RUNNER Spencer Smith is doing his bit for Newcastle-Staffs Foodbank during lockdown – dressed in full firefighter kit.
The retained firefighter had hoped to complete a series of half marathons this year but the coronavirus outbreak means many sport and fundraising events have been cancelled.
However Spencer, a seasoned runner and charity champion, is keen to ensure his training will still help a good cause.
Instead of taking part in the Worcester Half Marathon on May 17, he has set himself the challenge of completing a 100-metre casualty drag at Newcastle fire station before setting off on a half marathon course around the borough.
Dressed in full firefighter uniform, the 45-year-old hopes the stunt will raise the profile – and funds – of Newcastle-Staffs Foodbank.
The foodbank, based in Chesterton, has seen a 32 per cent increase in foodbank use following the outbreak in the UK at the end of March, compared to the same period last year.*
Spencer, of Hartshill, said: “I was inspired by Captain Tom Moore who completed his walk at his house so I thought why not run the half marathon here in Newcastle.
“I’ll be at the station first, carrying out a 100-metre casualty drag, dressed in full kit. The dummy is 30kg, the size of an average adult.
“Then I will set off on the half marathon, taking in places like Knutton, Silverdale, Clayton.”
Spencer hopes to hit his personal best of two hours 27 minutes for the run while wearing his uniform plus breathing apparatus which weighs 15kg.
Spencer said: “If people can donate online, or leave food at the donation points that will be magnificent.
“But it might be that someone sees this and plucks up the courage to seek the help they need from the foodbank. I might inspire others to do their own challenge for the foodbank.
“It might be that when people get back to work and school and life gets back to some sort of normality, those who are in a better position to donate do so then.
“Foodbanks were hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak, seeing a drop in donations as well as increased use. I just wanted to do something to help.”
Last year Newcastle-Staffs Foodbank fed 5,101 people, an 18 per cent increase on the previous 12 months. It has seen a steady rise in clients, particularly over the last six weeks.
Fundraiser Ann King said: “There are a number of misconceptions about foodbank use – that it’s used by people who don’t want to get off benefits, or people who spend their money on luxuries like big TVs and can’t budget.
“The truth is Newcastle-Staffs Foodbank was established to support those who find their income doesn’t go far enough to cover the bare essentials. We believe nobody should feel they have to go hungry.
“And sometimes, when people are living within a strict budget, a crisis, an unexpected event, can bring everything tumbling down and they find themselves struggling to pay the bills they were previously managing.
“Coronavirus is such a crisis. Some people may have a reduced income because they have fallen ill or are on furlough leave. Families are trying to cope with children being off school for an extended period of time. Workers on zero-hour contracts might not be able to pick up enough shifts.
“There are many reasons why someone might need the support of our foodbank. At this time we are doing everything in our power to keep our centres open – although operating under social distancing measures – so we can help those going through a difficult time and spread a little hope and compassion.
“We’ve had a fantastic response to our appeal for funds and support since the coronavirus outbreak and we want to say thank you to each and every person, like Spencer, who has gone out of their way to show they care for people in their community.”
To sponsor Spencer and donate to Newcastle-Staffs Foodbank visit https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/newcastle-staffs-foodbank—covid19-crisis-appea