Clair Blair volunteers on the Yorkshire Pantry. She came into contact with us during the pandemic when she ran into difficulties with her benefits.  She also has underlying health issues. Here she tells her story.

COVID 19 came out of the blue for me.  I had no time to sort out anything as I had to isolate due to my underlying health issues and contact with people who could have had the virus.

Told to stay in when you leave by yourself and have only a limited income is hard at the best of times and would raise anyone’s anxiety levels through the roof. The world as we knew it changed overnight.

Food shopping was hard, going out and the food you usually buy is no longer available, having to go further away than usual just to buy essential items that you need.

There were no face-to-face appointments and no internet connection to fill out forms.  There were no support staff to help with daily living which a lot of people rely upon each week.  It caused a lot of people to lose benefits and they had to go to food banks.

St Giles is a blessing.  It’s local, it has food that you can choose yourself.  And the Pantry only costs £3.50 each week to join and you also get help with benefits, housing, bills etc all under one roof.

St Giles helps anyone who is in need of support and all you have to do is register for the service. Without it, many families in Leeds would suffer even more than usual. Not being able to eat a full meal at least twice a day is bad, sometimes people only eat once a day and that could be only a bowl of cereal.

Times are hard for everyone but if we stand together and keep each other safe by wearing our masks and washing our hands more often than usual we’ll be good to go.

Next year marks the 60th anniversary of St Giles and I’m hoping for another 60 years plus.  The staff are so kind and caring, polite, respectful. friendly and helpful to all who come through the doors.

Their staff are trained in all aspects of life as they’ve lived it.

They are always welcoming no matter what the situation is – big or small – helpful is the word that I would use to describe all the staff.  No matter who you are they speak to you with empathy and care.

They listen to what you have to say and direct you to the right people who can help if they at St Giles can’t.  They will help you the best they can and put you in touch with the right people.

St Giles put food on my table and gave me a new lease of life.

They gave me hope.

Clair Blair

Volunteer St Giles Pantry (Yorkshire)

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