Since January 2022, Aylesbury Methodist Church, with vital support from Aylesbury Foodbank, has been helping the most vulnerable in our community with food parcels, a safe, friendly space, and a listening ear.
Here is what we do on a Monday evening between 7.30pm and 9.00pm.
Aylesbury Foodbank collects food donations, from AMC's Welcome Space every Wednesday, takes them to their warehouse, and parcels them up into boxes for different categories of households – singles, couples, families etc. Each box contains enough food, reasonably well-balanced, to last about three days. Aylesbury Foodbank then deliver the boxes to distribution centres. We at Aylesbury Methodist Church are one of eight such centres and are unique in that we open in the evening and in the town centre.
Guests are allowed up to three boxes in a six-month period. This is because they are intended for use in a crisis, not as an alternative to budgeting and/or shopping. We record some basic details about each recipient and then record the client's name alongside the food parcel number so that we can account to the Aylesbury Foodbank for each box, and they know the circumstances of those receiving them. Aylesbury Foodbank then pass that anonymised data to the Trussell Trust to collate and use to advocate to government on behalf of our guests.
We generally have about a dozen guests each week; the number has increased gradually throughout the year. It can feel quite busy at times, and at other times calm. We have families in distress, homeless people, individuals living in Houses of Multiple Occupancies, those with addictions of various kinds, or recovering addicts, some with mental health issues due to substance or other abuse, others affected by bereavement, separation, or unemployment.
We hand out food parcels to those in need, as already mentioned, and share out among those present, all the food donated at the end of the working day by Wenzels and Greggs. We serve tea, coffee, cakes, and biscuits and, latterly, toast as well. . Food is an important part of what we do. However, at least as important, we think, is the atmosphere of trust, safety and friendship we seek to create for everyone who visits us.
In fact, part of the reason for writing this article, is that we need more friendly listeners to come alongside our guests, please.
We need at least three volunteers each Monday evening. We have a shared rota to organise this and a WhatsApp group. We all get involved in our primary role as described in the previous paragraph. Apart from that, one of us takes charge of the kitchen, another collects and supervises the distribution of the unsold Wenzels and Greggs food collected, and the third person uses the software to process food box distribution. We all help with the set-up and clear-up at the beginning and end of the session.
We are a friendly team of 18 volunteers, trained by Aylesbury Foodbank. Six of us are members of AMC and seven are members of other Christian churches in Aylesbury.
We would like to see more volunteers from AMC and the circuit: people who are willing to witness to the love of God in Christ in this practical way, for the common good of our community. It is hugely rewarding, and you would be working alongside a friendly, enthusiastic, and professional team of volunteers.
If you like getting to know new people, if you can listen and learn from those whose life experiences are different to your own, if you are able to help with the practical tasks, and if you would like to support those who are struggling, often (but not always) through no fault of their own, then please consider whether God's spirit may be nudging you to join us in our work of sharing the love of God, gently and humbly, with those whom we believe need to know it.