Bringing community together for lunch

Sue Holmes and volunteers at Ebeneezer church .Picture Richard Ponter 131552a
Sue Holmes and volunteers at Ebeneezer church .Picture Richard Ponter 131552a

A successful project that has been bringing people together for Sunday lunch since 2007 is going from strength to strength at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The idea was dreamt up by Sue Holmes and her husband Bill, who wanted to make sure that everyone felt welcome at church, whatever their background.

They decided that after the Sunday service, they would invite people to join them round the table for lunch in an informal, family-style environment.

“The Kitchen @ Ebenezer” was born and is still providing a hot meal and an opportunity for people to get together six years on.

Sue, who was introduced to the church by her husband, said that she realised there were people who attended the service who had a lot of need.

She said: “There were people who would always come and sit at the back. I thought ‘these people are part of this group, what can I do?’

“I thought I could take my dinner down to the church and open the door. The first time three chaps arrived, and then there were a few more.

“It just grew and grew. I had the support of the church, who said they would fund the food, and it just went from there.”

Sue said the people who came along were quite a disadvantaged group, some with problems relating to drugs and alcohol.

But sitting round a table together, people started chatting and getting to know each other, which built up friendship and trust.

Sue still does the cooking, but over the years she has built up a team of around 10 volunteers, who work hard to keep the project going.

Some of the volunteers are youngsters, who have the full backing of their parents.

The dinners are now held every other Sunday, with Sue cooking between 30 and 35 meals on an average day.

The church provides a budget for food and donations are also received from various sources, including the Rainbow Centre if they have any spare produce.

Sue manages to feed everyone for around £17, which is a feat in itself.

She said: “People do help us out with donations, which makes a big difference. We had some produce given at Harvest Festival and at Christmas, we had a donation from Cartridge World’s community fund.

“We also had support from Scarborough Lions and Betta Motoring, who gave us the contents of their collection tin.

“We’ve even had complete strangers put a cheque through the door, which is amazing really. People have been so helpful.”

When the group sits down to eat, the tables are set out in a horseshoe shape so everyone can interact.

The meal starts at 12.30pm, which is a golden rule - if you’re late, you miss it.

One of the main things they try to reinforce every week is the notion of family.

Sue explains: “I tell them we’re part of a family now. We always welcome people, my husband gives a reading from the bible and we say grace.

“He also says ‘we’re here as a family, so look after each other’. It feels like a very safe place.”

Sue, who has since trained as a psychotherapist, says that people are very respectful and grateful.

She said: “People are very well behaved. There’s a lot of respect. It’s all about bringing people together and breaking down boundaries.”

To find out more or offer your support, call Sue on 07888 998962.