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In yet another example of County churches serving their local communities in new and creative ways during the cost-of-living crisis, a 'Community Pantry' has been established in Preston.

The pantry initiative by Ribbleton Parish, based at the Community Centre at 450 Watling Street Road in Brookfield, Preston, was opened by the Mayor of Preston, Councillor Neil Darby, this week.

As well as the Mayor, partners from the council, local housing and schools were also on hand to support the launch at the parish, where the new Vicar, Rev Linda Tomkinson and her husband Pete, a Church Army Evangelist, have really hit the ground running.

The pantry is scheduled to be open every Tuesday morning from 10am to noon; creating a community drop-in space providing support.

Fresh and tinned food supplies will be available for those in need, with a referral voucher required which can be obtained at the Centre from the church clergy team; from local school headteachers and local councillors.

The church is asking for an administration donation of £3 per visit for which people receive at least £20 of food, as well as free giveaways; all alongside the use of a play area for children.

Pete Tomkinson said today: “As well as welcoming the Mayor to perform the opening it was great to have support there from councillors and local housing and school engagement officers, as we all work together to provide a joined-up approach to supporting the needs of our community.

“In keeping with tradition, everyone at the opening on Shrove Tuesday was served tea and coffee and the all-important pancakes!"

Over the past few months scores of churches across the Diocese have developed new initiatives or built on existing work to support people struggling to put food on the table or heat their homes at this difficult time.

The Diocese has been tracking and promoting these initiatives in a series of news stories and via a website page where we are collating some of the best examples of this work from Blackpool to Burnley and from Morecambe to Chorley and all points between; with more being added all the time.

Speaking about the Community Pantry today the Bishop of Blackburn-designate, Rt Rev Philip North, said: “I welcome this excellent new initiative from Ribbleton Parish which demonstrates well how churches across Lancashire, working closely with partners from councils and elsewhere, can provide vital and much needed services.

“Even people who may have struggled to get by in the past but somehow still managed to pay their bills, now find themselves facing genuine hardship of a kind not seen for many generations.

“So, in common with Ribbleton, faithful parishes across the County are living out Jesus' message of hope in their positive responses and actions at this time to help their local communities.”

Captions of photos from top to bottom
Pictures by Joy Rushton for Blackburn Diocese

The Mayor of Preston Councillor Neil Darby, left, cuts the ribbon to open the community Pantry as Pete Tomkinson, right, from Ribbleton Parish and supporters look on.

Rev Linda Tomkinson and Pete Tomkinson, Church Army Evangelist, front left and centre, with the Mayor of Preston Councillor Neil Darby, back second from right; Mayor’s Consort Dan Leung, fourth from right and other supporters of the Community Pantry after the opening event.