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The People’s Kitchen delighted to be picked as Pride of Britain finalist

Newcastle’s homeless charity is in national spotlight ahead of starry London ceremony

A well-deserved award could be on the menu for the People’s Kitchen which has been announced as a Pride of Britain finalist.

The long-established Newcastle charity, whose 220 dedicated volunteers help the homeless, is in the spotlight thanks to a national event which celebrates unsung heroes. It has been picked out from thousands of nominees around the country to be shortlisted in the Pride of Britain Awards.

And the news comes just as its chairman Bob Eldridge prepares to receive his MBE for his 30 years of dedicated service to the charity.

It’s a further boost for Mr Eldridge, who was given the Royal nod in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and will be travelling to Buckingham Palace next week for the presentation.

He said it showed how much people value the People’s Kitchen and added: “We’re delighted to be nominated.”

The charity is short-listed for the TSB Community Award which recognises organisations, or individuals, which are a force for good in their local community.

Winners will be announced a week before the star-studded Pride of Britain Awards ceremony in London on October 31, which will be hosted by TV presenter Carol Vorderman, attended by such guests as Prince Charles, Prime Minister Theresa May and Team GB then watched by millions of viewers.

The Daily Mirror’s annual Pride of Britain Awards, which is held in partnership with TSB, is always an ITV hit and is to be screened the night afterwards.

Ahead of the big event, the People’s Kitchen is invited to join Ms Vorderman and other finalists on Tuesday to celebrate their achievements at a lunchtime reception, hosted by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow in the State Rooms of the Palace of Westminster.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, leading MPs and celebrity supporters will also be there to congratulate the finalists.

Carol Vorderman, who has presented Pride of Britain since it started 18 years ago, called the Community Award finalists both “inspirational” and “amazing”.

She said: “They make our country a better place, and inspire all around them, and it’s right that we recognise them and celebrate their achievements.”

The People’s Kitchen was founded in 1985 by the late Alison Kay after she read a newspaper article about the death of a homeless man.

The aim of the lifeline, she has said, was to “give back love” as it provided friendship, food and opportunities for homeless and disadvantaged people.

Within a year the charity had 40 volunteers helping to distribute food and clothes to its “Friends” on the streets.

The founder died in 2001 at the age of 91 but the People’s Kitchen – despite not having any public funding – continues her legacy and now caters for around 600 vulnerable adults, serving three-course meals six days a week: an average of 40,000 hot meals a year.

One of the Friends helped by the service is Martin Lee Smith who said: “They give up their time for people who are struggling.

“It’s tough nowadays with jobs and stuff and they are there for people.”

And one volunteer, Tobia Harrison, said: “It’s a genuine respect between what we do for them and what they do for us.

“I don’t think they always realise how humbling it is for us to help them and how much we get out of it.”

In 2014 the People’s Kitchen received a Queen’s Award for voluntary service.

Taken from an article featured in Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle.

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