When Swindon Foodbank opened in 2005 all our resources, from stationery to warehouse racking, were donated. One of the greatest resources we received quite early on was the Swindon Foodbank Van, donated initially for two years, through a contact of one of the Directors. It soon became the life blood of the Charity, collecting food from churches, schools and individuals to the Warehouse and then from the Warehouse to the Distribution Centre.
In January 2008 the loan of the van was reviewed; unfortunately the car dealership that had supplied the van had to be sold, and despite various attempts we were unable to get a meeting with the new owners of the company to discuss a new agreement. Finally, in October 2008, we wrote a letter asking for their decision as the Tax and MOT were both due at the end of November. This prompted a response asking the van be returned at the end of the month. They offered to sell us the van for £5,000 but Foodbank simply didn’t have the funds. Suddenly we were faced with the reality of losing this vital resource to our work, without any idea how we would be able to replace it.
The day after we received this news Richard was travelling up to London with staff from Carillion, who had been nominated for an award for their work in the Community. Carillion had been supporters of Foodbank since early 2008 when they had sponsored our first Ball, and since then were providing two members of staff for two hours each week to help in the Warehouse. Discussion turned to Foodbank’s current needs, and Richard explained about the situation with the van. Carillion undertook to see if they could find something for us through their contacts. Meanwhile, the PA to one of the Senior staff talked to her husband who worked for BBC Radio Swindon; he arranged for Richard to be interviewed during the breakfast programme on Thursday 20th November. The Swindon Advertiser picked up on the story and ran an article the next day.
As a result of this publicity Foodbank began to receive offers of support, beginning with a donation of £1,000 on the Friday afternoon! We had several offers of loan vehicles to bridge the gap until we could source another van and further donations of money towards the cost of replacing the van. By the time we got to Monday 24th November we had received several donations, a small van that we could use in a part exchange deal, and even offers from two companies towards a van’s running costs.
Initially we thought we would probably need to lease a vehicle, and one company offered a regular contribution towards this cost. However, by Monday 24th we had received enough donations that we were able to seriously contemplate an outright purchase. We began talking to car dealers, and one van in particular, which had only come on the market that weekend, stood out as a possibility. After a little negotiation with Fish Brothers we had our new van!
Through Fish Brothers we had contact with a signwriting company who offered their services without charge, and also an insurance broker who found us a competitive quote, considerably less than we had been paying. Finally, on Friday 27th we had another offer to buy a van for us; when we advised them that we had already secured a van they offered to make a contribution towards Richard’s salary instead!
It was an incredible week and we were extremely encouraged by the support shown from so many people and companies in the town. We are amazed at the way God brought everything together to provide for us in this way.