OUR monthly feature which illuminates some of the district’s heroes has headed north to Bentham.

Salt of the Earth, in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council, helps to showcase the unstinting efforts people go to in their everyday lives to make someone else’s life that bit better.

None more so than Bentham’s Reverend Anne Russell who recognised some people needed a helping hand in the town during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rev Russell is at pains to highlight the fact the Pop Up Pantry is not a charity and was set up a few weeks ago to address a need, however large or small..

“We don’t want people to think of it as a charity. The idea is for it to help some of those who require a bit of help. Sometimes people just want to see a cheerful face and have a chat. Our motto is Bring What You Can; Take What You Need.

“That could be someone coming along and bringing a smile with them and taking away something they need. That may only be a bit of our time. Some people are quite lonely and a chat makes them feel better - all done from a safe distance,” she said.

The Pop Up Pantry is situated in the Community Youth Cafe building and has been loaned for the duration free of charge.

Donations of in-date food, toiletries, books and games for children and jigsaws and craft items for adults are welcomed.

Members of the public have been donating items as have Morrisons supermarket and it operates as a food bank working through Skipton Food Bank.

Rev Russell, who is responsible for the Anglican ministry in North Craven, explained how it all started.

“An emerging area of need is those on low pay or on part-time work - we’ve delivered six boxes just by word of mouth to local families. We’ve valued help from Morrisons and the Skipton food bank and also the local Co-op and Spar have come on board. Local people are wanting to help too so a good community effort.

“Regarding resources, we are doing well but I’m hoping to do more on mental health. The Pop Up Pantry will try and do things like craft packs.

“This might also be useful for young people who are getting quite restless and bored. We were planning to use the resources from the youth club and church but they are quite poor to be honest. We (the community youth cafe trustees) have kept on our youth worker to help. We are in touch with the head teacher at Bentham primary school too to see how we can support children’s engagement.

“Another thing which is developing is gift boxes of fresh fruit/bread for those just out of hospital, bereaved or just feeling low.”

She added that mental health is a very real issue with lockdown and social distancing.

She added: “We (my group of churches) also have befriending/pastoral teams phoning people - probably about 150 households a week, mostly Bentham but in the wider area too.

“The callers are all DBS checked (Disclosure and Barring Service) and experienced listeners and people are valuing this contact. Although we are reaching a few with pre-existing mental health issues there must be many we are missing.”

A group of around ten volunteers help out at the Pop Up Pantry, offering as much time as they can. One of the volunteers, Avril Bayes, said she was delighted to help out, along with her husband, David.

“I think Bentham is such a lovely community and it is good to give something back. It’s good to see people and have a chat and get involved. The initiative is so positive.”

The Pop Up Pantry is open Monday, Wednesday and Fridays between 10am and 12pm.

“We’ll be here as long as we’re needed,” added Rev Russell.

Anyone who knows of someone they believe is the salt of the earth and deserves to be featured can email: SaltOfTheEarth@northyorks.gov.uk