Four congregations in the greater Ballyclare area have partnered together to help reach families who receive free school meals or whose financial circumstances have changed due to the COVID19 pandemic over the summer.
The partnership is made up of two Presbyterian churches and two Church of Ireland churches in the area. They are working together to provide a picnic lunch for families every Tuesday which can be collected at pick up points within the area.
Deaconess for Ballyclare Presbyterian, Michelle Purdy shared that the churches already had ‘a good foundational relationship that has grown in practical ways through the COVID19 pandemic. Pick up a Picnic is the second initiative together.’
The first initiative was Together for Ballyclare which ran a telephone line helping to collect prescriptions, do shopping, deliver the government food parcels and offer a friendly voice to those who wanted it. In the first ten weeks over 600 calls were taken and over 200 volunteers registered, all from 24 congregations.
Pick up a Picnic stems from the distribution centre for Newtownabbey Foodbank set up in Ballyclare. This is a multi-congregational initiative that has been operating for over five years in the town. Volunteers noticed that over the last few years uptake from families that receive free school meals was very low. They felt this was partly down to the stigma attached to using a foodbank. This year, with the added challenges due to COVID19, children missed out on free school meals and so the summer months would continue to be difficult for families in this area.
In the last three weeks we had over 20 families have registered for the scheme. They receive one picnic lunch a week which is packed according to family size. It contains sandwiches, drink, snack and fruit for each person. Volunteers from the Presbyterian and Church of Ireland in Ballyclare make the sandwiches and pack the lunches, while volunteers from the Church of Ireland congregations in Ballynure and Templepatrick staff the collection points there. Kilbride Presbyterian is also a collection point. Young people from Girls’ Brigade and Boys’ Brigade companies have been involved in distributing leaflets for the scheme.
For more information on the scheme http://ballyclarepresbyterian.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Pick-up-a-picnic.pdf or email firstname.lastname@example.org