A GENEROUS church minister and his team at the Gateway Church in Abergavenny have shared how they have managed to deliver thousands of meals in lockdown, and are now turning their attention to helping children in need.

Minister Christopher Vaz – who has been at the Gateway for eight years – received a call from Deri View Primary School appealing for help early in lockdown.

The school – worried about the children not being able to eat nutritious regular meals while at home – called on Mr Vaz and his clergy for help.

“As a church we reach out to people in need – and that went through the roof during this pandemic,” said Mr Vaz. “Without free meals in school, you realise the vulnerable position many people are in.

“We tend to say ‘yes’ and then plan later – but I don’t think we realised what was in store.”

South Wales Argus:

The church received thousands of requests for meals, and in the following 12 weeks delivered 10,070 meals.

“With many food banks having to shut we were getting people referred to us by the council, Mind Monmouthshire, the police – all sorts,” Mr Vaz added. “We decided to do as many as possible and see how far we could take it.


“We’ve been inundated with requests from families of elderly and vulnerable people. Before we knew it, it went from some meals for the school to 600 meals a week for the town’s vulnerable people and staff at Nevill Hall Hospital.”

South Wales Argus:

A 15-strong team has been divided up. Using the Monk Street church as a base, some became delivery drivers, while others donned the cooking aprons.

Now, with schools about to start again and food banks returning to normal, Mr Vaz and his team wondered how they could continue to help.

“The financial impact of the pandemic has not gone away for so many families here, so we felt it would help if we did as many school bags and stationery sets as we could.

South Wales Argus:

“So far we’ve probably done 80 bags for pupils across the town, and are looking to continue doing that.”

Asked if he is worried about the financial impact of the pandemic on the everyday lives of residents, Mr Vaz added: “I worry a little when I think of October. About a possible second wave and the furlough scheme perhaps having to end.

“But what is important for us is we keep offering a service to the best of our ability. We’re very lucky with our donations from those in the community who are in a position to share what they have.

“We’ve also had surplus foods from local supermarkets and restaurants. The whole community has come together.”

The church is also now trying to get back to normal, although with 300 members, it might be some time yet before Mr Vaz can welcome all his congregation back.