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Food bank appeals for supplies

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A FOOD bank in Llanelli has appealed for members of the public to donate much-needed supplies, at a time when concerns have been raised about the levels of homelessness in the town.

The Herald recently visited the Llanelli Food Bank in Myrtle House to meet with local coordinator Claire Childs and local councillors Fozia Akhta and Sara Griffiths, who are concerned with the staggering cases of people in need of supplies.

Llanelli Food Bank opened in 2011 and has been an invaluable asset to the local community. It is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10am-1pm and 5:30pm-8:30pm. The food bank is always in need of donations, and members of the general public who are willing and able are urged to donate tins, dry food, cartons, toiletries, and nappies, which are an urgently sought after item.

Eligible individuals with food tokens are able to use the service up to three times within a six-month period, and the number of visitors is increasing in the run-up to the festive period.

All the ladies share a passion for helping the homeless community. This is at a crucial time when many other food banks are currently unable to supply stock.

Claire Childs, Co-Ordinator at Llanelli Food Bank said that they would be open on an on-call basis over the Christmas period.

“All other agencies are closed so we’re on-call so to speak for anyone that’s referred to us, we’ll help them straight away,” she added.

“There are local Housing Charities involved, Social working teams, doctor’s surgeries, Mind, Age Concern, Citizen’s Advice, to name but a few. These are agencies that can support others in their time of need through vouchers so they can have direct access to us. We ask for people to be referred so they’ve got the continued agency support that they need, it’s vital.

“We can supply three to four days of food during three visits spread over six months which works out at around three to four meals per day. It’s not just tins that we supply, it’s also snacks, tea, coffee and milk. If they need long-term support, their caseworker can assess that need and we’ll try to help. Usually, after a week and a half, lots are out of their rut as a result of help,” she added.

“We are always looking for food that can be kept at room temperature such as tins, pasta, rice, and cereal. UHT milk and fruit juice are sought after, they don’t require refrigeration until open, and a lot of our clients don’t have fridges and freezers.

“Our focus is mainly on food, but we are always thankful for items such as nappies, wet wipes, sanitary products, toilet roll and any other toiletries. When we have, we give.

“We’ve had Harvest stock in from local schools and churches. We’re currently quite buoyant but we fly through stock, a couple of tonnes of food per month. The Gallery Art & Coffee Shop and Myrtle House (during office hours) also take donations. There is also a donation bin in Tesco in Llanelli that we empty at least once a week. At least a third of our clients are babies.

“We help in areas from Loughor to Kidwelly and from Llanelli to Pontyberem and Carway. We sometimes deal with people further up, it just depends on circumstances. Sometimes the support workers will come to us to fetch the products.

“We have 10-15 volunteers here at the food bank. We have carers and volunteers who come from Coleshill who are wonderful to work alongside, they’re pleasant and fun. We value them.”

Cllr Fozia Akhtar told us that her niece, a paramedic, saw the issue of homelessness in the area ‘all too often’
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“A homeless man was sleeping outside West Wales General Hospital recently, the police were called to remove him and he had nowhere to go. The homeless aren’t even allowed to stay outside buildings anymore,” she added.

“The Ambulance isn’t insured to take the homeless anywhere and they see a lot of this. The man was removed in a riot van, how sad is this? My niece saw this. Where are these people meant to go? This man was tucked away in a corner of a hospital and there was just no help available.”

Cllr Akhtar added that the space available at Myrtle House could only house a moderate supply of stock.
“Ideally if anyone has any larger premises or a spare unit that they’re willing to donate free to Claire to use, it would be wonderful, it’s for a good cause,” she added.

“There are always dreams of being able to do more and the option of relocating would be something to consider possibly. It’s all about helping the community and we’re passionate to help everyone. We want everyone to support Claire in Llanelli and the Carmarthenshire area.”

Cllr Sara Griffiths said: “There are more homeless people around than we actually realise. It’s also a concern for people who live in rural areas and might not get to see others. A lot of work needs to be done.

“We have a couple of projects going where we’d like to do a lot more fundraising. There is so much poverty which is being dismissed in a sense, people don’t realise how many are suffering, it’s heart-breaking to see. If there are any local businesses that are willing to donate to us as local councillors then we are on the council website, we’d genuinely appreciate it.

“We don’t want anyone to fall through the gaps, it’s not just adults who are suffering, it’s the elderly and children and babies.”

On Thursday (Nov 16) there will be a community collection throughout Llanelli and Carmarthenshire at Myrtle House from 10am-1pm and 5:30pm-8:30pm. There is also a national collection by the Trussell Trust, a national organisation that runs over 400 food banks.

There will also be a massive collection during the first week of December in Tesco Llanelli for three days, where the supermarket has offered to add 20% to every pound-worth of food donated.​

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Demand for Christmas Toybox Appeal donations almost doubles

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MORE families than ever before have asked for support from Carmarthenshire County Council’s Christmas Toybox Appeal.

Families who have requested assistance are up 40 per cent on previous years, and despite more toys than ever before being donated to the appeal, co-ordinators are struggling to keep up with demand.

The deadline for donations has now been extended in the hope that more generous people will donate.

In particular, donations are being sought for older girls and boys. Anyone wishing to donate is asked to keep gifts unwrapped to allow for easier sorting.

All families who will receive support have been nominated by a social worker, family health visitor, or their school, and a strict process is in place to ensure help is given to those most in need.

The council’s Toybox Appeal is now in its 8th year, and was set up to prevent families going into poverty or turning to loan sharks to get through the Christmas period.

The Appeal also helps ensure that no child wakes up on Christmas morning without a visit from Santa.

