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Food aid charity Second Chance Medway opens second centre in Chatham as demand soars


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A charity and food aid scheme say demand for their service has already doubled this year.

Second Chance Medway has opened a new community centre in Brompton Hill, Chatham, as the number of people turning to them for help has soared.

Rose Newman, 74, from Borstal (centre) cutting the ribbon at the Second Chance Medway community centre in Brompton Hill Picture Caitlin Webb
Rose Newman, 74, from Borstal (centre) cutting the ribbon at the Second Chance Medway community centre in Brompton Hill Picture Caitlin Webb

The charity was founded in 2015 by Penny Keevil and staffed by five volunteers and eight trustees.

They estimate they're currently looking after around 2,000 people as well as their families which they estimate means another 4,000 people helped.

The community centre is the second location the charity runs. It also has a community hub in Chatham High Street which sells fresh, supermarket quality food for discounted prices through their food aid project, which is open on Monday to Saturday by appointment only.

Penny - who also runs a letting agency locally and is the charity's chief executive - says since Christmas, demand for the charity's services has doubled.

She said: "It's not just low income, it's right across the board. We have got doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, we have all sorts coming to us.

"I'd hate to think where a lot of these people would be had we not been around.

Penny Keevil, founder and chief executive of Second Chance Medway Picture Caitlin Webb
Penny Keevil, founder and chief executive of Second Chance Medway Picture Caitlin Webb

"It's exhausting, but would I do it again tomorrow? Yes, no problem. I'd do it again all day long. There's so many people out there that need help.

"With the cost of living going up and the economics being the worst it's been for 40 years, we are also serving some of the most deprived areas in the south east.

"There's just so many people that want help. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, places like this are very much needed. There's just so many people who are grateful for what we do.

“We’ve opened up this centre so we can help even more people. No one in Medway should have to suffer alone.

"We want to make sure as many people as possible in Medway can get the help they need."

The services include a crisis support desk, support with housing, tenancy and benefits, mental health help, assistance getting into work or training or even just lending a listening ear, as Rose Newman found out.

Rose Newman who uses Second Chance Medway Picture Caitlin Webb
Rose Newman who uses Second Chance Medway Picture Caitlin Webb

The 74-year-old from Borstal regularly uses the food aid project. She was the guest of honour who cut the ribbon at the centre opening on Wednesday.

The charity also helped her get a new cooker when hers broke down and Penny supported her when she lost her husband to cancer last year.

The grandmother-of-five said: "It's absolutely brilliant. It has helped me immensely. I class all of them as my friends, especially Penny.

"More people need to know about it. I do try to spread the word a bit because they have been so good and so helpful to me."

"People don’t realise that us old people don’t have a pot of money stashed away. I just live from pension to pension. "

The new facility will provide a training suite, and new services such as regular coffee mornings, an ADHD support group, and sewing, arts and crafts groups, will be introduced.

To find out more about the charity, click here.

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