A CHURCH in a North Yorkshire market town that set up a food bank three months ago had to enlist more volunteers to cope with the holiday demand.

Influence Church in Richmond supplied hampers for its most regular and needy customers to make sure they had enough to eat over the festive period.

The hampers also contained some luxury items and small gifts for children to allow even the poorest families to have something special.

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Pastor Ben Dowding said since the church opened the Store House in October, volunteers had noticed a steady increase in the amount of people coming to use the service, and needed to enlist more volunteers to help cope with demand.

“We have fed around 150 families and individuals since we began, and we get a real mixture of the type of people we help,” he said.

“Many are struggling families we help on a regular basis but others just need a one-off food parcel to get them through the week because there has been a delay in their benefit.

“We have also helped vulnerable and elderly people living locally or in the Dales who have been forced to choose between eating and heating.”

In the period between Christmas and New Year, Mr Dowding said the church gave a bit extra than the usual basics such as tinned food and bread.

He said: “We put together hampers with turkey dinners, mince pies and small gifts of toys when there are children in the family.

“It just helps to give everyone a Christmas.”

Influence church now has a dedicated team of ten volunteers under Store House co-ordinator Paige Rutherford, who oversees donations and liaises with the outside bodies - such as the Job Centre, Broadacres and Foundation Housing Association - that make referrals to the church.

He added: “We have been blown away by the amount of support we have had from the local community with donations.

“We have had people who have said they can’t afford to give much but wanted to help us out, and some who have brought a car boot-full of food – every little helps and it is very much appreciated.”

To support the service, visit the church in Victoria Road, Richmond, or influencechurch.co.uk/storehouse.