Peeblesshire Foodbank has heaped praise on a local woman for her unfailing efforts to help struggling families.

This week, reporter Hilary Scott finally convinced the remarkable fundraiser to stop hiding behind her hampers and reveal herself.

Over the past few years, I have been asking Nancy Fenton if I could write an article on her astounding fundraising efforts for the foodbank. Each time, she modestly declined, insisting that she doesn’t do it for publicity or praise.

However, after I received a message from the new manager of Peeblesshire Foodbank, Fiona Dalgleish, saying it was about time the big-hearted fundraiser was recognised for the great work she does, Nancy could hide no more.

Filled with toiletries, bottles of wine, and gifts, Nancy’s spare room resembles Santa’s grotto. Her dining table is always filled with baskets, cellophane and ribbon for her legendary hampers.

How it all started

Nancy and her husband Bill joined as volunteers of the Peeblesshire Foodbank in 2012.

Not long after, during an annual general meeting, the committee revealed it had no money and it was struggling.

Nancy explained: “I offered to host a coffee morning that raised around £600.

"Following the success of that I decided to hold another, again raising around the same amount.”

At the time, Nancy worked as a social care assistant at Dovecot Court, the extra care housing development.

One of its residents donated some items, suggesting she should sell them to raise money from the foodbank.

So Nancy did, and what started posting a few items on the local Sales & Wants page, grew into something that she would be well-known for by townsfolk.

Busiest Christmas ever

“Word gets around,” she said. “I’ve been selling on the local pages for as long as I can remember.

“I make Christmas hampers every year, and this year I made up 47 with donated contents which all sold."

She added: “This Christmas was the busiest I’ve ever been, raising £1,500 between the end of November to February 10."

And, rather than gifts for her milestone 70th birthday at the end of last year, Nancy donated £700 to the Peebles branch of the MS Society.

“I recently made 17 Valentine’s hampers which all sold. Whenever I have been donated wine glasses or china cups, I wrap them up with sweets – it’s a nice wee something for pupils to give their teachers at the end of term.”

Raised thousands of pounds

Her hampers are in demand, and Nancy often makes them up for other local charities – as well as organisations and clubs, and her grandchildren’s primary schools for raffles.

Currently Nancy is running a number raffle with three large hampers and several other prizes.

The Peebles stalwart jots all her sales down, filling many notebooks, and says she has raised thousands over the years.

But she credits the people of Peeblesshire for their ever-giving generosity.

“Many customers give me extra and refuse change. Even if it’s a pound or two, believe me, it soon mounts up,” she says.

'Thank you' from foodbank manager

The batteries in the doorbell at Nancy and Bill's home have to be replenished often, due to countless people simply dropping off donations, or buying items.

The manager of the Peeblesshire Foodbank, Fiona Dalgleish, told the Peeblesshire News: “Nancy has single-handedly raised thousands and thousands of pounds for the foodbank.

“Her energy and dedication has directly improved the lives of those in need in our community, and the foodbank and Peeblesshire is incredibly lucky and grateful to have her.”

Humbly, Nancy says that without the good people of Peeblesshire donating and buying from her, she wouldn’t be able to hand over the magnificent sums of money to the charity’s treasurer.

'No-one should be hungry'

It’s clear that the foodbank is a charity that Nancy cares about deeply.

Asked why she works tirelessly fundraising instead of enjoying retirement, she replied: “I feel passionately that no-one should be hungry. I had a large family myself, and we hit a few hard times.

“I was lucky having parents to help out, but not everyone is as fortunate, and in these circumstances we find ourselves in today, it is a much needed charity.”

To many in Peeblesshire, Nancy is known as a local treasure, her legendary fundraising efforts praised and applauded by the community. To some, she is known as “the foodbank lady”.

And to me, she is simply my Mum.