Southsea project Friday Fridge that helps vulnerable people at St Jude's Church at night marks 15 years of help

WORSHIPPERS who welcome vulnerable people into their church each week will mark their project’s 15th anniversary on Fridaynote-0.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 6:08 pm
Guests attending Friday Fridge as a café-style drop-in before the pandemic

Friday Fridge, at St Jude’s Church, Southsea, offers café-style food, hot drinks and conversation to anyone who is out and about late on a Friday night.

When it was launched in October 2006, it attracted those leaving pubs and clubs in Southsea, who dropped in on the way home for late-night conversation and prayer. The project has evolved over the years and many of its current guests are homeless, vulnerable or live on the edge of society.

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Volunteers staffing the takeaway service at Friday Fridge during the pandemic

Over the past 20 months, Friday Fridge has operated as a takeaway-only service, with guests collecting pre-prepared hot food and groceries from the front doors of the church – every single Friday since March 2020. Hundreds of people were fed, and the number of guests doubled throughout the pandemic.

To mark the project’s 15th birthday, this weekend, Friday Fridge will revert from a takeaway service back to its original format, as a café-style drop-in. Guests can gather inside the church for bacon sandwiches, cheese toasties, and real coffee. They can chat to their friends, pray or discuss faith.

The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Frank Jonas will formally re-open Friday Fridge as a café. It will now be open every Friday, from 8pm to 10pm.

Co-ordinator Jim Campbell, who has volunteered at Friday Fridge for all 15 years, said: ‘When the pandemic meant our churches had to be closed, it was down to the hard work, persistence and goodwill of some great people – including our associate minister and the bishop – to enable us to stay open, and switch to a takeaway mode.

‘The need for this became apparent very quickly, as the number of guests doubled, and we also heard all sorts of stories from them – about being unable to eat at mum’s house when the food ran out, being unable to get an “emergency” sub from dad because dad was isolating, of sofa-surfers being unable to continue to use those sofas. Some people were unable to access benefits, to find casual paid work, or even to find anyone on the streets to beg from. So it was a privilege to be able to help in a small way.

‘Our volunteers have been incredible, taking what we all accepted were real risks to be there for the sake of others, and turning up week after week to make this work.

‘Roll forward another 20 months or so, and Friday Fridge is delighted to be returning to a café style, with hot food cooked to order, time to sit with and talk with our guests, with a live, optional Bible Study, available. There will be extra space available, because of larger numbers and social distancing, and enhanced cleaning, to keep people safe.

‘It’s great that we can go back to a format that allows us to chat properly, as building relationships is at the heart of what we want to do. We’re open to all, regardless of need or status. But we understand why some people want specific help from us, perhaps because they feel less valued elsewhere.’