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Thanks to the "huge" generosity of the Lawrence-Tuapeka community last year, the area’s Combined Church Foodbank was now in a position to help people struggling with financial commitments also, joint co-ordinator Stephanie Swann said.
Mrs Swann said the spontaneous upsurge in donations of food and cash to the foodbank came about in reaction to the Covid-19 crisis, as local people sought avenues to help their fellow residents.
"As fast as we were finding need in the community, we were receiving further donations. Last year was quite extraordinary in terms of people’s generosity, and now we’re in a position to use that to find other ways to help our neighbours who might be struggling for one reason or another."
She said the foodbank - run jointly by the St Patrick’s Catholic and Lawrence-Waitahuna Presbyterian parishes - would continue to distribute food packages.
However, people could now also apply or be referred to receive financial assistance from the foodbank’s welfare account.
"If someone is unable to pay for petrol, driving an unwarranted car, struggling to pay a medical bill, needing help to get to social services, or otherwise needing assistance, get in touch."
Payments would be made on behalf of recipients, as no cash would be disbursed directly, she said.
As it was a new strand to the foodbank’s activities, Mrs Swann said she was unsure what level of demand to expect.
However, 10 food packages were given out at Christmas, and further need was being identified "all the time".
"The need has definitely increased during the past year, although whether that’s due to Covid, greater awareness of our presence or other factors it’s hard to say.
"But we’re here to help, and keen to hear from people."
Other foodbanks in the South praised Lawrence for its new initiative.
Community Networks Wanaka manager Kate Murray said financial assistance was also available through her organisation, in parallel with foodbank services.
The Wanaka service had helped about 40 families last year, and received almost three times the donations compared with 2019, which she, too, believed was in response to Covid-19.
Progress of Waikouaiti Area (POWA) community worker Sonya Billyard said her organisation’s foodbank had restarted in response to Covid-19 last year, having wound up only shortly before.
At present, it did not provide financial assistance.
"The demand for food assistance has resumed following Covid but, because we’re just getting going again, we’re not able to offer financial aid at this stage. It might be something we look at further down the track."
Mrs Billyard said POWA supplied about 25 Christmas food hampers last year, compared with just two in 2019.
Lawrence-Tuapeka residents could make inquiries via Mrs Swann on 027655-6691, or Andrew Harrex on 027626-7144.