Two stalwart volunteers who have helped those most in need in Leamington for more than 20 years are calling it a day at the end of the year.
Steph and Geoff Devlin are known by many for their work with the Leamington Christian Mission and most notably the mobile soup kitchen they run on three nights a week on Newbold Terrace.
But the building from which they base their work, and have generously been allowed to use rent free for 20 years, is being sold and the couple who have reached ‘retirement age’ have decided that this coming winter will be the last in which they help the homeless and impoverished in town.
Steph said: “It’s been very hard at times but also very rewarding and I have loved every minute of it.
“Looking back it seems as if we started only yesterday, it doesn’t feel like we’ve been doing it for a long time it just feels like a good part of our lives we can look back on.
It was Steph and Geoff’s faith which led them to start helping the homeless 24 years ago.
The couple held a meeting with the police and were surprised to learn there was a strong need for the work they wanted to carry out.
Steph said: “I had a vision from God and he told me to go out and help others. But we had no idea there was a problem like there was in Leamington.
“Geoff went out with a friend on the first night and then I went out with Geoff on the second and it went on from there.
“There was nothing in the town at the time. We would go out on seven days a week and still do other jobs, there was nothing like what is going on now.”
Steph said the future of the soup kitchens is ‘up in the air’ but talks are going on between volunteers and organisations to ensure there will be services in place if they cease to operate as they do now.
She added: “There are lots of things going on, Leamington is not going to be left with nothing.
“We’ll miss what we’ve been doing, it has given us a purpose in life but, even though I hate saying this, we’re now too old to start from scratch with a different building too.”
Over the years Steph and Geoff have cared for the elderly, delivered food parcels, organised family activities and distributed furniture at monthly give-aways.
In 2011, Steph received the inaugural Citizen of the Year Award organised by the Brakes Trust.
Chris White, MP for Warwick and Leamington, said: “Steph and Geoff have built up a tremendous reputation. They are thought of very fondly by the community and are a great of example of what people will do over and above what anyone would expect of them.”