Church volunteer Jean Bailey has been nominated for a national award for making a big difference to the lives of more than a hundred of people in Derby.
Jean has overseen the growth of St Andrew’s Church Foodbank in Langley Mill, Derbyshire and established a lunch club and school breakfast club making St Andrew’s the hub of the community. Her work provides a vital lifeline to families, homeless ex-servicemen, and those recently released from young offenders’ institutes.
Now her dedication to strengthening community spirit and helping others has seen her nominated for Ecclesiastical Insurance’s ‘Little Deeds, Big Difference’ competition.
Aided by the support of local businesses, the initiative grew from a small operation handing out food parcels at the St Andrew’s church to becoming a permanent fixture open every Friday.
The foodbank was inspired by the desire to help struggling families and individuals in Langley. Its philosophy from day one was not to turn away repeat visitors. Jean explains that one colleague at a neighbouring foodbank is often “heartbroken” as she cannot offer food to those that have reached their limit but are still in need.
“We made the decision early on that we did not want to look at people’s bank statements and we did not want to judge them. As the bible says, judge not, that ye be not judged,” says Jean, who also explains that the foodbank has now evolved to tackle other social needs in Langley: “Some people come because they are lonely, they are normally elderly — although we do have young people shortly out of an offender’s institute who come for the same reason. We want to help these young people in particular to avoid them falling in with the wrong crowd again and getting into trouble.”
The foodbank also acts as a vital lifeline to ex-servicemen that have very sadly ended up living rough, with a specific focus on providing them with bags of food that can just be opened and eaten.
“One of these gentlemen sleeps in a field about three miles away, and another sleeps underneath the bridge of a local by-pass,” Jean explains, adding: “And I can’t imagine what that must be like at night time, as you don’t know who could pull up and what they might do to you.
“It is so sad, especially considering what they have sacrificed for their country, and what they must have been through in the line of duty.”
Jean and her dedicated team now provide food parcels for up to around 30 individuals and 30 young families every Friday.
Andrew Whysall, church warden at St Andrew’s explained the impact Jean’s work has had in a very short space of time: “In four years, she has overseen the growth of the foodbank, from serving one or two families, to over a hundred people per week, as well as organising a lunch club, and school breakfast club.
“She lovingly and diligently organises the volunteers, food, and the myriad of things that go into such an endeavour, including the collection from various local suppliers and donations. Jean always has a smile on her face and this makes such a difference to those who use the foodbank. Everyone is made to feel welcome.”
Ecclesiastical’s ‘Little Deeds, Big difference’ competition seeks to showcase the work and community contribution of Anglican churches in the UK and provides a chance for them to recognise the people who tirelessly devote their time and energy to making a difference. The grand prize winner will receive £10,000 for their church and a further five prizes of £2,000 are available. The winning entries will be invited to a winner’s lunch, to be held in London at the famous Trafalgar Square landmark St Martin-in-the-Fields church in November.
Churches have until 31 August 2018 to nominate a volunteer. To find out more about this year’s competition, including how to enter, visit www.ecclesiastical.com/churchcomp