Over the last few months, a woman we have dubbed the Saviour of Sandwich, Annemarie Huigen, has helped hundreds of families in Sandwich through COVID by providing them with, not only food bags, but other essentials such as nappies, baby wipes and clothes among more vital items.
The Sandwich New Market Manager started a JustGiving page back in May, raising £895 to go towards the food bags and with many residents of the town calling on Annemarie to get an award for helping many from hitting rock bottom, we caught up with Sandwich’s own community hero Annemarie to find out more…
What inspired you to make food parcels for the residents of Sandwich and how did the process come about?
Having been involved with receiving donations for the local Women’s Refuge I thought that maybe people in Sandwich and surrounding areas needed some help. As lockdown approached, I thought that perhaps there would be people who maybe fell through the cracks regarding local food banks and that we at St Peters Church could fill those cracks providing a Bag for Life filled with food and essentials to people who maybe could not access local services. What started as an idea between myself and my other volunteers gained momentum and suddenly, we were inundated with people asking for help.
Did you always know there was such a high rate of families in need in the district or were you initially shocked at the numbers that needed help?
What shocked all of us was the high number of people that needed our help to provide not only food but clothes for them and their family. We didn’t realize the severity of people that were in need of help and the high number of people, not only families but the elderly, who couldn’t get to the shops, people who had to stop working. Distant relatives contacted us to help their elderly relatives with a food bag. We never asked questions about why they needed a food bag we just provided it.
Do you know how many in total you delivered and is this still a system you currently run combined with the food bank?
From March 17th to June 13th when we finished, we provided:
- 269 Bags for Life filled with food and essentials
- 42 packets of nappies
- 83 packets of baby wipes
- We helped with gas and electric, clothes, toys and various baby items
We have now stopped doing the food bags but all the funds raised from the clothes and items we sell at St Peters still help families with things they might need.
Although there must have been some shockingly sad and emotional deliveries, there must have also been some powerfully heart-warming moments during this, could you tell readers what you enjoyed most about making these food parcels?
We have had people crying when we have helped them and some truly shocking sad cases of people who, through no fault of their own, found them having to come to us.
We enjoyed making the Bags for Life up and including little treats that had been donated to us like Easter Eggs for the children and packets of biscuits for an elderly lady who enjoyed a biscuit with her cup of tea.
The community of Sandwich have expressed how incredible you have been through these extremely troubling times, has it always been in your nature to help people from a young age and is there an ethos you live your life by?
I have always tried to help people less fortunate than myself. I have been there, I lived in a refuge and temporary accommodation where I had to use a food bank to feed myself and my family. I was helped by various organisations and now I have a stable life and am happy. Everyone deserves to be happy and safe and not have to worry about how they are going to clothe and feed their family.
You take from the well, you give back to the well, that’s how I try and live my life!
How were you personally able to adapt and come through lockdown?
I work in travel so I have had no work and I don’t think I will have till 2021. I am grateful that I have been allowed to run the Care and Share from St Peters Church and am extremely grateful to my army of volunteers who have helped me get through a difficult time. I know that my volunteers also benefited from the church being open and it really helped their mental health. This was a team effort and I want to thank Christine Wood, Carole Philpott and Bob Silk who every day came and filled bags, picked up donations and generally kept me sane!
Also, to everyone who donated food and money to help us, The Toll Bridge Fund gave us a small grant and the JustGiving Page also raised a fantastic amount of money that kept us going so A BIG THANK YOU.
Since re-opening the Thursday market how has it been and are there any worries from the food stalls if there is a second spike where you have to close the market again?
I am aware of the possibility of a second spike but myself and my stall holders take every precaution both outside and inside the church. We all hope that we won’t have to close the market.
Although many events have been postponed, are there any interesting activities/events you’re hoping to see in Sandwich in 2020?
We have a weekly craft market on a Saturday that we are running till September. This is helping stall holders out whose whole year has been wiped out from the cancellation of events.
We will be having a small event over the Bank Holiday with stalls inside and outside the church and some other items happening around the town. All social distancing measures put in place, of course.
You can find St Peter’s Church at Market Street, Sandwich CT13 9DA and keep up to date online by visiting the St Peters Church Care and Share Facebook page.