‘It’s all about dig­nity and hu­man­ity – sim­ple as that’

Evening Times - - NEWS - BY CAT COCHRANE Com­mu­nity re­porter

IF you want some­thing done in your com­mu­nity, do it your­self.

And, with a lit­tle help from his friends, of course, East End man John Lyons has done just that.

As gen­eral man­ager of Carn­tyne and Rid­drie Credit Union, John works hard to break down barriers pre­vent­ing peo­ple across the city gaining ac­cess food banks.

The for­mer civil ser­vant be­came an­gry at see­ing neigh­bours and fel­low mem­bers of his com­mu­nity left feel­ing ashamed as they asked for help with the most ba­sic of hu­man needs, so eight years ago, he de­cided to do some­thing about it.

“We used to col­lect food and take it to a lo­cal food bank and I dropped by to see how the process worked.” John ex­plained.” It was then I learned that peo­ple needed a red re­fer­ral slip from their doc­tor or so­cial ser­vices in or­der to re­ceive food parcels.

“At one par­tic­u­lar food bank I saw ev­ery age group come and go, and they were ab­so­lutely hor­ri­fied and ashamed to be there.

“A young mother came in with three kids and the guy as­sist­ing her asked: ‘Are the kids all from the same fa­ther?’ I was furious, as I thought what dif­fer­ence does it make?”

It was the cat­a­lyst for John form­ing Glas­gow’s first non­re­fer­ral food bank.

By call­ing into the Credit Union com­mu­nity cen­tre, peo­ple in need can by­pass the stress of wait­ing for so­cial ser­vices ap­point­ments and fill­ing out forms.

John lis­tens to peo­ple’s re­al­is­tic di­etary re­quire­ments, and food bags are made on a be­spoke ba­sis with very lit­tle go­ing to waste. Be­sides food as­sis­tance, nap­pies, for­mula and baby clothes can be ac­cessed from the baby bank on the same non-re­fer­ral ba­sis.

Grow­ing a food do­na­tion net­work in the East End has been key to the de­vel­op­ment of John’s non-re­fer­ral sys­tem. One of the many part­ners in that net­work is Su­san Wil­son, com­mu­nity cham­pion at Tesco Park­head.

Su­san or­gan­ises food drives within the store that sup­ply do­na­tions of food, toi­letries and fur­ni­ture to fam­i­lies and home­less peo­ple in need.

She says: “We have a lot of sur­plus food so we are able to work with John con­tin­u­ously in giv­ing do­na­tions. We pass it on know­ing that the food is be­ing shared among peo­ple who need it most.”

One res­i­dent who has ben­e­fit­ted from that model of com­mu­nity shar­ing is a lo­cal mother-of-nine who ran into difficulty when her wash­ing ma­chine broke down in the past few weeks.

“My ma­chine stopped and I was told it would cost £160 to get it fixed, which I didn’t have.

“It was mur­der as I was wash­ing all the fam­ily’s clothes in the bath. I men­tioned it to John and within a week he’d found us a new ma­chine which was only a few months old,” she said.

When the grate­ful mum

let­[email protected] evening­times. co.uk or

on Face­book or Twit­ter popped into John to give a do­na­tion to the food bank as a thank you, she walked out with a bag of Easter eggs for her chil­dren to en­joy.

Like many oth­ers, her fam­ily share bad ex­pe­ri­ences of ac­cess­ing re­fer­ral food banks, as she adds: “At ev­ery other one I know of, I needed a red slip and it has to be taken to the food bank within three days. It’s em­bar­rass­ing to walk in and get sent away only be­cause I was a day late.

“It’s also hard to hunt around and find out who is go­ing to re­fer you. A lot of peo­ple I know don’t find out about how to get a re­fer­ral which sim­ply means they go starv­ing.”

John says: “It’s all about dig­nity and hu­man­ity, it’s sim­ple as that.”

John Lyons at Carn­tyne and Rid­drie Com­mu­nity Cen­tre (Photo by Jamie Simp­son/Her­ald & Times).

John (mid­dle) and Su­san Wil­son (sec­ond right) at Tesco Park­head dur­ing a food drive

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