Cllr Mair Stephens, Deputy Leader of the council, said: “It’s really very sad that we have seen such a huge increase in the number of families who have asked for, or been nominated to receive, support.

“Whilst we are amazed by the number of gifts donated this year, unfortunately, we do not have enough to meet the demand and we are appealing to the generosity of local people to help families who are less fortunate.

“We are still collecting donations, and in particular we are asking for gifts suitable for older children. We really are very grateful of all donations.”

To donate a gift, visit any of the below locations, or call Appeal co-ordinator Nia Thomas on 07814716380 to arrange collection

·         Customer Service Centre, 3 Spilman Street, Carmarthen

·         County Hall, Carmarthen

·         Natwest Bank, Carmarthen

·         Blas Myrddin at Parc Dewi Sant, Building 2, Carmarthen

·         Block 1, Parc Myrddin, Carmarthen

·         Cillefwr depot, Carmarthenshire County Council, Johnstown, Carmarthen

·         Nant y Ci, Carmarthen

·         Llandeilo Community Education Centre

·         Tesco Ammanford

·         Town Hall, Ammanford

·         Pontyberem Hall

·         Town Hall, Llanelli

·         Hub, Llanelli

·         Cathedral Hygiene, Unit 1, Dragon 24, North Dock, Llanelli

·         Burns Pet Nutrition, Kidwelly

·         Jennings Solicitors, Llanelli

·         Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli

·         Yr Atom, King Street, Carmarthen

·         Llanelli Library

·         Ammanford Library

·         Carmarthen Library

·         Leisure Centres at Llanelli, Carmarthen, Ammanford, Newcastle Emlyn, Llandovery, St. Clears

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Drakeford confirmed as First Minister

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MARK DRAKEFORD was confirmed as the new First Minister after a vote in the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday (Dec 12).

Carmarthen-born Drakeford succeeds Carwyn Jones as Welsh Labour leader, after Jones resigned on Tuesday.

Mr Drakeford, 64, has styled himself as a ’21st Century socialist’, and throughout his leadership campaign promoted continuity and stability as a candidate, having worked as a Welsh Government special advisor under Rhodri Morgan and being the only Welsh Government cabinet minister to support Jeremy Corbyn when he ran for the UK Labour leadership in 2015.

The AM for Cardiff West has been in the Assembly since 2011, becoming Health Minister in 2013 before becoming Finance Secretary in 2016.

Mr Drakeford grew up in Carmarthen, and was educated at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Boys. He then went on to study Latin at the University of Kent, before working as a probation officer and Barnardos project leader in west Cardiff.

Mr Drakeford went on to pursue a career in academia, lecturing at Swansea University, and then becoming a professor of social policy and applied social sciences at Cardiff University.

His first experience of electoral politics was as a councillor on the old South Glamorgan County Council, before serving the Cardiff ward of Pontcanna between 1985 and 1993.

Mr Drakeford was one of the two candidates, alongside Eluned Morgan, to have produced a manifesto during the leadership campaign, setting out many of the policies he hopes to introduce. These include an extension of the smoking ban to outdoor areas such as restaurants and town centres, the cutting of emissions through greater emphasis on public transport and building on Superfast Cymru – a scheme to rollout 733,000 homes and businesses across Wales.

The manifesto also proposed installing drinking fountains across Wales, double allotments, and piloting a ‘baby bundle’ – similar to baby box schemes in other countries with a package of essential items.

Mr Drakeford also suggested introducing a committee to advise the Welsh Government on the Hinckley Point power plant in Somerset, as he has spoken of his scepticism regarding nuclear power.

The new First Minister has also backed proposals put forward by economist Gerry Holtham to fund elderly social care in Wales through a tax. An annual review of PFI contracts across the Welsh public sector would be introduced, and the 22 councils across Wales would be kept as they are.

One issue that has been subject to much debate is the potential for the M4 Relief Road, but Mr Drakeford’s manifesto does not mention it specifically. Instead, it states a commitment to dealing with congestion, citing the A40 in Mid and West Wales, the A55 in the North and the M4 in South Wales.

The other two leadership candidates, Vaughan Gething and Eluned Morgan, had both backed another referendum on whether the UK leaves the EU, yet Mr Drakeford is less set on another vote, saying he would only back it should the final deal fail to protect workers’ rights.

As Finance Secretary, Mr Drakeford has been in charge of much of the Welsh Government’s approach towards Brexit so far.

In Wednesday’s vote, Mr Drakeford was backed by 30 AMs, with 12 voting for the Conservatives’ Paul Davies and nine supporting Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price.

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£300 anonymous donation to food bank

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WORKERS at the Ammanford food bank were shocked to find an anonymous donation had provided the organisation with 33 crates of food, with a total value of £300.

The food bank expects to help at least 100 people over the next three weeks, and speaking to the BBC, worker Paul Kennedy said that this donation provides ‘peace of mind that we can definitely manage, no matter how many come through the door’.

Tesco called the food bank last Thursday (Dec 6) to inform them that a delivery had been put through their system.

Judging from the contents it is thought the donor had checked the food bank’s website to see what items they needed.

Kennedy said: “The person who phoned through said it was at least £100 worth of food, which we were amazed at – it was very generous.

“When the delivery arrived the food bank manager asked which crates were ours and was told ‘they’re all for you’.

“We were blown away. It’s the largest donation by an individual to our food bank.

“Universal Credit comes into the area today and, with Christmas as well, it’s by far our busiest time.

“We just want to express our gratitude really on behalf of our clients because, while it helps us as a food bank, that help goes straight to the clients.”

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