THEY might look like you or me, but these two good samaritans are secret lifesavers.
Major Mary Wolfe and Melvyn Thomas offer a lifeline to those in need by giving out bags of food at The Salvation Army’s food bank.
Based in the organisation’s Lighthouse Community Centre in Albert Road, Southsea, the bank is a last resort for people who have reached crisis point and have nowhere else to turn.
The service is more in demand than ever as more families move closer to the poverty line.
As previously reported, 1,012 people were fed by the city’s food bank in the first three months of this year – up 27 per cent from 637 in the same period last year.
In Fareham and Gosport there was a 49 per cent rise in requests for food, from 371 to 704.
At the Havant food bank there was a 63 per cent hike in users last month compared to the same period last year.
Lighthouse Community Centre manager Melvyn helped set up the Portsmouth service seven years ago. The 61-year-old, of Goldsmith Avenue, Southsea, said: ‘When you walk about Southsea during the daytime it looks lovely, but working within the community you soon realise that there are lots of problems in the area that need to be addressed.
‘I was shocked when I realised just how many people there are around here that are in desperate need of food, warm clothing, toiletries and lots of other things that most people take for granted.’
As well as offering emergency food bags, the centre provides vouchers to the area’s main food bank at King’s Church, on Elm Grove, Southsea.
Those in need can receive a maximum three vouchers every year, so the Salvation Army offers a last resort for many.
Mary, the commanding officer at the centre, said all walks of life use the service. The 61-year-old, of Tideway Gardens, Milton, said: ‘There’s not a particular type of person that comes to us – it varies hugely.
‘It can be someone who is on a low income and they have reached crisis, someone who is struggling with an addiction, someone who has found themselves suddenly unemployed, or it could be someone who has had their benefits adjusted.
‘We just want to do everything we can to help others and give them what they need to survive. It must be a scary place to be in if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from and if we can change that then we are making a huge difference to these people’s lives.’
Food is donated from members of the public, but if donations run low then the Salvation Army has to buy supplies from its own funds.
Melvyn added: ‘Running the food bank doesn’t make me feel good, it makes me feel sad. It’s upsetting to see so many people in such trouble, especially young people.’
Take donations to the Lighthouse Community Centre, Salvation Army, Albert Road.