used to be in the hair salon every other week, I can’t go anymore because there’s only one steady paycheque in the house, so the hairdressers must be struggling as well.

“Food prices didn’t go down by half like household incomes. I can’t afford to buy food like I used to, I pick it up then I put it down, you see a lot of people doing that these days.

“I saw a client this week who hasn’t had a job for a while, he didn’t have any money. I have even less but I have a soft heart. I gave him some money just to help him out. Then there’s the husband and wife looking for work because they are both laid off. The wife cried when they took their house. I want to help because its so desperately needed.“

The response from wholesalers and other businesses who donated food has been more than generous. Organisers are hoping to get least 100 people out with their families and children.

Ms Lindsay said: “If more people show up than we anticipated we will serve food until it’s all gone. I would also like to encourage Bermudians whether they own or rent a home, to plant a small vegetable garden. I have one and it really helps because everything is so expensive now.

“I don’t know how people make out with children. How can a child make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when a loaf of bread is $6. Those sandwiches must be under regulation in some homes by now because things are tight.”

Coral Wilson has been with the society for 20 years, her father Morris Wilson and mother, Gloria Dismont Wilson were very active in St Paul AME.

“I can remember when I started I was groomed by the older missionaries who have now passed on, and we must carry it on. I also work with Meals on Wheels.

“I know that because of the economic downturn families are having to work extra hard just to provide the necessities. And I would encourage people to just come out bring your family and enjoy the evening and the fellowship.”

Tickets will be available at the church office on Monday from 9am to 1pm. The dinner will take place at 6pm at St Paul AME Centennial Hall on Court Street. Ms Lindsay said: “We have at least 40 tickets left, but we will feed as many as we can. We want families to come out with their children, not just for a hot meal but to share in fellowship. We want to let people know they are not struggling alone, give them a sense of hope and reassure them that things will get better.”

Free dinner organisers: Coral Wilson, Madree Lindsay, Louise Weeks and Suzette Butterfield-Gowrie. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published February 20, 2012 at 8:50 am (Updated February 20, 2012 at 8:49 am)

Free dinner is being laid on for the unemployed

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