OKEHAMPTON Round Table has thanked everyone for a ‘fantastic’ response to its appeal for the foodbank.

Round Table members were out every evening last week visiting Sticklepath, North Tawton, Hatherleigh and Okehampton.

Santa’s sleigh was piled high many times over as people left donations at their gates for collection.

By the end of the week, the donations of food brought back filled the hall at Okehampton Baptist Church, where the foodbank is based.

Chairman James Mallen said: ‘This week at times has proven to be very mentally and physically tiring for all of our members. Then you look at what has been achieved on the behalf of the Okehampton Foodbank and actually we would all do it again tomorrow.

‘We have had a fantastic result. The pictures in the church hall say it all. We have collected enough to feed about 150 families for about a week. We have also given been given £1,000 in unexpected donations.’

The Round Table sleigh is more usually seen in and around Okehampton at Christmas, with Santa on board delivering presents to the children. However, in an exceptional break to routine, it was pressed into service to help garner support for the foodbank — which is currently feeding around 35 families a week, up from 11 to 12 a week before the start of the coronavirus crisis.

James added: ‘We basically turned up playing loud music and when we got there most people had left bags at the gates of their houses.

‘I have been telling all the children that Santa is in isolation and we are just borrowing his sleigh — we thought it would be a bit too weird to play Christmas music!

‘Lots of people came out to see us from a distance, it was absolutely brilliant. Kids in families who were self-isolating were waving from the window. The whole atmosphere of it was really positive.’

He thanked Okehampton Carnival Committee and PTFA members who helped with the collection and Hatherleigh Motor Services for essential repairs to keep the sleigh on the road.

Paul Jarrett, who runs Okehampton Foodbank, said: ‘We want to give a huge thank you to all the Round Table has done.

‘The food quantities are way beyond what we could ever have hoped for. It just kept on coming. It really is a food mountain and we are gradually working out where to store it all.’

He said the food would help feed people even after the lockdown was eased. ‘We are aware that we are in it for the long haul,’ he said.

‘When the restrictions are lifted there will be people who still haven’t got work. We are here and ready and able to help people in the longer term.’

Okehampton mayor Julie Yelland added her thanks, saying: ‘A huge “thank you” to the members of the Round Table for having the brilliant idea of taking Santa’s sleigh out and travelling around the streets to collect for the foodbank this week.

‘Thank you also to all those who have so kindly donated food — it is wonderful to know that everyone is looking out for each other in these difficult times.’