Over the last few weeks St John’s Church in Grantham, part of the United Parish of the Trinity, has been transformed into a distribution centre for foodbank vouchers, furniture and household goods.  In the run up to Christmas, the church will also become home to a toy bank to make sure that children from struggling families have presents to open on Christmas Day.

The founder of this initiative is Jayne Robb, a Director on the Diocesan Board of Education. She set up the ‘Grantham Area Covid-19 Support Page’ Facebook group in March when the national lockdown began with a dedicated team of seven volunteers from the town some of whom are members of local Churches of all denominations.

Since then they have been helping families and individuals with anything from requests for the basics such as toilet rolls to providing advice and signposting to other agencies. 

The group is now appealing for donations of Christmas gifts and toys, toiletries, festive decorations and tins of biscuits, which will be distributed to families and individuals who need extra help as the winter begins to bite and the festive season approaches. This campaign they have called GRACE ‘Grantham and Rural Area Community Effort' (#GranthamChristmasGrace).

Reverend David Shenton Parish Priest and his colleague Reverend Jonnie Parkin were approached in in early September about using the church as a collection and distribution point.

David said: “I have been the vicar here since 2012 and as a parish outreach has always been a very important part of our life. This includes coffee drop-ins, afternoon teas in partnership with a local residential home and lunches for the lonely and bereaved. None of these activities could happen without the generous support of our church members. Opening our doors to those who need help is integral to the commandment of ‘love thy neighbour’.”

“Many families in this area have been struggling during the coronavirus pandemic and when Jayne contacted us to ask if she could use the church as a base for dropping off donations and also as a hub for the distribution of items we were very happy to help and our  worshippers gladly stepped up to help” said Jonnie. He continued: “There is a real sense of community here in Grantham and people have been very kind and generous in providing food and other items to those in need in these very difficult times.”

The Grantham Support group has an amazing 11,000 followers on Facebook and over the last few months the volunteers have helped hundreds of local families and individuals with food and other vital support. They also work with other local groups and organisations which are running similar schemes so the right help can be offered depending on someone’s circumstances.

Jayne said: “We have been both amazed and humbled by the levels of support received since March. People in our local communities have been affected in different ways – there are families that are now out of work, people who are on furlough or grandparents who have had their hours cut. We have elderly people who are lonely and worried and who have lost their loved ones. If people take the time out to approach us then it’s our duty to listen to their needs and provide whatever support that we can. We are not there to judge.”

She continued: “As Christmas is now fast approaching we decided we would launch our own gift campaign to make sure that our local underprivileged children have something lovely to open on Christmas Day and that everyone can join in Christmas celebrations.”

Gifts and items can be collected from St John the Evangelist Church, on Station Road East, Grantham, every afternoon between 1pm and 3pm from Monday, November 2 until Friday, December 18, as an extra layer of support to the existing help that the group have provided to families and individuals, which will still remain.

The church will be open each day between 2pm and 3pm until Monday, November 2, for donations to be dropped off. You can also get in touch with any of the administrators on the group’s Facebook page or contribute via PayPal to [email protected]

All physical donations will be left untouched at the church for 72 hours to adhere to coronavirus guidelines before they are wiped clean and distributed to the local community.