MORE individuals and families received a helping hand this Christmas thanks to a record-breaking year of donations to the North Belfast food bank.
This year the annual drive by North Belfast Advice Partnership and Ligoniel Improvement Association delivered the most hampers since the service was established in 2014.
A total of 200 Christmas hampers were delivered to individuals and families in need with everything from long-life food products, fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and festive toys and gifts.
This year’s response was so phenomenal a van was required to deliver the goods in time for Christmas.
Sinead McKinley, food bank co-ordinator, said she was “overwhelmed” by this year’s response.
“We have come a long way since starting a Christmas food drive three years ago with 40 hampers for individuals and families in need,” she explained.
“The response has been brilliant. People were bringing up donations right up to Christmas.
“One of the big issues this year was that benefits were frozen and the cost of living has gone up. The demand was just huge. We wanted to ensure as many people got through the festive period comfortably and back on their feet again in the New Year.
“Unlike previous years, toys and gifts were not as important as food. It showed the real need out there and just how much people struggle financially at this time of year.
“We are delighted the community has supported us and trusts us to get the stuff out there to those who most needed it.
“I would also like to thank Cliftonville FC and their fans who came out in brilliant numbers recently at a game with donations worth over £2,000.
“We delivered 50 hampers to families in and around Solitude so it just goes to show the donations go back into the local community.
“It has been overwhelming how generous people are. It was emotional when someone who we have helped in the past walked through our door with donations for families this year. It goes to show they wanted to give back to the service that once helped them.”