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Burton Soup Kitchen puts on festive feast for those struggling in the area

Thu 5 Jan 2017

Burton Soup Kitchen puts on festive feast for those struggling in the areaBurton Soup Kitchen puts on festive feast for those struggling in the area

Christmas and the New Year is a time that can be taken for granted by those who are able to spend it with loved ones feasting on turkey with the trimmings and exchanging gifts.

However, for the homeless, the season to be jolly just magnifies problems they face in putting a roof over their head and eating a hot meal on a daily basis.

It is an issue that Mick Cramp has been attempting to resolve for the past five years, by providing a place for those struggling financially to go for shelter and food.

Burton Soup Kitchen, in Rangemore Street, is a place visited by those who are in need of food. In most cases, it will be their only hot meal of the day.

Those struggling over the festive period were treated to a four course meal and a present each, courtesy of the Burton Soup Kitchen

The 70-year-old, who is the chairman of the kitchen, along with volunteers put on a Christmas meal for 22 people in need – which reduced some to tears.

He said: "We put on a four course meal for those who visit the soup kitchen. We cooked a turkey dinner, cheese and biscuits, trifle and apple crumble. They left well fed. "Each of them left with a present to open on Christmas day. There was one or two people who couldn't believe that they had a gift. They were crying with happiness."

Mr Cramp, who took early retirement and volunteered at a pensioner's luncheon club before taking up his current position, said that it was vital that places such as Burton Soup Kitchen existed.

He said: "In this day and age we should not need to have places like this. There are about three other places across town where people can go for food. It is important that this service carries on."

On an average day, 15 people walk through the side entrance doors of the soup kitchen. On a bad day more than 20 people seeking comfort through soup will appear. It is a situation which is disconcerting to the chairman, who 'never turns anyone away'.

Three days a week people who cannot afford to eat a hot meal are able to eat endless bowls of soup at the kitchen based in Rangemore Street

He said: "It is not just the homeless that visit the kitchen, people can fall on hard times. We do tend to see the people who sleep rough, however, there are a lot more people who need help that we don't see. There are people sleeping in sheds and garages. It is hard to know how many people need help."

Those that do turn to the soup kitchen for momentary respite get treated like royalty. While socialising with others in similar situations, they are waited on hand and foot.

Endless bowls of soup, plates of bread and an unlimited number of cups of tea and coffee are served from the small kitchen area for those in need to enjoy.

Joanne Stoney helps to serve bowls of soup and makes tea and coffee for those seeking shelter and comfort through food

However, Mr Cramp does not work tirelessly by himself. He runs a tight-knit unit of volunteers that come in on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday to ensure that, between the hours of noon and 2pm, the needs of the troubled is their number one priority.

Despite spending numerous years supporting the people in need of a hot meal, Mr Cramp said that he had not become desensitised to people's situations.

He said: "You still get effected by people's story. Every time you hear the reasons why they have to use the soup kitchen you wonder why there is no safety net to catch them. The system lets a lot of them down."

"It is not just food which is in high demand, but also toiletries. There is not a soup tree, nor does a stork drop toothbrushes and cans of deodorant at the front door in a knapsack. The Burton Soup Kitchen relies heavily on generous donations from organisations, charities and individuals in the area.

"This year has been crazy. I'm having messages most days from people asking where they can donate items and if they can volunteer. A lot of people donate around this time, but I have been trying to ask people to keep items and donate them in May. It tends to drop off around then. It is very humbling."