I walk into the Spurriergate Centre just after 6.30pm on a warm Tuesday night in June and the place was abuzz with people. Every table is full, the chat is loud and the atmosphere is upbeat and friendly. And then I noticed that everyone was being served meals directly to their table.
“We like to do table service,” Helen Rawling of Kitchen For Everyone York (KEY) told me, “ We do a three course hot meal with a restaurant feel. It’s a really civilised way of providing a service.”
Started originally in 2015 at St Crux by All Saints Lay Minister Dave Hobman, offering a Sunday morning breakfast to fill in the gap left by Carecent being closed that day, Helen heard about their need for volunteers through a local radio station.
She knew she had a good life, a good job, family support and a beautiful daughter and she wanted to give something back. She put a shout out on her personal Facebook and her good friend Michelle Holmes quickly got involved too. The friends were very active during the 2014 York floods, and naturally became team leaders at KEY and started recruiting volunteers together.
“We moved to Spurriergate in Sept ’16, managed to get more and more volunteers involved and now we have a team of over 100 people on our books. This means that some people only volunteer every six weeks, though others do every week. We have strong teams that can provide a full service for everyone.”
In addition to the weekend breakfast they wanted to offer an evening meal during the week.
‘It’s mental,” Helen explains, “we have queues outside the door. It used to be 10 people showing up, we now have more like 40-50.”
They generously get surplus food from Tesco, M & S, Greggs and Appletons the Butcher. And as well as waiting on, their team of volunteers prep, cook, wash up and clear.
They also give out food and toiletry parcels to everyone who comes in.
“We never turn anyone away,” Helen told me. “You don’t have to be homeless. People using our service might be socially excluded, have a mental health problem or just be a family without the opportunity to feed themselves properly.”
Much of the food parcels they give out this time have been donated by York Mosque.
“We did a talk at York Mosque on their Open Mosque day and our relationship with them has really blossomed. They have donated tonnes of stuff to us. They are really keen to help everyone.”
Kitchen for Everyone also run a mobile outreach service on a Saturday night, taking around a hot canteen and giving people tea, hot chocolate, cup-a-soups, pot noodles, instant oats; anything to provide an instant hot meal to a person in need.
And they have a city centre lock up, kindly provided by Ashtons Estate Agent, where they keep emergency clothes, sleeping bags, hats etc. should anyone need something.
I asked Helen what Kitchen for Everyone needs from Social Vision featuring them. She laughed at my questioning their need for more volunteers: “We have over a hundred brilliant volunteers!” she stated.
But they do need funds to pay the rent to keep the service going. Soon to be a registered Charity, there are 2 events she would love people to come and support.
“A clothes swap on Saturday 21st July at Heworth Village Hall and a Music extravanganza at the crescent on Sunday 23rd September with tombola, raffle and a great array of local talent.”
So stick those dates in your diary, and we will remind you a little nearer the time.
They also have accept monetary donations directly through their website
In the mean time, it was wonderful to meet yet another amazing organisation in this City of ours and to hear about the dedicated volunteers that make good things happen.
Find out more about them https://kitchenforeveryoneyork.org/what-we-do-to-help-homeless-vulnerable-york/