JUST before Christmas, the Mayor of Newport, Cllr Cliff Suller, said that in his role he never failed to find the generosity and spirit of the people of Newport overwhelming.
He was speaking at an event to mark the collection initiated by Newport Bus for the Ravenhouse Trust Food Bank.
Paul Murphy, the MP for Torfaen, said in his recent Argus column that all our food banks have seen a dramatic rise in demand over the last year – particularly from those in low paid work and those who have been hit by benefit changes.
We rightly thank those that donate, but we should also shine a light on the quiet, committed and all year round work of our churches in our community.
Every winter Newport churches work together to provide shelter for those sleeping on our streets.
Fourteen churches commit to provide a night shelter and a meal every week between November and March.
When I visited St Matthew’s Church in Maindee recently around 12 people were being helped in this way thanks to the enormous commitment of volunteers and the charity Eden Gate.
Then there are the street pastors who operate in Caldicot, Newport City Centre and elsewhere in Gwent. These are members of all denominations who are trained as volunteers to help people in difficulty on our streets late at night.
On my night out with them in the City Centre I was amazed at how well known, and well received the street pastors were by young people enjoying the night time economy.
The way that Caldicot churches join together not just to organise events and services, but also the work they are putting in jointly to open a drop in centre for the community, is something I warmly support.
Then there’s Stow Park Church’s printing project that trains young people who have never had a job. This is not to forget the fact that week in, week out congregations are collecting food for the food banks at the end of their services. And it is Ravenhouse Church, Kings Church and the Trussell Trust (based at the Christchurch Centre) who are facilitating the food banks.
Our churches are all making a hugely significant contribution to the day to day life of our communities. They are on the front line, at a difficult time, quietly helping the most vulnerable people day in day out. And this is in Newport East alone. Of course there are other similar projects and other good work across Gwent run not just by churches, but other volunteers too.
I know they don’t do it for the thanks, but thank you anyway.