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‘The love was number one, the food was second’

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More than 100 free dinners were served up last night at the St Paul Centennial Hall for local residents feeling the brunt of unemployment in Bermuda.

The dinner was organised by the church’s Rose Bell Missionary Society.

Included in the numbers that turned out was 32-year-old Jane Armstrong, a single mother of four young children, the youngest is just one year old, the oldest is ten.

Ms Armstrong was recently was made redundant and used the downturn as incentive to finally finish pursuing her Associates Degree in Business at the Bermuda College.

When asked why she decided to come out she replied: “I was given a free ticket and decided to just come out and feed my children. I could use all the help I can get.

“When you have four children it’s hard, food is expensive and you’re talking breakfast, lunch and dinner. I take full advantage of opportunities like this and I’m surprised more people are not here.

“I only have four classes left for my degree, four classes and four children is hard, but I will get it done no matter what. When I do finally get a job again I am going to be grateful. Through all my personal challenges, I know God kept me here for a reason even if it’s for my children, they are my motivation. I have no more excuses, it’s up to me.

“I’ve had my personal challenges in life, but if I need help with my children I do what I have to do. My boyfriend is a construction worker. He’s been on reduced hours for some time, but we still have to eat. He just got a new resume done up with the National Training Board, but what he really needs is a fulltime job.

“I’m glad I came because I met women here who understand the plight of young mothers. One woman even gave me her number and asked me to call her whenever I need anything. She promised me that she would be there, even if it’s just for a listening ear. I really appreciate that.”

Garbin Francis, 33, has been out of work since November. The young father of three young girls described himself as ‘jack of all trades’. He does electrical work, plumbing and construction.

“My employer sold his company and the new owners didn’t not take all of us, so I was left without a job. I’ve been doing odd jobs here and there, nothing steady. But I find ways to provide for my children. I have family and that helps, but it tears my spirit apart.

“I came to see if I could find someone who would give me a job. Anyone who wants to help can call me at 518-9120. I live on Princess Street and a lot of my neighbours are out of work. Right now it’s hard for everybody.

“I would make do with an $8 an hour job, something, anything is better than nothing.”

Kyle Dowling, 48, said his rent is due at the end of the week and he’s having trouble making it. “It’s real hard for me, I’m a painter. People want work done but they don’t have the money to pay, and things are getting tighter. There’s just no money out there.

“I’m just living from day to day and that puts you under a lot of pressure. I’ve had to go to Focus and the Salvation Army just to eat. It makes you feel like less than a man, because a man is supposed to be able to support himself and his family. When you can’t do that it takes away from your manhood.

“I came for some inspiration and I got it. I know there’s hope and the people here reinforced that I’m not alone. And I believe that somewhere along the line things will turn around, all I have to do is believe.

“I share an apartment and I was able to get a little hustle this month to put something towards rent, but I don’t have money to eat. My family helps whenever they can but everybody’s struggling.”

Society President Madree Lindsay was pleased overall, but she was a bit disappointed that more people did not come. More take-out dinners were served than eat-ins. She said: “For those who did stay, I am so very happy and I’m glad to see them. They seemed to really enjoy the evening.

“I like reaching out to people. I heard a minister say once that we should transfer our strength to those who are weak, and that’s what its all about us holding each other up. And we will be looking to do this again soon.”

Reverend Dr Lanel Guyton, the Pastor of St Paul AME, was elated. “What the society is doing, especially today in the midst of an economic recession which affecting all parts of this community, what I see here is our missionary society fulfilling a need, sharing love over a hot meal and I appreciate the effort. The love was number one, the food was second.”

Giving thanks: Serenity Armstrong prays with her mother Jane during grace at the free dinner hosted by the Missionary Society of the St Paul AME church last night. (Photo by Mark Tatem)
Ted Darrell lays out a plate at the free dinner hosted by the Missionary Society of the St Paul AME church last night. (Photo by Mark Tatem)
Carlene Tucker makes up salads at the free dinner hosted by the Missionary Society of the St Paul AME church last night. (Photo by Mark Tatem)
Suzette Butterfield-Dowrie wraps to-go plates at the free dinner hosted by the Missionary Society of the St Paul AME church last night. (Photo by Mark Tatem)
On a mission: The Missionary Society of the St Paul AME church at the free dinner last night. (Photo by Mark Tatem)
An attendee reads a verse of scripture at the free dinner hosted by the Missionary Society of the St Paul AME church last night. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published February 21, 2012 at 8:49 am (Updated February 21, 2012 at 8:49 am)

‘The love was number one, the food was second’

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