A “warm welcome” was being offered to those in need of some extra support this week after temperatures plummeted in Biddulph.
As the first snow of winter fell, the town council rallied to make sure community groups worked together to provide help, while charity leaders were determined not to leave residents out in the cold.
The Biddulph Works Together scheme, organised from the town hall, ensures that anyone struggling with bills can get a free meal and a place to stay warm at a different venue every day of the week in Biddulph.
Town councillor Wayne Rogers wanted to spread the message. He said: “In my 18 years as a councillor, I’ve never known people to be in as much need as they are now. It’s a sad situation. I don’t know how certain people are going to cope; I really don’t.”
He was worried that some may not know about the help on offer in Biddulph or might be too embarrassed to take it.
He reassured residents: “They are all very friendly people. They are there to help and assist the best way they can. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Amanda Beech, founder and chair of The Green Tree House Social Supermarket, offers a free hot drink, hot soup and a toastie to anyone who wants one from 10am until 2pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
She agreed with Coun Rogers.
“Everybody’s welcome. We’re all in the same boat, including our volunteers. Our electricity bill in the shop has gone up from £170 to £300 a month. We’ve had to find the money to stay open so we can keep helping people.”
Ms Beech, who started the charity in 2014, explained: “In our Biddulph shop, we’ve had a 53% increase in the last few months of people coming in for food. It’s just getting worse.”
She added: “We do get full some days, but we can always squash people in. Everybody’s really friendly. You just sit down where there’s a seat. It’s lovely to hear everyone chatting away. It’s like a little family.”
Antony Capostagno, the centre manager at Biddulph Youth and Community Zone, said: “Everyone’s feeling a bit vulnerable, unsure and scared at the moment, but it’s nice for everybody to come together and feel safe.”
He explained that people often felt too shy to ask for help at first. He said: “That’s the first hurdle but once they get over that then the door opens for them to have access to all sorts of other services that could help them.”
A leaflet showing what is available in Biddulph throughout the week is now available to pick up from many venues around the town, including the town hall. It can also be found on Biddulph Town Council’s social media page.