The work of The Arsenal Foundation and the partners and initiatives it supports has touched the lives of a great number of people in a variety of ways.
The Arsenal Foundation’s emergency Covid fund has helped Food for All provide meals and accommodation for the vulnerable during the pandemic. Director Para, originally from Ireland but living locally for decades, tells us how the money – and some famous names – helped...
"I grew up on a serious diet of rock ‘n’ roll, became a Hare Krishna monk as a teenager and set up a charity called Food for All. I’ve been working with the homeless community in Islington since 1988. We cook and distribute 5,000 healthy vegetarian meals daily to the homeless community, elderly, isolated, community centres, refugees and school children.
"When lockdown kicked in last March, I was worried what would happen to the vulnerable. Everything from AA meetings to day centres closed down. Then, out of the blue, came an army of volunteers: people who had been furloughed, very qualified people who used their skills to secure free good-quality food from the businesses that were closing, coordinated the volunteers and set about teams of volunteers on bicycles who delivered meals door to door to isolated elderly people of Islington and Camden. They organised cooks and bakers, opened food banks and took over closed hotels to house the homeless.
"So the project was up and running, we had a free army of committed volunteers, free kitchens, free hotels and half the food was free – but like with anything there will be costs. Each food parcel was still costing, our fresh fruit bill was £2,000 weekly and I was sweating. Then the rock ‘n’ roll community came to the rescue.
"Chrissie Hynde became the Food for All president, and throughout the lockdown 85 per cent of our funds came from music artists and football clubs, Arsenal being our local heroes. I bumped into Bob Geldof at a car boot sale so out came the camera and he did an on-the-spot interview. He described how in the mid-1970s he lived in an abandoned house on Holloway Road, in poverty. We all go through obstacles in life.
"Last Valentine’s Day, February 14, we distributed our millionth meal. These volunteers are technically amateurs, but the word amateur has its roots in the French word 'amour', so charitable activities founded in love have lasting effects. Hats off to the volunteers. All their work meant they achieved the highest award for any charity, which is the equivalent to an MBE – the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
"It’s so important to have Arsenal helping out. People take their football seriously, and if they see their heroes doing some selfless acts of kindness it will definitely have a ripple effect in society. When Arsenal gave us a generous donation in the summer of 2020 I boldly announced on social media that they would 100 per cent win the FA Cup for helping us. Can you imagine the surprise when a few months later they did?"
For more info visit foodforalluk.com
To volunteer call Para on 07946 420827 or email email@example.com
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