Berkshire Freemasons Assist Newbury Soup Kitchen

by Paul Thomsett

For those sleeping rough, a hot meal can make all the difference. The Newbury Soup Kitchen charity has been serving homeless and vulnerable people since 2017. They provide a place to get much-needed support.

Their primary operation is a drop-in centre which started out serving the local community one day a week, on a Thursday evening. This then increased to offering two days a week, on Thursday and Saturday. During lockdown, the team increased their outreach and were feeding homeless and vulnerable people seven days a week. During those weeks that the entire country was in lockdown, a team of six fed over 5,500 meals to people who were staying in emergency accommodation. 

Meryl Praill and her incredible team of Volunteers 

Contrary to the name, the charity doesn’t just serve sustenance to the homeless, it also provides a helping hand for vulnerable adults who perhaps have mental health issues or are just lonely. It assists with administration such as providing haircuts, flu jabs, assistance with ID applications, medical referrals, housing enquiries and educational development. It also provides essential clothing and camping items for those who find themselves sleeping rough. 

The charity doesn’t just provide sustenance; they provide a helping hand for vulnerable adults 

A Grant from the Freemasons

The charity received a grant for £18,000 through the Regional Communications Group 5 / Masonic Charitable Foundation Covid-19 Community Fund. They have used the donation to purchase a new Food Service van, which they will use to improve their on-the-road outreach operation. Their previous transit van meant that the team had to stand outside in order to serve meals. This was quite a challenge during the winter months when the weather was extremely wet and cold. The newly purchased van will provide a safer and warmer environment, and will enable them to reach much more people who are in need of their help. 

The new Food Service Van

As part of the van renovations, a logo has be added to show donation support from Berkshire Freemasons

The Food Service Van, with the logo to show the donation from Berkshire Freemasons 

The Grand Opening

The Grand Opening of the Newbury Soup Kitchen Headquarters took place on Saturday 31st July. Singer and actor, Will Young is Patron of the charity. He joined Meryl and the team to cut the ribbon.

Will Young, Patron of Newbury Soup Kitchen, officially opens the new premises and service van

Berkshire Freemasons were invited to the event. The Provincial Grand Master, Anthony Howlett-Bolton OBE, was in attendance, along with Kevin Mellett (Victory Lodge), Ian Wharton (Theale on Holybrook Lodge), Roger Cooper (Hope Lodge) and Gerry Preston, Provincial Grand Charity Steward. Our photographer, Ray Lloyd, was there to capture the day’s festivities. 

Berkshire Provincial Grand Master, Anthony Howlett-Bolton OBE, the Founder and CEO of the Newbury Soup Kitchen, Meryl Praill and the charity’s patron, Will Young

The Charity’s Founder and Operations Manager Meryl Praill said “Without the kindness and support of wonderful organisations and companies like yourselves, we would not be able to carry out the support we do on a day-to-day basis. With this donation, we will be able to carry on providing Safer Food Provision, Outreach and Support to anyone who needs that extra helping hand and support. It is very important to us that everyone is treated with respect, kindness and treated as equals in society, often not experienced by some previously. We love our work and are committed to strive forward.” 

The Provincial Grand Master, Anthony Howlett-Bolton OBE said “This year, more and more people have needed the kind of support that Newbury Soup Kitchen provides. We are delighted to be able to support them and the people they serve.” 

Newbury Soup Kitchen Volunteer Lorraine shows Berkshire Provincial Grand Master, Anthony Howlett-Bolton OBE and the Provincial Charity Steward, Gerry Preston, their “Success Board” with moving stories from some of the people they have helped

Newbury Soup Kitchen works solely on food donated by supermarkets and the public, along with public monetary donations and grants. Not only does this model help the charity, it also helps with the impact of potential food waste. The charity estimate that, since its setup, they have collected and used over 16,000 kg of food, which has an environmental saving of over 51,000 tons of CO2 had it gone to waste. 

To learn more about the charity and read about their success stories, visit their website at: 

To view some of the videos from the Grand Opening event, visit YouTube: 

L to R: Kevin Mellett (Victory Lodge); Meryl Praill, Founder and CEO of Newbury Soup Kitchen; Ian Wharton (Theale on Holybrook Lodge); Berkshire Provincial Grand Master, Anthony Howlett-Bolton OBE; Singer and Actor, Will Young; Roger Cooper (Hope Lodge); Provincial Grand Charity Secretary, Gerry Preston

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