The United Parish of Christ Church and St John’s in Ballyclare (Ballynure and Ballyeaston) and Templepatrick Parish are supporting local families with the launch of the new Pick up a Picnic initiative in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council area.
The project is reaching out into the community to provide support for families. The rector of Ballynure and Ballyeaston, the Rev Jonny Campbell-Smyth, said this new programme had been created in conjunction with a number of churches in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough to provide a free picnic lunch once a week to support those families in most need.
It was, he said, a response to current issues of free school meals for children over the summer, coupled with the financial pressures that many families are under.
Jonny said the Pick up a Picnic initiative had evolved from the ‘Together Ballyclare’ campaign, which brought together many of the churches and council representatives within the town. The campaign received more than 600 referrals for assistance.
“We felt that the financial challenges in our community were likely to continue post the Covid-19 lockdown,” Jonny said. “Families where children receive free school meals will receive £27 every fortnight for food which is only £13.50 a week. We wanted to provide something to help them, which is where Pick up a Picnic came from.”
The lunches, which will be distributed every Tuesday for seven weeks over the summer, are being made by a team of volunteers from four churches in the greater Ballyclare area – Ballyclare Presbyterian; Christ Church and St John’s; Templepatrick Parish; and Kilbride Presbyterian, Doagh.
Families who are either receiving free school meals or those in financial difficulty need to register for the service – registration closes on July 2. Details below.
“Every week they will receive an online menu which allows them to choose from various sandwiches etc,” Jonny said. “Volunteers from the four churches will collect the picnics for their pick-up point every Tuesday, and families will collect them at lunchtime.”
He added: “All of this has come from our desire to obey Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”
To register for the service, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than July 2.