As a Christian church, and registered charity, The Salvation Army aims to ‘save souls, grow saints and serve suffering humanity’.
The Salvation Army has been carrying out this mission across the Bay - there are churches in Torquay, Paignton and Brixham - for more than 135 years through worship activities on Sundays and during the week as well as a varied community programme such as foodbanks, coffee mornings, lunch clubs, over-65s’ groups, parents and toddler groups and so on.
Continuing our mission during lockdown posed us a real challenge of how to continue being church while being unable to hold services or our regular community programme during the week.
Like everyone, we had to rapidly re-imagine our worship and community support activities; we moved our worship online using video conferencing and for those without the necessary technology written material was posted to them.
Community support was streamlined and became much more focused on meeting the needs of those in food poverty, primarily through the Torbay Food Alliance.
This is made up of community and voluntary sector organisations working together in Torbay, as a direct response to Covid-19.
The Alliance was been set up in order to bring together community food resources and fundraising efforts, so that they can provide co-ordinated support to people who are struggling to access food.
Two hubs were set up to distribute food across Torbay foodbanks – Torquay Salvation Army and Paignton Community Larder.
At Torquay, we have provided more than 15,000 items of food resourced by the Alliance to foodbanks across Torquay, ensuring that together we could meet the need the pandemic caused in our local community.
In Brixham, it has been a privilege to support the work of Brixham Foodbank through supporting the collection of foodstuffs, particularly when regular volunteers were shielding.
Prior to lockdown, The Salvation Army had already been actively providing debt advice, as part of our Missional Offering since 2008.
In 2017, we recognised that Devon and Cornwall is not only an area of high social deprivation but that Plymouth and Torbay, in particular, have some of the highest numbers of applications for personal insolvency throughout England and Wales.
As a result, a full-time debt advice facility was opened in Plymouth in June 2018. However, as the financial impact of the pandemic on individuals and families increased the demand for food support so it became apparent that the burden of personal debt was also increasing; this gave rise to a new mission opportunity and a second full-time facility was opened in Torbay in July.
We now have five trained debt advisors to support our communities. We work with a variety of statutory and local community organisations who are able to refer clients to us.
The size of the debt doesn’t matter – if you are struggling to clear and/or it is affecting your mental health then we may be able to help.
We are often asked why we do what we do – as Christian leaders we are motivated by our faith to demonstrate God’s love for all people through our actions whether that be debt advice, food provision or other practical support.
To that end, keep an eye out for our Christmas Toy Appeal which will be launched shortly.