Just a few weeks ago we urged our readers to help bring Christmas cheer to people who were struggling to afford to eat.
Your response was amazing. It helped foodbanks across our region collect tonnes of food which will give thousands of families and individuals a happier and less stressful festive season.
Johnston Press newspapers in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and south Norfolk joined the Feed our Families campaign.
We called on readers to donate food and Christmas treats to the foodbanks in their own towns.
One foodbank organiser said the generosity of people this year had been overwhelming.
Another said he could not overestimate the value of the campaign.
-- Bury St Edmunds foodbank, run by the Gatehouse charity, will hand out 400 Christmas hampers this year – 50 more than in 2014.
Their chief executive, Amanda Bloomfield, said: “During December we have been given just over a tonne of food.
“People have been particularly generous this year, and quite a few local businesses including British Sugar and Treatt, have held food collections.
“The appeal in the Bury Free Press has helped greatly. It has made people more aware of what goes on within their own community.
“I’d like to say a huge thank-you to all the readers who contributed.
“It makes a tremendous difference to the recipients of the parcels we give out.”
A £300 cheque from Asda’s charity fund has been used to provide extra Christmas treats for the hampers.
-- In the Diss area, Waveney Foodbank was planning to fill more than 100 Christmas hampers ... almost double last year’s total.
“I cannot overestimate the value of your newspapers’ coverage of foodbanks and ours in particular,” said their spokesman Graham Reardon.
“The publicity enormously encourages public support – evident in the collection of about 1.5 tonnes of mostly Christmas fare, including 900kg from a collection at, and by, Tesco.
Around half the Waveney hampers will be distributed by the Salvation Army, to their own clients.
-- In Newmarket staff at two of the town’s racing stables responded to our call for help by organising their own food collections.
“Godolphin and Darley stables have done big collections for us prompted by the Journal’s appeal,” said John Durrant who manages the foodbank run by the Open Door charity.
The stable staff’s donations have given a welcome festive boost to the steady stream of food flowing in from other sources.
“We greatly appreciate people’s generosity, and I’d like to say a big thank-you to all those people out there who donate to us.
“It could also have a knock-on effect and bring in more donations through the year – it keeps awareness going.”
He added that publicity could also make people less reluctant to come forward and ask for help.
“It gives them some sense of what the foodbank is, and could help make people less averse to using it,” he said.
-- Donations have been pouring into Haverhill’s foodbank, leaving its volunteers overwhelmed at people’s generosity.
“So far this month we have taken in over 2 tonnes,” said Ann Merrigan, operations manager of REACH Community Projects which runs the foodbank,
A special three day collection in early December at Haverhill Tesco alone brought in 1.9 tonnes.
This Christmas, REACH will be giving out around 100 hampers that ensure their recipients get not just the basics, but a few treats as well.
“We are so very grateful to everyone who donates,” said Ann. This year again, it’s been overwhelming.”
Last week the gifts were still coming. “We have just weighed in donations from a local Children’s Centre who had a ‘giving tree’ where the families they support were able to donate Christmas items to us.
“And we have a number of other organisations and companies who have been collecting for us, as well as individual donations, even from school children.
“This means that we’re able to give to those who would probably have to go without some of those Christmas items that some us take for granted.
“It always amazes us as to how people in our community are so generous and we just want to say a vey big thank you to everyone.”
-- Storehouse Foodbank in Sudbury estimates it will pack and distribute 400 special Christmas food bags for individuals and families this year.
“In the first two weeks of December we collected 245 bags of food donations, where people have included lots of Christmas food and treats,” said their team leader Rita Pennington.
“The articles published over the last few weeks in the Bury Free Press and sister titles have highlighted the need and raised the awareness of foodbanks.
“This has contributed towards an increase in the number of people showing an interest in Storehouse Foodbank Sudbury and also in the number of people accessing the service.”
The Storehouse team, part of the Stour Valley Vineyard Church, thanked everyone who had donated.
“We’d like to offer our sincere thanks to all those who have supported Storehouse and given so generously throughout the year, and we wish you all a happy Christmas and a blessed New Year,” said Rita.
-- Simon Bysshe, chair of the Peterborough Foodbank Project, said: “As far as the appeal is concerned this is building on long-standing support. It’s a reminder of how generous people are.
“They’ve provided Christmas things like advent calendars and other things which is great and helps make people’s Christmases.”
He added: “There can be so many reasons people can fall into crisis with uncertainty in the labour market and changes to benefits.
“Our job is not to comment on the politics, but we are interested in providing very critical support for people at real times of need.
“This then means that because we are working so closely with other agencies which are helping, we can sometimes provide that little bit of extra support that makes a big difference.
“It helps them to bridge that gap, and what we want to do particularly is then make sure that people are signposted to other help that’s available.”
-- A donation of £1,000s worth of groceries from a trader in Chapel St Leonards is just one example of the generosity being seen at Skegness Food Bank in recent weeks. The organisation has reported strong support in the run-up to Christmas, including this large individual donation.
“It’s been going really well,” said Alan Bailey, community manager.
Mr Bailey said the support will make ‘a big difference’, not just at Christmas but also into the New Year when pressure on finances, he says, can continue or even grow stronger.
He said: “It’s really helped us quite a lot as it’s helped us prepare for our statistical high in January.”
He spoke of his gratitude for those who have donated to the food bank and called for continued support in 2016.
He said: “Thank you very much for donating and keep donating through the year. It is much appreciated - it helps change lives.”
-- Wide-ranging support has been given to the Boston Food Bank in the run-up to Christmas.
Ian Evans, project manager, said: “People have been very generous. People have been donating both as groups and individuals and people have been contributing also through the static collections points at Asda and Tesco.”
In addition to items of food, people have been donating money to the organisation.
Pupils at Haven High Academy, in Boston, have raised £2,000 for the cause - a sum Mr Evans described as ‘incredible’.
The Lincolnshire Co-operative has also donated more than £800 to the food bank through its Community Champions scheme, which sees every one of the society’s 250,000 members linked to a good cause close to where they live.
Of the support, Mr Evans said: “It will make a terrific difference. I just want to thank everybody for their generous support. Without their support, we would not be able to do what we are doing.”