Diocese of Chichester

Stories of generosity, signs of hope

LUCY McGrath is the lead chaplain for YMCA DownsLink Group, a charity which works to prevent youth homelessness. We asked her how the community has helped its residents in housing projects across Sussex over the past year and she told us heart-warming stories of giving, generosity and love for our neighbours.

On 4 mar 2021

In Diocese of Chichester

By communications

EVERY Monday for the past six months one of our volunteer chaplains, Fiona Sharpe, has collected 21 takeaway meals from one of three pub kitchens in Hove and delivered them to YMCA DownsLink Group’s Lansworth House.

It houses 21 16 to 25-year-olds. Most do not have a home or are unable to live at home for some reason, often family breakdown.

The meals are cooked by staff from the Ethicurean Kitchen, owned by Edd Heller. I have never met or even spoken to Edd, but am blown away by his generosity and Fiona’s in making it happen and acting as delivery driver.A takeaway during lockdown is a regular treat for some of us but most of the residents would not be able to afford this and I know they really look forward to Monday evenings.

Edd and Fiona are two of many who have shown generosity during the pandemic. We have been overwhelmed by the contribution of so many individuals, churches and community organisations. Some are Christian, some are of other faiths (Fiona is Jewish) and several have no recognised faith, but they all share a deep compassion marked by practical offerings which have helped our residents and staff know they are not forgotten.

Another is Jean Belgrove, also a volunteer chaplain and a member of St Matthias Church in Fiveways Brighton. Jean is 77 and lives on her own. Rather than being in “God’s waiting room”,which she said was how she felt until she came to Brighton, she has moved firmly to the engine room.

She is actively involved in her community and global issues such as climate change and poverty and at the same time for the past year she has regularly baked cakes and treats which she drops at the group’s Gareth Stacey House in Brighton. Before Covid she would have been a cooking meal there and listening to and chatting with residents. While she cannot go in again until things are safer, baking and doorstep conversations help them know she is still there for them.

Her fellow chaplains at Gareth Stacey House have been similarly generous. Lucy Alphonso has cooked curry feasts and Lisa Williamson has dropped off food and other treats including homemade hair scrunchies – having taken up crocheting in lockdown. Lisa is editor of Faith In Sussex and has supported Gareth Stacey House for more than four years. She has recently been given an award for “living our values”. Lisa has supported YMCA DownsLink Group in so many ways, including sleeping out and highlighting some of the issues faced by young people in our accommodation. People often get noticed for doing big things, Lisa has done many small things with great love.

Some of those who have donated have done so because they know what it is like to struggle. Just before Christmas a man knocked on the door of YMCA DownsLink Group’s Eastbourne Foyer supported accommodation. He asked how many residents we had in our family projects and the ages of the children. A few hours later he came back with more than £700 worth of age-appropriate gifts for all the families, including vouchers for the teenagers. It transpired he had a difficult earlier life and knew what it was like to have nothing. He’s still in touch with our Eastbourne team and when things ease, we hope he will be able to be involved with mentoring and/or chaplaincy.

So many individuals have helped there are too many to mention. Some of our unsung heroes who have cooked meals or donated food include:Jude, Jon and Ruby; Florence and Alex; Denise, Ruby and Martha; Gill; Liz; Anne Marie; Amanda; Carole; Ian; Damian; Holly; Joel; Mike; Brian; Sophie; Faye; Sally; Sean; P J; Mandy, Cathy and Helen.

We have had such support from churches, schools and other organisations too, including Covid mutual aid groups and food banks– huge gifts totalling thousands of pounds worth of food and wonderful weekly “Love your neighbour bags” have been delivered. Each gift such a sign of hope and love.

We are so grateful to all those who have shown kindness. Thank you – you don’t know what a difference you have made.

To find out more about the charity’s work, contact the chaplaincy team:

Samantha Burton, West Sussex chaplain 07557855779 | Email: samantha.burton@ymcadlg.org

Lucy McGrath, Lead chaplain: Work mobile: 07741240452 | Email: lucy.mcgrath@ymcadlg.org

Elly McKay-Smith, East Sussex chaplain 07884 549308 | Email: elly.mckay-smith@ymcadlg.org