Selfless mum-of-four who works tirelessly to feed and support families in her community.
When Michelle Dornelly realised how many of her neighbours in Hackney, East London, were going hungry, she decided to take direct action; stepping in to help.
Despite being a mum of four and struggling to get by on Universal Credit payments herself, in April 2020 she formed the Hackney Community Food Hub.
Putting calls out via social media she has gone on to develop a team of 100 volunteers and has fed more than 100,000 people, including those who are housebound or homeless. With no permanent base of their own, Michelle and the Food Hub team still have to collect and deliver supplies to venues across the borough.
They collect food surplus and make it available – as cupboard supplies or hot meals – with no referral needed. As a community they respond to calls for help 24/7, stepping up at Christmas and other holidays to provide essentials, extra food and gifts. Without a base, Michelle has to store these supplies in her own home – filling her freezer and piling up boxes in her front room – and works full-time and unpaid, making deliveries and drop-offs across the borough.
With winter coming, the team says demand for their help is only going to grow. Michelle says: “I know people who have five or six children at home. Furlough has finished and their benefits have gone down. Gas prices have gone up. They’re asking me: do I heat the home or fill the children’s bellies and we go cold?’ “If you live on an estate you are hidden, you are forgotten about and you are hard to reach. So we were going out specifically to reach those people.” “I’m experiencing the same situation everyone else is experiencing.
I am still struggling myself. My life is not my own, I eat, breathe and sleep this.” Volunteer Grace, explains: “Thanks to Michelle, we are a community hub and that word community runs through everything that we do.” And Michelle’s daughter Renisha adds: “Day in and day out, I have seen my Mum work hard for her community. Not one day goes by where she is not working: her drive, compassion, love, commitment and motivation are some of the things I look up to. I could not be prouder of the lady I call my Mum.”