Words and picture by Melissa Silver
‘Nobody leaves here with an empty stomach’ is the motto at the Salvation Army Stornoway Corps, where they pile the plates high for anyone who walks through their door for breakfast on a Friday morning, or for lunch on a Tuesday and Thursday.
But, lately, the numbers - particularly for the breakfast club - have dipped, and the Salvation Army is looking to the community to support this much-needed service.
It was a cold, blustery Friday morning when I went to have a chat with Callum and Emma Newton, Commanding Officers of the Salvation Army Stornoway Corps. I was greeted by the smell of cooked breakfasts, the noises of the bustling kitchen, and the smiling faces of the team that make it all happen every week.
Through the doors, in the hall, were tables set out, and people sitting, chatting, laughing, enjoying their breakfast - a breakfast made up of “good quality meat,” Callum states, “all sourced from local butchers,” as well as Stag Bakery rolls, and fresh, local eggs, brought in by a volunteer. Emma adds: “I think all that comes from the supermarket is the baked beans and tomatoes!”
The ‘donation only’ system means that you can pay what you can afford. If you can’t afford anything, there’s no judgement, and the idea is that the donations from those who can afford it pay for the food that feeds everyone. “Some people who come here wouldn’t feed themselves properly otherwise… that’s why we’re here,” Callum explained. But the numbers of the people who can afford to donate have taken a dive, meaning the service is under threat.
Callum described their breakfast club as a “safe environment… a place to share,” explaining that whole families often come in to eat. One family, in particular, the members of which are from different parts of the island, meet there for breakfast every Friday. In the school holidays, they have to set out more tables and chairs as their regulars turn up with their kids, too. And it’s easy to see why people come back.
Every Friday, the police station order in 16 bacon rolls, which the cooks make ready for them to pick it up, and this is something they’d like to encourage other people to do. “Just give us a call, and we’ll have it ready, if you’re in a hurry,” Callum said. The cooks are in from 7.30am on a Friday, and breakfast officially starts at 8am, and if you turn up, they will feed you!
Before I left, I was enticed by the delicious smells of their kitchen and their almost parental desire to have everyone fed well, so was handed a full Scottish breakfast and a pot of tea. Heading back out into the cold wasn’t nearly as difficult with a belly full of hot food!
So, as the nights are drawing in, temperatures are dropping, and heating bills are rocketing, spare a thought for the people you could be helping by going there for a bacon roll on a Friday, and making a donation in the pot. Equally, if you’ve found yourself struggling to get a good hot meal down you, the Salvation Army is waiting with open arms.