How you can help Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen continue its vital work
Affectionately know as The Soupy, one of the city’s most vital charities serves up hot meals and kindness for Sunderland’s most in need, without question or judgement.
Queues of up to 100 people form four days a week at Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen’s base at the bottom end of High Street West, where they can be the difference between whether someone has a hot meal that day or not.
It’s a completely free service which is open to anyone who can turn up and receive a take away meal from its ever-changing menu, from bangers and mash and mince and dumplings to Love Cake, a home-made chocolate cake made by one of their band of 68 dedicated volunteers.
With no questions asked about the visitors to the service, the volunteers meet people from all walks of life: families in need, people with addiction problems, the homeless, the unemployed and the employed who teeter on the brink of the bread line.
But with the cost of living crisis continuing to bite, they’ve seen a drop in donations to their vital service – and they need your help.
As well as The Soupy in the city centre, where they serve hot meals and hand out toiletries and fresh produce, much of which is grown in their own allotments in Silksworth, the registered charity also has a unit in Hendon.
Here, they give people enough food to see them through a week and it’s also their drop off point where people can make donations direct to the service.
After meeting someone vitally in need of a Soup Kitchen, and noticing a gap in Sunderland, Andrea Bell set up the registered charity three years ago and has since offered a lifeline of support to countless people.
"We are open to everyone, it’s dignified and no intrusive questions are asked,” said operations manager Andrea, whose service is used via word of mouth or advice from Citizens Advice Bureau.
"The response we get from people who use the service is incredible. In three years, we’ve never once had to call the police. Often these are people who others step over in the street, but we don’t do that, all the volunteers have the right attitude and qualities. They treat people with respect, and they get that back.
"We are so much more than a soup kitchen as well, just last night we sent furniture to a family that had nothing.”
In some cases, previous people who’ve used the service have managed to find work and get themselves back on their feet, returning to donate to the kitchen.
Speaking about the current drop in donations, she said: “We appreciate people are struggling, but we really need help. So we thought maybe we should shout about what we do and ask for help. We are working as hard as we can, but donations have dropped.”
Sunderland City Council have been of support to the charity donating fresh fruit and veg, as well as Sunderland AFC who’ve donated season tickets so people who don’t have the funds can go to the match, whilst also hosting collections.
At the large unit in Hendon, there’s also a Health Hub where hairdresser Neville Ramsay, beautician Elle Applegarth and podiatrists from The Chiropody Clinic in Hetton give some much-needed TLC from free haircuts and beauty treatments to podiatry, which in three cases has helped save limbs.
Over the years, Neville has styled the hair of celebrities such as Sting, Jodie Kidd and Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, but he says the Soup Kitchen haircuts are the most rewarding.
"You can take them into a different world, because these are people who couldn’t go to a normal salon,” he said. “They’re not used to being pampered and they cry at times because they’re so overwhelmed with being shown some kindness. We have a really good laugh and it takes them out of the zone of homelessness for half and hour and really helps with their self esteem.
"I’ve felt more of a spiritual awakening here than any paid work I’ve ever done and it’s more rewarding than any celebrity haircut.”
How you can help
Donations of non-perishable food – tins, packets and boxed foods with plenty of shelf life – can be made direct to the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen base in Addison Street, Hendon, every Wednesday between 9am and 4pm.
There will also be a drop off point ahead of the match on Monday, December 12, in the car park opposite Roker End Cafe.
To make a financial donation to the cause, Text Soup10 for £10 to 70450, Soup1 for £1 or Soup5 for £5.