Harold Hill woman Angela Scott on overcoming adversity and forming food charity PicnicBasketMe
18:10 10 April 2013
Overcoming the death of a daughter, bringing up five children single-handedly and losing your home – there aren’t many who could go through five years like that and come out fighting.
But big-hearted Angela Scott, 48, is proving that life goes on – and now the care worker wants to help others who are facing the problems she did a decade ago.
That’s why she’s founded PicnicBasketMe.
The charity, run from Angela’s home in Waverley Crescent, Harold Hill, provides struggling families with two weeks’ worth of food when times are hard.
A basket costs £15 – something that sets Picnic Basket Me apart from Havering’s food banks, which give out supplies free of charge.
Angela reckons that means she’s able to reach a different group of people.
“Sometimes people are embarrassed to go to food banks,” she explained. “They’d rather know that they’ve paid something.
Fifteen years ago, Angela’s eldest daughter Samantha died after an illness.
Heartbroken, the single mum she knew she had to hold things together for her other children – the youngest of whom wasn’t even born.
She carried on working as a credit controller and saving whatever she could, eventually securing a mortgage.
Sadly, her problems weren’t over.
“The fact I was able to get a mortgage as a single mum was brilliant,” she said. “But then I struggled every single month.
“I’d pay the mortgage and feel good for two weeks, then start worrying. That went on every month for about a year.
“The job I was doing paid pretty well, but if you’ve got five children they’re going to get ill and you’re not always going to be able to go into work.
“Then the work stops coming in and then you go on benefits, and that’s not enough to pay the mortgage.”
She avoided asking for help – because she was embarrassed by the situation she found herself in.
“I didn’t want the mortgage people to know I was claiming benefits,” she admitted. “People are embarrassed when they’re working and still can’t afford the basics.”
Finally came the devastating but inevitable conclusion – with months of accumulated debt, and five children aged between four and 14, Angela lost her house.
“Once people buy their own house they look OK on the outside, but you don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “Sometimes they can’t even put the basics on the table.”
Knowing she had to provide for her children, determined Angela went back to college – and came out with a psychology degree that meant she was able to earn a decent wage as a carer.
Ten years later, she’s back on her feet – and her mind has turned to the people who helped out when times were tough.
“Sometimes we just didn’t have enough,” she recalled. “But I found if I could just get help for a week where food was concerned, I’d be able to keep going until pay day.
“A few of my friends were in the same situation – by the end of the month they were just a little bit short.
“So we would help each other out at different times. That’s where it was born.”
Founded six months ago, PicnicBasketMe now delivers two or more food baskets a week to struggling households.
“What I won’t do is deliver a basket for two weeks and then do the same two weeks later,” Angela reasoned. “You have to wait a month before I can deliver again. That two week gap is for you to help yourself.”
The charity’s shopping and delivery is covered by Angela’s able team of five – her children, now in their teens and 20s. But she relies on donations to meet the cost of the food itself. The shopping and delivery costs Angela about double what the people pay - and that’s assuming they’re able to put up the money at all.
“People are supposed to pay when I deliver, but not everybody is able to,” she admitted. “And I’m not walking away from those houses with a full basket of food.”
If you’d like to help, contact Angela on 07852 778 914 or visit www.picnicbasketme.co.uk to find out more about the charity’s work.