Ruth is part of the team at Pennypit Community Development Trust and a well-known figure in the Prestonpans area.
We are able to offer volunteering opportunities and a platform or a pathway into employability, learning or qualifications.
She runs ‘Fundamental Foods’ – a project that engages with the whole community through nutrition. However, over the past four weeks, Ruth and the teams have been busy running holiday clubs in the Preston, Seton, Gosford and Fa’side areas. Around 150 children have attended enjoying two hot meals and taking part in a wide range of activities with parents join in for ‘Family Fridays’.
The clubs were established in 2017 to tackle ‘holiday hunger’ and support families who struggle over the summer period, and receive funding from the Local Area Partnerships. Around 12 children attended in the first year. “Families feel huge financial pressure around holiday times,” admits Ruth, pointing to the rise in zero hours and short term-contracts as issues surrounding income and driving need. “There is a huge anxiety leading up to them, especially in summer where families worry what they will do without the school support of breakfast, lunch and milk.” Food is an important part of what the clubs do however the project has wider benefits. “It’s about giving children a safe place to go, something to do – we’re creating memories. We want every child to have the same opportunities,” she explains.
Ruth grew up in Prestonpans as one of six siblings, and still lives within the town with her husband and children. She worked with the Trust in its early years in a sports development role before pursuing a career in drug and alcohol counselling. Through that she witnessed the importance of good nutrition on wellbeing and returned to university to study for a degree in that field before rejoining the Pennypit team. She has a deep-rooted commitment to her community, and the wider area, which is shared by the other staff members and volunteers at the Trust. The Trust, which receives annual funding from the council's One Partnership Fund, has grown from a small team and a few sessional workers to six full-time members of staff, six nutritionists and dedicated volunteers. Ruth credits this group, the support they receive from the local and knowledgeable board of Directors, and the strong links with partners and within the area as central to the charity’s success over the 25 years it has been running.
Since it opened, the Pennypit has grown from a sports ground hosting football and rugby teams to provide community engagement through volunteer development, nutrition and youth-related projects that help people access free programmes and employability. It provides a safe place to explore opportunities and reduce inequalities. The Trust runs a number of groups for all ages, with food playing a central role bringing people together. However one of its key successes has been in offering wider opportunities through its volunteering programme. “We want to provide a dignified approach, not simply hand out food,” explains Ruth. “We are able to offer volunteering opportunities and a platform or a pathway into employability, learning or qualifications. We’re all really passionate about the work that we do.”