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Elgin paint firm brightens spirits at Moray Food Plus with donation after pre-Christmas theft

By Lorna Thompson

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A LOCAL paint company has brightened spirits at Moray's food bank after the charity was the victim of a pre-Christmas theft.

Volunteers at Moray Food Plus, based on Elgin's High Street, and the wider local community were left shocked after a three-figure sum of cash and food provisions for those in need were stolen in the run-up to Christmas.

Elgin community police described the theft, in the early hours of Sunday, December 6, as "a deplorable crime".

The Moray community rallied round and the food bank team were heartened by an increase in food and cash donations, and offers of help, to compensate for what was lost.

However, it was a blow the charity didn't need at its busiest period in a year during which people were relying on its help more than ever, as it faced a 24 per cent spike in demand due to the pandemic.

When staff from the local Dulux Decorator Centre, based at Elgin's Tyock Industrial Estate, heard of the food bank's plight they immediately nominated the charity for a community grant from the business's Dutch parent company.

AkzoNobel's True Colours Community Fund agreed to hand over £2000 – its largest donation to date – and another staff team at the AkzoNobel site in Felling, Gateshead, then matched this with an additional £2000 contribution.

The £4000 was handed over to Moray Food Plus by Vanessa Epstein, from Dulux Decorator Centre, just before Christmas.

Vanessa Epstein, (right), from Elgin's Dulux Decorator Centre, with Gillian Pirie, volunteer development officer at Moray Food Plus.
Vanessa Epstein, (right), from Elgin's Dulux Decorator Centre, with Gillian Pirie, volunteer development officer at Moray Food Plus.

Mairi McCallum, project manager at Moray Food Plus, said: "We appreciate the amazing donation from staff at Elgin Dulux Decorator Centre who chose to support us after the shocking break-in, and it means a lot to the organisation to have the support of Moray businesses and the wider community.

"This money will support the work we do moving into 2021 as the impact of Covid-19 is still felt by individuals and families.

"We are currently experiencing a 24 per cent increase in demand for our services compared to last year, and donations such as this enable us to keep the service running and expanding to meet this growing need."

Since the theft Moray Food Plus has been forced to spend a considerable sum to bolster security in and around the building. Mairi added: "The service was never at risk. It had more of a psychological impact as staff and volunteers were upset by what happened."

Gillian Pirie, volunteer development officer at Moray Food Plus, added: "It came as a complete shock to receive such a generous donation from AkzoNobel.

"This phenomenal amount has allowed us to continue to support the local community during these difficult times.

"We would like to thank the team at the Dulux Decorator Centre and the True Colours Community Fund for their generosity."

Vanessa (32), a sales assistant at the Elgin paint business, said: "Moray Food Plus has helped people I know in the past. When we heard about the theft we wanted to do something so that families wouldn't miss out.

"I wasn't sure if the cause would qualify for the cash, but I phoned and explained the situation and they came back saying they'd be more than willing to help. But we didn't expect anything like £4000."

Simon Burke, project lead for the AkzoNobel fund, said: "These are incredibly challenging times for both charities and vulnerable people alike, so we were especially disheartened to hear about the break-in at Moray Food Plus in Elgin.

"The food bank offers crucial support to people in Moray, so we are delighted to help support their efforts with a donation from our True Colours Community Fund.

"We’re also immensely proud of our staff at the Dulux Decorator Centre in the efforts they are going to to support their local community."

A 54-year-old man was later charged in connection with the break-in.

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