89-year-old food bank volunteer in ‘desperate’ need of drivers
Ted Peskett – Local Democracy Reporter
An 89-year-old volunteer at a food bank which is in desperate need of drivers said a near miss during the Cardiff Blitz is one of the reasons he decided to help out strangers in his community.
Splott Community Volunteers, which leases a part of The STAR Centre on Splott Road from Cardiff Council, has gone from having a single table for its breakfast club when it was first set up eight years ago to having between 40 and 100 service users through the door each week.
With winter on the horizon, those involved with the charity are anticipating demand on its services to increase.
Among the team at the charity is Ted Bush, a volunteer driver who picks up donated food from shops in the area and delivers it to the community centre where the breakfast club take place every Thursday morning.
Ted said: “It all started about three or four years ago when my wife died and, living alone, I started to mope about the house… feeling rather miserable, and as the days went by I met friends, Fred and Angela, and they said why don’t I volunteer with them.”
Angela Bullard and Fred Bullard are the husband and wife team who started Splott Community Volunteers.
The kindness and generosity Ted experienced after his family home was blown up during a German air raid on January 2, 1941, has remained with him to this day and is one reason why he gets involved with the charity.
Ted’s family was lucky enough to have decided to go to the old Olympia Cinema that day instead of staying at their house on Jubilee Street, Grangetown.
In the middle of watching ‘It’s in the Air’, the audience was urged to leave the cinema and go to the nearest air raid shelter.
Ted, who was eight at the time, said: “We went out… there were lots of incendiary bombs dropped and I remember always a couple of soldier boys trying to kick them out around by Cardiff Castle.
“My father decided, seeing all of this happen, to drive straight out of Cardiff to all of his family in Cwmafan and Port Talbot.”
When describing leaving Cardiff that evening, Ted said: “The car went up, a little Ford 8 up The Tumble of Ely. I looked back and saw Cardiff, which in the past months was in blackness because of the black out, it was all lit up.”
The family stayed the night with family away from Cardiff, but returned the following day.
Ted added: “When we drove back through Ely into Grangetown, there was our house demolished.
“I thought what a lucky person I was that night. The next three or four years I went to live with relations in Cwmafan.
“We lived out there and people were very kind then.
“An aunty in Cwmafan, people and school boys in Cwmafan were friendly and as long as you had a ration book for food you never starved, so things were very lucky indeed.”
After all those years Ted said “I feel I am doing a little service for some people and I love doing it.”
After generating thousands of pounds through a fundraising event at Moorland Park in 2015, Angela and Fred decided to set up the breakfast club.
The initial idea was to just help the homeless, but the couple quickly realised the sheer scale of the group of people caught up in food poverty.
Angela said it was a huge shock to her when she realised how many working people were going hungry.
On the growth of the breakfast club, which moved from its original home at Old Splott Library to The STAR Centre in March 2023, Angela said: “We used to have a table in the middle of the room with chairs around it.
“We grew to two tables, then four tables, and now we have got, I think it is 10 tables out there and it is a constant change over as well.
“I think it has come about because of the food crisis at the moment and the cost of living. It is just dire for an awful lot of people.”
Cardiff Council, like many local authorities across the UK, provided warm spaces through its libraries and hubs last winter to help people who were struggling with the cost of living crisis.
Splott Community Volunteers said they also helped out last year and are expecting to be busy this winter as well.
The charity is desperate for volunteer drivers who can pick up food donations and deliver it to the food bank.
She added: “There is always something to do, but we are desperate for drivers to pick up the food that is provided by the supermarkets and as long as we have enough, we could have a pool of drivers.
“Even if they could only do one of the pick ups from one of the shops each week and sometimes that could take a maximum of half an hour.
“If they could commit that each week, that is all we ask for.”
Visitors to The STAR Centre, which also includes a children’s play area, said the service has been invaluable.
One woman who goes along to the breakfast club, Sara Jones, said walking into the centre is like being given a big hug.
Sara, 33, said: “It is like constantly having a big sister to turn to.
“It helps so much especially with everything going on, the money worries. It helps take away the stress from the poverty and struggles of life.”
Sara added: “Once you have covered the bills, you are left with pennies, so it just helps a tremendous amount to cope and continue to live a life that everyone deserves.
“You shouldn’t have bare cupboards or no food. This place is great. It is so life changing.”
Thanks to Lottery grant funding, Splott Community Volunteers was able to employ a couple of its own members of staff to help manage the increased demand on its services.
Roxanne Bainbridge, who became the project manager at the charity in March, said the work that it does is close to her heart.
“I grew up in north Wales, but my family experienced food poverty,” said Roxanne, 27.
“I remember my mum skipping meals and I just think if something like this had existed it would have made our lives so much easier.
“There is that community aspect, but also then the food support I know goes a long way and really does help people.”
On the people who use the charity’s services, Roxanne added: “Some people might just come in for the breakfast.
“We have a lot of people who accessed us first because they were experiencing food poverty but actually have stayed for the community aspect and they won’t take the food bag because they don’t feel they need it.
“Numbers only seem to be increasing as well. We did think that maybe come summer we would experience a bit of a decline as we come out of the winter… but that has just not been the case.
“If anything, we are seeing more new people access our service. It is really busy.”
One of the Cardiff Council ward members for Splott, Councillor Ed Stubbs, has been heavily involved with Splott Community Volunteers.
He has also urged anyone who is willing to help pick up and deliver food for the breakfast club and food bank to reach out to the charity.
Cllr Stubbs, who chairs the charity, said: “Our volunteers are amazing people and make a huge difference. As the cost of living crisis bites, we are looking to support more and more people.
“The move to our own premises helps us do this but we need some additional help picking up food. If anyone can help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.”
If you are interested in volunteering as a driver for Splott Community Volunteers, you can find out more here.
You can also contact the charity for further information by emailing [email protected]
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