The launch of Operation Love Thy Neighbour

If the phrase Love Thy Neighbour causes you to think of a 1970s sitcom, you’re probably of a similar vintage as I am. This article is nothing to do with that though, this article is all about the food bank, named Operation Love Thy Neighbour, being operated by West Croydon Seventh day Adventist Church directly from their premises at 45-49 Union Road, Croydon CR0 2XU.

The food bank commenced on the 21st June 2020 and is serving the immediate local community and beyond. Running every Sunday between 1pm – 3pm it supplies fresh, tinned and dried foods, toiletries, kitchen & bathroom cleaning products and other sundry items. Hot meals are also provided for takeaway.

The founders of this initiative are members of the church and are all extremely enthused at the prospect of being able to help the wider community as well as their own church community during these worrying times. Here are some of their comments:

Steve Piddington has been wanting to do something like this for a very long time, he was inspired by past projects aimed at providing food for the homeless and he also believed that the building at 45-49 Union Road was made available to the church for the purpose of serving the community in a way transcending that of being solely a place of worship. The main objective of the food bank, as the name suggests, is to provide food for those in the community who are impoverished and unable to provide for themselves, as well as being able to demonstrate in the most practical way, the love of God.

Grace Whyte remarked that it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet the needs of those in our immediate community in a very personal way. Those who take up the opportunity to utilise the facilities provided at the food bank, find friendly faces happy to serve, talk and pray with them if they request prayer. Recognising that they are not able to meet every need they are also working at how to best signpost clientele to other services such as housing and mental health care facilities.

The food bank works in conjunction with other charities such as Croydon Voluntary Action and FareShare who provide donations as well as one of the local Tesco stores. Croydon Voluntary Action, FareShare and Croydon Council advertise the food bank on their websites and this is reflected in the number of those making use of the foodbank. In the short time the food bank has been in operation they have already provided hundreds of hot meals and food parcels for the immediate community and additionally some church members.

As Grace highlighted, in-reach is just as important as outreach. If this pandemic has shown anything it’s that people who believe in God are no less vulnerable to hunger than those who do not believe.

Clifford Whyte (widely acknowledged as the driving force behind Operation Love Thy Neighbour) has put in a lot of work to get the project off the ground. He was instrumental in convincing the leadership of West Croydon SDA Church that the church was in a great position to make a positive impact in the community. His love for his fellow man motivated him to be persistent and consistent in his appeals to the church to do something during this pandemic. His efforts, in conjunction with his fellow founding members, have resulted in Operation Love Thy Neighbour. The response from the community has been extremely positive. He would advise anyone wanting to start a food bank at their own church, not to be discouraged if others do not immediately see the vision that you have.

Michelle Phillips stated that she was extremely passionate about helping those who could not help themselves and that she is very enthused about the positive things that are going to happen as a result of this initiative. Michelle believes that it is incumbent on herself to volunteer her time and energy every Sunday as she sees it as an amazing opportunity to build relationships with people she may not ordinarily meet.

All those involved in Operation Love Thy Neighbour are determined that this is not something that will disappear once the pandemic is over, they see it as an umbrella type initiative under which many different beneficial community projects could be launched.

Currently volunteers come mainly from West Croydon, Croydon and Pollards Hill SDA Churches. West Croydon members reciprocate the assistance by volunteering at Croydon SDA Church’s food bank project which operates every Tuesday from 6pm-7.30pm at 95 Selhurst Road, London SE25 6LH.

For those wishing to come and get involved irrespective of your age, social circumstances or religious convictions, there is a place here for you to come and help the poor and needy in the borough of Croydon. For more information on how to get involved or to make a donation please visit our dedicated page as any help or donation will be gratefully received. CLICK HERE

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