Inchgarth Community Centre, Garthdee, Aberdeen

The Church of Scotland’s Mannofield Parish Church and Inchgarth Community Centre have entered into a new partnership by employing a Foodbank and Support Project Coordinator. This new post will be managed by Inchgarth Community Centre’s Manager, Paul O’Conner, but is funded entirely by the generosity of the congregational members of Mannofield Parish Church within the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland.

L-R Rev. Keith Blackwood, Victoria Alexander, Paul O’Conner MBE

Victoria Alexander Foodbank and Support Coordinator

The newly appointed coordinator, Victoria Alexander, started on 1st August. Victoria left school and completed a course in child care but didn’t feel driven to pursue that career path. Instead, she was drawn towards community working and worked in Rosie’s café on Esslemont Avenue, Aberdeen, catering for those with mental health issues and also worked as a community champion at Morrisons Supermarket. She recently worked as a support worker for people with additional support needs and this brought her into Inchgarth Community Centre. She says, “I’ve always felt that I could go up and speak to people and found the volunteers at Inchgarth Community Centre really nice and providing such an inclusive approach to people I brought into the free classes offered. It was then I saw the advert for this post and thought… I could go for that”.

Victoria brings a wealth of experience in working with the very same community groups that will be requiring foodbank support and feels privileged to have been selected to do this job. It is a full-time post for two years and will involve much more than ‘just coordinating the foodbank which operates on Wednesdays.
The existing foodbank service at Inchgarth Community Centre will be enhanced and the roll out of numerous more services that help people impacted by the cost-of-living crisis will commence.  Victoria is laying the foundations for this by making contacts and networking with many different organisations and services. Over the next few months Victoria will be out and about, meeting group leaders and community representatives, and creating new friends and partners for Inchgarth Community Centre to provide greater support to the community.

At present 50 people arrive at the Foodbank each week and during term time this can rise to 100-150. Work will begin to create new initiatives that will provide support to those most in need across 30 communities of Aberdeen South. These include residents living in the following communities Garthdee, Kincorth, Torry, Altens, Cove, Red Moss, Ferryhill, Castlegate, Holburn, Craigiebuckler, Riverside, Banchory Devenick, Leggart, Bieldside Broomhill, Cults, Mannofield, Milltimber, Airyhall, Ardoe, Hazelhead, Blairs, Seafield, Tullos, Ruthrieston, Nigg and Woodend. As well as receiving official referrals to the foodbank, people can come along themselves and all that is required for identification is their name, address and if claiming for children some evidence is required. There is no limit to the number of times they can attend. Each family or single person receives a food bag and can help themselves to other items such as toiletries, period products, nappies etc.
For over a decade, Inchgarth community centre has partnered with different organisations to provide vital foodbank support to those who need help the most. During the pandemic they became an anchor organisation along with others to provide food parcels to people in these communities.

Rev. Keith Blackwood, Minister at Mannofield Parish Church, recognised the good work being undertaken at Inchgarth Community Centre. He says, “We see it as the mission of our church and found ourselves in a position of being able to look for a project to be involved in that would enable us to provide defined support to people in need. We are delighted to partner with Inchgarth in this project. In an ideal world everyone would have all they need for a comfortable life. However, in this time of economic hardship, many people are struggling with day-to-day necessities. When we set out to see how we could help in our community, a partnership with Inchgarth was the easy choice. We know the valuable resource they are within the community, and we are delighted now to be able to employ Victoria to join their team and extend the Foodbank Project in ways that will benefit those who at this time need a little help in whatever challenges they face”.

Rev. Keith Blackwood welcomes Victoria Alexander as Foodbank and Support Coordinator

Paul O’Conner MBE Inchgarth Community Centre Manager

Although the centre has been in operation for many years, this type of partnership is a new venture for Paul O’Conner MBE, manager of Inchgarth Community Centre. He says, “We have never done this before and were not sure how it would really work but without the generosity of the church this project would not have proceeded. We are hugely grateful and excited because going forward we will be able to create numerous levels of support at the right time and cannot thank Mannofield church enough for their support. We are now thinking that perhaps there are partnerships out there with other organisations like the church that we could bring on board.” Paul and Victoria admit they are not from religious backgrounds but do feel that this is the kind of thing churches should be doing, reaching out to the communities they serve, just as they do from the community centre. They both spoke of the partnership with the church being ‘great and highly inclusive of people with and without faith backgrounds’.

This is an exciting partnership between the church and the community and demonstrates the new ways in which the church can be seen to be providing for God’s people. This project puts into action the vision of the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland to ‘encourage and enable congregations to re-imagine and renew their life and work for mission in the 21st century’.
It will bring communities, businesses, professionals, and people together, for a worthy cause and ultimately make life better for those accessing the services.

Keith, Paul and Victoria invite service providers and partners from across the city to get in touch and join their project to deliver services together, as the entire ethos of this venture is about coordinated partnership working.

The foodbank and support services can be found at www.inchgarth.org/foodbank

Please email inchgarthcc5@gmail.com to contact Victoria Alexander

We wish Mannofield Church and Inchgarth Community Centre every success in this partnership and pray God’s Blessing on Keith, Paul and Victoria as they bring this project together.