A FOODBANK volunteer has been deeply moved by the response to an online video calling for donations during the coronavirus crisis.

Philip Blackledge, reverend at Melrose's Holy Trinity church, was the mastermind behind a YouTube appeal seeking items including rice, sauces and sugar.

Rev Blackledge ensured the video was serious, but lighthearted - at one point he even took a bite out of a raw potato.

The churchman said: "There's no point being miserable about it. There's so much panic around that my principle is, don't add to the panic - just add to the quality of life."

As well as building up the foodbank's basic stock at Holy Trinity, High Cross Avenue, Rev Blackledge has been pleasantly surprised to find items he did not request in the donation baskets.

He said: "One of the most touching things, looking at the food that's been given, obviously somebody watched my video because they have given it absolutely to order. They've bought an enormous crate of sugar, some 24 packets of sugar, but they've also bought a load of sweets and a load of children's toys, because they're obviously worried about the kids.

"It's so lovely, and it often happens. You say to buy the basic stuff because you want as much as possible and if you buy the cheaper stuff you can get more of it.

"But people make their own jam and put that in, and people get treats because it's not just giving away, they realise that they're giving to people and they want to make a human connection with those people.

"And I think, isn't that the most powerful thing in the world, that people who will never meet the people that it goes to, want to say to them they matter and that they're looked after. I think that's brilliant."

Rev Blackledge has also created leaflets to post around the community, offering to help them with shopping, prescriptions, or just to have a friendly chat.

But some people have reacted to the notes in a different way. The reverend told us: "I wanted to say how ridiculously heartening it is that, there I am, handing out 'I can help' things, and tenfold are coming back saying they can help too, I think that's just wonderful. I can't state that highly enough.

"All you hear in the media is about running out of toilet rolls and pasta, but since I've been putting around my little leaflets, I've had about half a dozen people asking for help and I've had about two dozen people offering help, which is quite a wonderful thing when you think about it.

"It's actually the things like that that release the goodwill that's around in society. It's a really difficult time for a lot of people but the rest of the community's absolutely up for it."

And the foodbank, which supports people in Galashiels, Melrose, and Tweedbank, is gearing up for increased demand as the outbreak develops.

"I'm certainly sure there's going to be a greater need, I suspect it will round up as the weeks go on," added Rev Blackledge.

"The kids who have free school meals and the like, I suspect the school will try and find a way of helping them out, but it's not just them, it's the folk on zero-hours contracts, who are just not going to get any income.

"As the days and weeks progress, it's going to get tighter and tighter for folk and to my mind the real crunch point is about three to four weeks into this, when we establish a sort of 'new normal' and a new pattern. We've got to make sure that new normal and that new pattern involves keeping feeling compassionate for folk.

"And keeping that in mind because, at the moment, the foodbank does about 40 bags a week, 40 different people a week, now I expect that's going to double or more. People are very generous towards the foodbank, so we've got a bit of money in store but it will run out fairly soon, especially if the workload doubles.

"But I'm sure it will happen because people are generous and they don't want to see their neighbours suffering."

Holy Trinity Melrose's YouTube channel can be found here.