FIND founder Maureen Reynel on feeding Suffolk's vulnerable for 30 years

Maureen Reynel MBE, founder of FIND foodbank in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Maureen Reynel MBE, founder of FIND foodbank in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The woman who fostered the whole of Ipswich and Suffolk.

That’s how Maureen Reynel from Ipswich-based charity FIND has been described.  

Mrs Reynel has spent the past three decades helping people in need with food, goods and other support.  

FIND is one of the largest foodbanks in the county and has an army of 80 volunteers helping some of the area's most vulnerable people.  

“It’s providing support in various ways for those who are struggling, regardless of whether they have brought it on themselves or whether it’s from other circumstances in their lives,” said Mrs Reynel. 

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“We are trying to provide the basics of what we need every day of our lives.” 

When the charity first started it was only ever meant to be temporary.  

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"I started FIND coming up for 31 years ago,” she said.  

"With the intention of it being for just three years while the recession was on.  

"The need has got bigger over the years and I am still doing what I set out to do only it is more complex now." 

Prior to setting up FIND, Mrs Reynel was a foster carer and youth leader.  

“I got involved with a homeless families unit because some of my placements came from there,” she said.  

“Then I started to be asked if I could give clothing and pots and pans and household furniture when people were moving on with nothing.  

“Then there was the recession in 1990 and things were dire then.” 

FIND started out with an old laundry van from the Royal Hospital School.  

Eventually Mrs Reynel kept getting more and more referrals up to the point now where she deals with up to 60 agencies.  

“It’s a whole journey,” she said.  

“Once it is a registered charity you have to commit your life to what you have promised to do.” 

No-one at FIND gets paid for their work, nevertheless Mrs Reynel and her volunteers remain committed.  

"I care about people's plights,” she said.   

“I don't like to think of children going without the basics.  

"If helping the children means helping the parents then that is fine.” 

Mrs Reynel said that it was important that children felt safe and had their own bed that smelt like them.  

“I think there’s one place that a child feels secure and that is its own bed,” she said.  

For Mrs Reynel, it’s important that no one is left behind.  

"Somebody said that now you have fostered the whole of Ipswich and beyond,” she said.  

“If there is a need there is something we need to do about it.  

“We don’t have boundaries. I don’t say sorry you live on the wrong side of the road or in the wrong postcode. That’s not how find works.” 

The coronavirus has brought a number of challenges to FIND, but the charity has remained open throughout.  

“There’s been lots of sadness but also lots of wonderful things too,” she said.  

“People’s generosity has restored my energy levels because it can be very tiring.” 

Mrs Reynel’s faith and resolve keeps her motivated with her work.  

“I go into church on a Sunday to recharge my battery for the following week,” she said.  

“I have always said if there is a problem there must be a solution, if there’s no solution there is no problem.” 

Looking forward Mrs Reynel says she expects demand to continue to rise in the next few months.  

“It’s really accelerated again,” she said.  

“There is always the pressure of Christmas.  

“Three years ago I would get 10 referrals a day, now it’s 20-30. 

“I think this year because we are saying there could be a shortage of food because of the transport issues people start to buy in and use the money they’d use for their electric meters.  

"I just want to say to everyone sit tight, hold tight, you will be okay.  

“If you are in dire straits there are people who will help you.” 

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