Jenny Ford is my kind of person. I love sitting with someone who shares stories that make me smile and laugh. And when they mix that up with being open and honest about difficult topics I’m all ears.
So how did I first hear about Jenny and what is her story?
A few weeks ago Cwmbran Life visited the Tin on the Wall foodbank in Llantarnam Community Primary School. It’s a well-oiled machine involving a team of volunteers who collect donations from doorsteps, organise them and share with the community.
Jenny is one of the people who add items to their weekly shop to then donate to the scheme to help people living in her community. It’s a lovely thing to do.
She welcomed me into her smart bungalow in Oakfield. My wife loves those Instagram lifestyle accounts where ‘influencers’ show off how they organise their homes. They could learn a thing or two from 69-year-old Jenny.
She can’t resist a bargain
Her home is basically a stock cupboard for the Tin on the Wall. She can’t resist a bargain and proudly tells me she never pays full price for anything. With the cost of living crisis this is something we should all do, keep our eyes peeled and adjust our shopping lists depending on where we can find a good deal.
Her eye for a bargain means even more items are donated to the local food bank.
The reason why Jenny donates so much to the Tin on the Wall took me by surprise. Sat in her cosy living room and a few minutes after taking me on a tour of her house and shed (more about that later) we sat down for chat.
Jenny, a mum of 11 and one stepchild, said: “I know what it’s like to be dependent on a food bank. We were on our arse and depended on the food.
“It was trying to feed ourselves on fresh air. I’ve always been able to make something out of nothing. I’ve been rock bottom, I’ve been bankrupt. It’s taken 20 years to get back up to where I was before I got divorced for the second time. I’m now in a position where I can help again.
“There are people you who can’t stand up for themselves, you’ve got to stand up for them.”
Photos inside her home and shed
She started supporting food banks six years through donations on her weekly shop given to FairShare, the national charity.
“It was ten quid to FairShare once a week. Then my pension meant I had a little bit more and went up to £20. I never pay full price. I keep so much stock. I don’t like paying full price for anything.”
When Tin on the Wall started she began to give donations direct to her local project. She shares the same birthday in May as her husband but they don’t buy each other gifts. I loved how she summed up the way people buy random presents for birthdays that usually end up in the bin.
“I’d rather give what we would spend on each other to the Tin on the Wall, instead of crap we don’t need. People ask ‘why do you always give so much stuff to the food bank?’ Number one, I’ve used a foodbank. Number two, I’ve had relatives use food banks. Now we’ve got a bit of cash we are able to pay a bit back from when we were dependant on them.”
As a well-known Oakfield resident, she keeps an eye on her community. If she hears that someone needs a bit of support, she lets Tin on the Wall know so they can ‘surprise’ that person with a package. It could be a normal food parcel or a few boxes of chocolates to put a smile on their face and let them know others are thinking of them.
And back to Jenny’s shed. Most of us are embarrassed to show people inside our sheds. Rusty bikes, old paint pots and spiders fill most of our sheds. Hers is an extension of the organised storage areas in her house. Shelves neatly hold shower gels, toilet rolls and packets of rice all ready to be donated over the coming months to people who live within a few miles of her front door.
Llantarnam’s Tin on the Wall project
Follow the Llantarnam food bank’s Facebook page and send them a message if you or someone you would like a parcel.