WHEN MARKS AND SPENCER returned to Dalston after decades away from Kingsland High Street, it decided to choose a charity partner that was local.
Big businesses often set aside money for charity or are able to help in another way and sometimes charities are invited to pitch to a staff-charity committee.
No such beauty parade was held when Marks opened its Foodhall next to Kingsland station this spring.
Instead, the manager, Debbie Cunningham, simply asked staff for suggestions. The charity subsequently chosen, said the retailer’s press people after repeated Loving Dalston requests for details, was “St Mark’s Community Hall”.
They added: “The store will donate fresh food daily and other products weekly to the church, which will be used to create its regular Tuesday weekly community lunches with remaining products distributed via the church food bank to the community”.
Loving Dalston found no “St Mark’s Community Hall” on the charity register. But the nearby Anglican church holds drop-in sessions on Tuesdays, which is presmably where the Foodhall gifts will be going (St Mark’s did not respond to this site’s request to comment).
A St Mark’s charity is registered, with the proselytising name “The Parochial Church Council Of The Ecclesiastical Parish Of St Marks [sic] Dalston”. Its mission statement is even more striking. The capitals are not Loving Dalston’s:
ST. MARK WITH ST. BARTHOLOMEW IS A PARISH CHURCH, WHOSE AIM IS TO ALLOW JESUS LIVE IN US IN SUCH A WAY THAT OUR NEIGHBOURS EXPERIENCE HIS LOVE AND COME TO BE FRIENDS AND FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST TOO. AS A CHURCH, WE INTEND TO ENCOURAGE AND SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER IN LIVING HIS LIFE, FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER AND ENCOURAGING ONE ANOTHER TO FOLLOW HIM.
This is how the Foodhall is, in Cunningham’s words “working hard to become an integral part of the community”.
St Marks shocked charity volunteers last year 2017 when it ended its weekend winter-night shelter. The church had been providing space for 16 stretchers for homeless people but vicar the Rev Joshua Zvimba decided his church needed a rest, although he gave no idea of how long the rest from helping rough sleepers would last.
If Cunningham is still, as she says, “giving a lot of thought to the community initiatives we can support”, perhaps other local charities might deserve a bit more thought when the powerful store next doles out charity.
David Altheer 070618
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