There’s not many problems that can’t be solved over a cup of tea and a hot meal at The Pennygate Foundation.
All kinds of people with all kinds of difficulties walk through the door of the centre, set up as a charity for the community in Spalding.
They may be elderly and not eating well at home, lonely, bereaved or in need of help or advice.
Some people go there because they have nothing to eat at home – and the centre hands out food parcels – or because they need to make use of the centre’s bathroom to have a quick wash.
Sometimes though, it’s simply a case of people enjoying the food in the restaurant or cafe and returning to make use of some of the other services on offer, such as alternative therapy treatments, the mother and toddler group or activities in the games room.
Brenda Wickham established the foundation with Dr Azeema Nathu. In her role as chair of social care for Healthwatch, Brenda could see the effect of financial cuts coming into force.
Brenda said: “Dr Nathu kept phoning me up and saying, ‘Where do I find this service for a patient?’ and I would tell her it had closed down. We kept saying we should do something.”
Now, Brenda is attempting to fill that void six days a week, with the assistance of around ten volunteers plus June Page, who helps Brenda with the cooking twice a week.
Brenda says: “We are a true charity; nobody gets paid and we don’t have any grants or anything like that.
“Everybody gives their time. My volunteers are absolutely liquid gold. They give their time and they make a difference to people’s lives.
“We have fun, we are a friendly lot, we have a laugh.”
It’s the food that is at the core of everything, with between 40 and 50 nutritious, affordable meals cooked each weekday (noon-2pm) as well as meals on wheels, take-aways and afternoon teas on Saturdays (1-4pm).
On Christmas Day last year, 110 four-course meals were cooked – bookings are being taken for this year’s feast – 01775 421001. The women also do outside catering, which helps to pay for the running of the centre.
The meals are important because they give people the chance to meet others and chat, but there is other essential work going on at the centre too.
For instance, Rape Crisis meets clients there and there is support available for people due to appear in court. Brenda says if someone walks through the door with a problem she will see them straight away, even if it’s just listening or filling out forms.
She said: “If a group has a need then we’ll look at what that need is and how many people and put something on that covers it.”