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Sole Mates support the Jigsaw Christmas Food Bank

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Mince pies, mulled cider and a warm welcome awaited over 80 of the Darley Dale based Jog Derbyshire group Sole Mates on Tuesday night who had swapped their normal run at Whitworth Park to pack Christmas food bank parcels at the Church in the Peak ready for distribution across Derbyshire villages.

Clare, one of the Jog Leaders explained how this came about.

“We were doing one of our normal Thursday night runs in the park in the summer and were chatting to a group of runners and it turns out that some of our regulars (Julia and Neal) volunteer at the Food Bank and we talked about what we could do to help at Christmas. They gave us a list of items that we could donate and to come and do the packing tonight.

“When we asked the wider group who’d be interested, there was no hesitation and people were asking ‘Can we bring the children?’. We’ve always been inclusive of children and this is a brilliant learning curve for them. Tonight, people have also brought friends and family members who don’t run with us, so it’s a proper family event.”

Youngsters Callum, Caitlin and Isaac commented:

“I think it’s great here, sharing good things, sharing Christmas spirit so that everyone can enjoy Christmas.

“It’s my 9th birthday today, it’s fun, it’s awesome! We’ve helped pack family bags. I’ve put crackers and mince pies and sweets in these bags. We jog at Whitworth Park on Tuesdays”

Food Banks on the Increase

Data released by the Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest food bank provider, shows more than 820,000 emergency food parcels were given out between April and September 2019, making it the busiest half-year period for food banks in the charity’s network since it opened. This trend is also reflected in the Matlock area which has seen a steady growth in demand since it started in 2010.

Julia and Neal Garratt from Church in the Peak described how it works

“The Jigsaw food bank has developed gradually. We started packing food parcels in people’s houses about 9 years ago and it’s grown and grown. We work with FareShare in Derby, getting supplies fortnightly. We work with Sainsbury’s from the customers and the stores themselves and Marks and Spencer’s. Every week we deliver about 50 food parcels. Obviously at Christmas time there’s increased need. The Job Centre, Citizen’s advice, they all know about us so that if anyone’s in need they can come here, and we’ve always got food parcels ready.

“Food bank runs every single week, unfortunately with changes in benefits, people fall through the cracks, anyone in need through Social Care gets put in touch with us. They get 6 weeks initially then it gets reassessed. As a church we have about 40 volunteers involved every week. We have a clothes bank at the back and a café every Wednesday which is a free 3 course meal for people who are really struggling with life. The whole thing adds up to social action.

“When you do the deliveries, you see how people are in need and it can literally happen in a couple of weeks, someone loses their job or can’t work because they’re ill and suddenly if they’ve got no savings they’re in real trouble. What’s great to see is later on, people are back on their feet and they say they couldn’t have done it without the food bank.

“It’s good to get the community involved whether they come to church or not, we welcome anyone. It’s hard when you’re looking at volunteers all the time, nobody’s paid, people are giving up their time, giving up their food.”

Many Hands Make Light Work

Following a briefing from Dave who volunteers at the food bank, the runners and their families in festive hats and Christmas jumpers filed out into the car park towards another unit where the donations are stored. Bags of toiletries, bottles of juice, boxes of biscuits, Christmas puddings, crackers, chocolates and tins of soup were stacked high ready to be sorted into labelled paper bags for distribution.

Julia and Neal describe their surprise at the level of support

“They’re an amazing group [Sole Mates], when I saw on the Facebook group that 40 people had signed up, I thought that 20 might come along but there are over 80 here tonight. We’ve never had so many people help, so it takes a bit of organising. It’s a great atmosphere, really good fun.

The Growth of Sole Mates

Rachel West founded the Sole Mates Jogging Group which is part of the Jog Derbyshire network. This year the group won a Community Award for their contribution to the local area and they are one of several groups who are part of the Derbyshire Mind / Jog Derbyshire joint initiative ‘Get Set to Go’ encouraging people with mental health illness to give jogging a try through the Couch to 5k programme which starts in the New Year.

The connection with Jigsaw food bank is particularly pertinent for Rachel

“This is really emotional for me because when my Mum and Dad split up when we were younger, the first Christmas we had to use a food bank. I remember this parcel coming along, I think it might have been the Salvation Army at the time, and there were all these things that people had been so generous and donated.

“You don’t realise the significance of that at the time as a child, it was just exciting things that arrived, but without that, I don’t know what that first Christmas would have been like, we obviously needed it. It’s quite emotional being part of this and giving back to other people.”

“It’s an incredible turn out tonight. Every run we ever have is incredible in terms of how many people we get down and every night is a celebration when everyone gets together. Seeing how many people want to help with this is really inspiring as to what else we could do and how we could help other people.”

Joggers Lorraine Smith and Mandy Thorpe explained their journey from the couch to running regularly with Sole Mates

“I heard about Sole Mates from a couple of friends who said I should give it a go, we started with a couch to 5k and we’ve never looked back. We’ve made new friends, it’s been nice to get to know new people, lose a bit of weight, get fitter. We ran all the way through January and February which was quite astounding and we can still throw a 5k out now when we need to! It’s all good!

“Everyone in Sole Mates is so encouraging of everyone else, it’s a lovely group, it keeps you motivated being part of a group. I don’t think I would go out running on my own. We don’t like letting each other down and we always know that we feel absolutely brilliant after we’ve done it. Even if you just want to get out and have a walk, there’s always somebody at the back that will stop with you and support you.

“I think we could definitely do more of this because it’s a big group it’s good to get us all together to do something else rather than running, especially in the winter when it’s freezing and we’ve all got our head torches on and we can’t even see each other. It’s good to get together and feel like you’re making a difference too, doing something positive.”

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