For the Vineyard, compassion is central to what we do. At West Suffolk Vineyard Church (WSVC) their Storehouse project is an incredible and practical way they are able to serve their community by giving away food bags through agencies within Bury to people who are living on the streets or unable to provide enough for their families. But this year, God spoke to WSVC about extending what they do in order to cater for more specific needs in their community over the school summer holidays.
WSVC had become aware that families with children who are usually entitled to free school lunches through the school year struggle to fund the extra meals during the school holidays. The Storehouse had noticed an increase in self-referrals for this reason during the Easter holidays, and teachers in WSVC had also expressed concern for some of their pupils.
WSVC contacted a local primary school and arranged to meet with the teacher responsible for pupil welfare. She informed WSVC that the housing estate next to their new church building is the most deprived in the county, and many families who live there are in financial need. So together, they formulated a plan to help. The teacher identified 30 families from the school, and WSVC provided each family with six simple vouchers. Each voucher entitled them to collect food bags that would last them between two and three days over the summer holidays. They were given a covering letter giving brief details of Vineyard Church and the project. Families could choose when to use their vouchers during the summer holiday.
When the project was announced to the church congregation, there was overwhelming support. This was demonstrated through the generous amounts of additional food that was donated. For several Sundays, the Storehouse placed a list of suggested items on each seat before the service, which included treats and items children would especially enjoy, e.g. kids cereals; tinned sausages; hoola hoops or Nutella! In total, 239 food bags were given out during the six week holiday as part of this project.
In total, 239 food bags were given out during the six week holiday as part of this project.
This project is just the start of an exciting partnership between WSVC and their local primary school, who have already extended an invitation for the Vineyard pastors to visit and meet the headteacher. WSVC have asked what families in the school need the most and have been advised that there is often additional financial pressure at the beginning of the school year when they need to purchase school uniforms, PE kits, bags and equipment. WSVC have also been dreaming about what else they could provide – cooking classes, clothes give-aways and a toddler group to connect with local parents. At the end of 2019, WSVC will be moving into new, larger premises, with facilities which will enable many more opportunities to give and offer support to people in their local area which is so exciting!