Food bank volunteers at Eternity Downham Market. Pictures: Ian Burt

Work is due to begin next month to transform a “grey warehouse” to a welcoming community hub.

Eternity Downham Market Church, based at The Sovereign Centre and home to the town’s food bank for eight years, is set to expand.

The project, which will cost around £250,000, will start in early February and be completed in May.

Church centre manager and food bank co-ordinator Alex Coates said: “We have been planning it for years. After a member of our congregation passed away, we were very fortunate to have received a sum of money.

“At the moment, our church is in a big grey warehouse. It will have a new door with glass surround and a new atrium which will let lots of light in. It will look so much more inviting.

“The auditorium will be modernised and it will have new toilets, kitchen and a community cafe.”

Alex Coates has spoken about expansion plans for the church.

Mrs Coates said after the church has been revamped, its volunteers hope it will be a venue for music events and weddings.

While the work takes place, food bank users will be directed to the rear of the building and opening times will remain the same – Tuesdays, 12.30pm to 2.30pm and Fridays, 10.30am to 12.30pm.

Mrs Coates last year had seen an increase in the number of people using the food bank.

“Before the pandemic, it was around two to three people per session and now it is around eight to nine people on average,” she said.

“We are not just seeing people who are struggling on benefits now; it’s the self-employed, people who have been furloughed, those who have had their hours reduced or lost their jobs. I think it set to get worse with a recession.”

Mrs Coates said the pandemic had also resulted in increased loneliness among all ages and she urged anyone who felt alone to call the church and leave a message if the call could not be answered.

“I am a positive person and things will get better, but I think it’s going to take a while yet,” she said.

People are also invited to join the church’s online Sunday Service.

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