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Dedicated couple offer helping hand to struggling Basildon residents
A COUPLE who dedicate their lives to making a positive change in the community are launching a job club and food bank to help the most disadvantaged residents in Basildon.
Pam McKay, 61, and husband John, 63, are working hard to set up Helping Hands early next year.
The organisation will provide a job club to get unemployed residents back to work.
Mr and Mrs McKay hope to transform an empty space at Lee Chapel North Community Centre, on Ballards Walk, into a computer room where people can search the internet for jobs, write CVs and fill out application forms.
They are also keen to get local businesses on board and encourage them to offer any available job positions to needy people from the Basildon area.
Mr McKay said: “More people are becoming unemployed every day, and just because someone has been working it doesn’t mean they have money in the bank. By coming to us they can look for work but also find out about what help is available to them.”
Lee Chapel North Helping Hands will also offer a foodbank service to vulnerable residents.
Outside organisations such as the Jobcentre Plus and Basildon Council will make recommendations on those who are struggling to eat and issue coupons.
After redeeming these at Lee Chapel North Community Centre people will be handed long-life essentials such as tinned food, rice, pasta, biscuits, powdered milk, toiletries and toilet roll.
Mrs McKay said: “It will help people of all ages but especially those who are having their benefits stopped, so probably families and single parents. There are also a lot of elderly people out there who are on their own and struggling.
“The food bank idea started as a mention but it has grown momentum really quickly. We already have a cupboard full of food which has been donated.”
The couple, who have nine grandchildren, stepped in to save the Lee Chapel North Holiday Club 18 months ago and keep kids off the streets.
They now have more than 1,000 children on their books and earlier this year formed an over-50s social club after being inspired by the Diamond Jubilee.
Despite retiring three years ago, Mr and Mrs McKay now work seven days a week running the clubs, organising fundraising events and sitting on the Lee Chapel North Community Panel.
Having brought their family up in a small village the couple were surrounded by a close-knit community and they believe this is why they chose to support people in Basildon.
Mrs McKay said: “There were times when we didn’t have enough money for food but the girls in the village would club together to make sure we never went hungry. And if I had some money going spare I would help someone out with their electricity metre, that’s how it worked.
“If you have family and support network around you then you can get through bad times.”
The couple are now looking for businesses to get involved with the food bank, or donate old office furniture to the job club so it can be up and running by their February deadline.
Michelle Fairchild, community development officer at Basildon Council, said: “I think what comes across about Pam and John is that they’re passionate about the area they live in and what is around them. It’s an old fashioned feeling or bringing the community closer together.”
To find out how you can become involved in Helping Hands call Pam McKay on 01268 419643.
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