Richard Price-Jones, 42, is raising money to show his gratitude for the Zink Project, the advice and employment support charity which grew out of the High Peak Foodbank.
He said: “They’ve done so much for me this year. I was on food parcels for four months and I wanted to do something to give back. I’m still not working so I can’t spare the money to go and buy food to donate.
“I also want to let people know that there is help there if they need it. There is always someone to talk to. I hope people will donate so that Zink can help more people get back on their feet the way they have helped me.”
Richard, who has four children aged four to 14, first came into contact with Zink in the aftermath of an attempt to take his own life last September.
He said: “Over the last couple of years I’d got into a bad financial situation coming out of my marriage. There were all sorts of pressures and then I had a bad experience with an employer who made me redundant overnight when Covid hit.
“I’ve been living with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder since my brother Jamie died from a massive brain haemorrhage eight years ago. Things were piling up and then I got hit with an eviction order for rent arrears, and that was the tipping point. Everything got too much.”
Thankfully, Richard got himself to hospital in time for life-saving medical treatment, and a week later he made his first visit to the foodbank.
He said: “Until I went there, I didn’t even know it existed. That’s one reason I’m sharing my story – so that other people know there is help there.
“I was collecting my first food parcel and just broke down on the floor. That’s when the advice worker, Julie, picked me up, so to speak. If she hadn’t, I’ve no idea where I would be now.”
Zink evolved out of the foodbank to more actively support High Peak residents living in poverty via employment programmes, an advice service and soon a new community wellbeing hub.
Richard said: “I could talk to Julie straight away and she helped with so much stuff. She came to my home and helped go through all the mail I’d been hiding so I didn’t have to deal with it, then helped me speak to people to manage all the bills and debts.
“She pushed for a court date to get the eviction overturned, and made sure I was on all the right benefits and accessing other sources support. I managed to pay back more than £4,000 of debt in eight months.”
He added: “Whenever I’ve been stuck on something, Julie has always been there on the phone ready to help.
“Her support has always been tailored to me as well. It’s more personal than some services which just want to tick a few boxes.”
Julie was also able to get social services and care workers involved to help Richard manage his type one diabetes but perhaps more importantly he was given some clarity around his mental health struggles.
He said: “When I was at the hospital, they picked up on some traits of autism and referred me on for assessment. I always knew that I was different, but I didn’t want to admit it to anyone.
“I was told there was a waiting list of 12-18 months, but Julie managed to speed things up and I got my final diagnosis in May. I was relieved to have an explanation for why I behaved the way I do sometimes, but confused because I didn’t know much about it or how I would cope.”
He added: “I’ve had lots of help now learning about autism and how to live with it. I’m still a work in progress but if I was at one out of ten last year, now I’m at seven or eight. I’m much happier and more confident but still struggling with social anxiety.
"I cannot thank Julie, Zink and the foodbank enough for the last nine months. Without them I certainly wouldn't be in as good a position as I am now - mentally, financially and emotionally.”
A trained mechanic and former car salesman, Richard is determined to get back into work as soon as he is able, but for now he has set himself another project to keep himself busy.
Alongside the crowdfunding appeal for Zink, Richard has created a piece of mosaic art and is currently building bird boxes and tables to sell on behalf of the charity. When the charity’s new café opens later this year, he will also be baking cakes for it.
“I’ve got to have carpal tunnel surgery this week which will set things back a bit, but I should have six or seven bird tables to sell on the Zink Facebook page in a couple of weeks. I’ve already had three people say they will buy one.”
To donate to Richard’s crowdfunder, go to https://bit.ly/3w4snQy