Stanborough Park Church works in partnership with Co-op employees to feed Watford's homeless
28th September 2018
Homeless people in Watford enjoyed a free meal at the GoKula cafe in Watford on the evening of Thursday, 20 September thanks to a new weekly initiative by volunteers from Co-op stores in the Watford area with some help from Stanborough Park church.
The Feeding the Homeless project was the brainchild of Co-op employee Enoch Kanageraj who happens to run the Stanborough Park church's Community Chaplaincy service and is keen to give the church a greater profile in the community by involving it in various local charitable projects.
The Co-op likes to see itself as being at the heart of the community and involve itself in local charitable projects as well. Enoch's store is one of the Food Share stores, so he has been able to meet locals who work with the homeless for some time. He felt that the Co-op could help local homeless people by providing them with a cooked meal once a week and gain the support of his area manager.
The owner of the GoKula cafe is a recipient of the Co-op Food Share scheme and uses the food she collects to cook meals for the homeless on Monday evenings. So it was a natural place to use as a base for the project. Enoch was able to offer the church's kitchen to prepare the meals and the use of the Soup Run's minibus to transport the volunteers and food to the cafe and all he needed was the volunteers and he found that the Co-op employees shared his enthusiasm for the project.
Enoch shares the account in his own words:
"GoKula is a vegetarian restaurant in the centre of Watford and on a Monday, they use donated food to cook for the homeless. I'm proud to say they are now one of our Food Share recipients.
"From seeing this service in action a few weeks ago I decided that we could do something to support so ten volunteers spent Thursday afternoon cooking a vegetarian curry, rice and samosas in the Stanborough Park church kitchen, before piling into the minibus. It was like a day trip to the seaside as singing broke out in the minibus as we travelled across town.
"We attracted a lot of attention dressed in our blue and white Co-op T-shirts and aprons arriving at our destination with pots of steaming hot curry across the busy traffic.
"The word that we were coming had been spread and by the time we were ready to open the door at 6:30 pm an orderly queue had formed. We opened the doors and as the smell of the curry wafted out people who would normally be begging that night or just going hungry were able to come in from the cold and select as much as they wanted to eat and drink.
"Some were very quiet and just ate and left with a brief nod, not really sure what to make of what had just happened. Others were chattier and happier to engage.
"Some people mentioned how long it was since they had eaten anything at all; this was the first hot meal in a long while. Shyly, some looked over to catch someone's eye to see if they could ask for a second helping or a parcel to take away for a hungry friend. Most people, having had plenty to eat and drink left with a package of food under their arm. It was surprising to see just how much some people drank ‒ a couple of cups of tea and a couple of cups of juice ‒ because of course... when did they last have a drink? When you're on the streets even a bottle of water is a luxury.
"Around the room there were lots of small huddles of store managers talking to people, asking them about their story and just having a conversation. The evening being more than eating food was also about making people who are mostly just ignored feel welcome and supported for the first time in a long while.
"We served over forty hungry and lonely people on that Thursday, no one left unfed. The food we had left over didn't go to waste either ‒ The Haven, which provides temporary accommodation for people in need, gratefully accepted two large bags of food from us to use for lunch the next day."
Enoch regarded the evening as 'inspirational' and thanked the volunteers who gave their time, cooked with love and spoke with compassion and for one evening made a big difference to the street dwellers in the town.
Jef Nascimento from Stanborough Park Church was pleased that he volunteered to join the team and found the experience worthwhile. "I really like how the church tries to involve itself with the community in different ways. Tonight, I had the chance to talk to some of the homeless people and it got me thinking how I can give more support to projects like this and to them." He continued, "I met a girl, she is only 22 years old and living on the streets. It is nice that we can give them food and clothes but this is not enough. I talked to a man that was walking by and he was happy with the initiative and is willing to come to help too. I hope we will be able to grow and give real support to these people."