Pastor Jeff Couzins and the Seventh-day Adventist church in Preston have been nominated for the Lancashire High Sheriff Covid-19 Award. The nomination was proposed by Andrew Pratt, the Bishop of Blackburn's Interfaith Advisor. Although the nominee's name is Pastor Jeff Couzins, he accepted the nomination on behalf of all the volunteers working to feed vulnerable people in the Preston and Chorley area.
Before the lockdown, the church Community Centre was running a regular Holiday Hunger Market and soup kitchen. To sustain the project, the church registered with Leyland Tesco, and collected a weekly charity donation of food. As time went by, Chorley Tesco also offered food donations to the Community Centre food bank.
When the lockdown was announced, and it was not possible to maintain safe social distancing, Carol Love and Diane Proctor transitioned the food provision to a home delivery food bank in Preston. Pastor Jeff Couzins channelled the food donations through to Diane.
Sandra Couzins prayed for more food donations, so that she could help vulnerable people in Chorley. Shortly after, the food donations changed from a trickle to a torrent and all of the Couzins’ downstairs rooms and hallway were used for storing and sorting the donated food. Because of the demand, other volunteers joined in the effort to share food with vulnerable people.
There was still too much food coming into the house, so pastor Jeff contacted Chorley Council Social Support department, and Places for People Housing Association and both organisations referred vulnerable people to receive food parcels. Today several vulnerable people in Chorley now receive regular weekly food parcels.
Yet the donated food was still too great, so a bounty has been channelled to other food charities in the Preston area, including several primary schools; food banks; the Foxton Homeless Centre, and a Refugee Centre.
Phil Cunniff, the Fresh Food Lead Manager at Tesco Extra, Chorley has commented, saying, "The work Jeff and his team does is essential, and the part we play in store is the easy bit; they face the challenge of how best to distribute and the logistical challenges that entails. It is a credit to Jeff and all those involved and I'm just glad we can assist them. The redistribution of food surplus has played a beneficial part in the lives of many, but in the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is possibly more important and wider reaching than ever. Previously, the perfectly edible food that goes unsold in our stores would have been thrown away. Through schemes like this, the bountiful supply of food which we browse, select, and take for granted can find its way to those who do not have that luxury or who find themselves in times of difficulty. We are proud to be able to help and support volunteers, charities and organisations like this and we try to educate our colleagues about what happens to food surplus, emphasising the importance of ensuring that if it can be eaten, it finds its way to our donation process.
Last week, only 10% of the surplus food was thrown away to serve no further purpose; 70% was donated to charities; 11% was sent for recycling into animal feed and 9% was taken by colleagues as part of the colleague shop. All the charities who collect from us accept the full donation, even if they cannot take it all. This means we can still donate everything, but that multiple charities (including Jeff and his team) benefit from one donation."
Pastor Jeff and his team are always grateful for the wonderful donations that help sustain many vulnerable people in the community.
The Lancashire High Sheriff Covid-19 Award Nomination reads:
"The volunteers at the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Grimshaw Street, Preston have been pivotal in supplying food to vulnerable families in Preston.
The church has been closed since March but that has not deterred any of their willingness to help the people of Preston.
As well as collecting food and delivering to those in need, the church has been key in providing storage for frozen foods and in sourcing food from local supermarkets and sharing that food with the other food hubs/food banks/food markets.
The volunteers have been delivering food since the lockdown on a weekly basis and helping and supporting the other food hubs/food banks/food markets with additional supplies of bread, potatoes and vegetables.
They have worked tirelessly and selflessly across all communities and have made a real and significantly positive difference to the community of Preston."
The names in the photograph for the Chorley volunteers, from left to right, are Sandra Couzins, Pastor Jeff, 6-year-old Tyrell Matthew, 14-year-old Shakur Matthew, Phlavia Dupuis, Sylvon Dupuis (squatting), Sylvia Dupuis, Racquel Matthew. Other photo, Carol and Gordon Love.