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Tenshun as Sister Rita is piped in the churchyard

Max captures the scene for his photo album

Mark Wells welcomes the guests.

4 inches flowed down Kirkhill in flash storm

Sister Rita blesses the venture

Kris Chapman tells us of his work and support for young people and those in need

Sister Rita chats with the audience

Town Crier could not make it in person but this little chap stepped in

Food Facts and Friends - Official opening 7 June 2016 

Story - Jim Paterson. Photos Jim Paterson & John Stuart

Mark Wells & Gordon MacDonald meet Sister Rita Lee & Max at Waverley station

Food Facts and Friends (FFF) welcomed Sister Rita Lee and Max, from the Lalley Centre in Manchester, to officially open the drop in centre at St. Mungo's on Tuesday 7 June. Gordon MacDonald and Jim Paterson from St. Mungo's joined Mark Wells, leader of the FFF team to meet Sister Rita and her party at Edinburgh Waverley station. The party also included BBC film crew Rachel an Simon who are creating a documentary of Sister Rita's work for a new series to be screened in November.

We took the party the scenic route to Penicuik, passing the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood Palace, through the park, ski slope, and along the Pentland Hills. The route bypassed roadworks on the approach to Penicuik which were experiencing major delays due to a traffic light repair work at Tesco's junction.

Sister Rita could not stop talking about how green everything looked, under a beautiful blue sky. Reminded her of her childhood home in County Cork Ireland. Passing Penicuik House and estate we reached St. Mungo's, spot on our planned schedule time.

We met Penicuik Hunter & Lass, William Brown and Kerry Wilson, on arrival and were piped into the church by. Jim Macleod, dressed in full kilt and pipers regalia. Gordon MacDonald related the history of both St. Mungo's and the old St. Kentigern churches, to Sister Rita, which the film crew captured in the bright sunlight. The clouds were forming and the plan moved on to the formal proceedings in the church hall.

Not a moment to soon as a flash storm and flood hit Penicuik during the presentation. Simon, the film sound engineer thought he had a fault on his recording equipment, picking up interference. Turned out to be the drumming of hailstones on the hall roof, and the sound of 4 inches of flood water rushing down Kirkhill Road. The hall vestibule and toilets flooded as water poured through the front door and spouted up through the washbasin drains.

Mark Wells explained why he started the Food Facts and Friend. Having himself fallen on hard times. With no money, benefits or help for housing or food for his wife and children he turned to the Christian church for help. They provided immediate respite and guided and supported him to secure a roof over his head and food for the family.

This gave Mark the determination to help others, without judgement, finding themselves in a similar situation. He has run several operations, with the latest Food Facts,and Friends project with wife Grace, Jill Kane, and David Bennett being the most ambitious.

More than a foodbank, the team offer facts to help people gain the support services in the community that they need, be it social or financial. The friendship they also offer builds trust with the people and families they help. Working with Midlothian Council they are the only  team in Penicuik offering this walk in off the street level of support to the needy in our community.

Gordon MacDonald told the audience a brief history of the church, and Lass Kerry Wilson provided the history of the Hunter and Lass annual event. Kris Chapman told us about his work as a champion of community support organisations, both for young people and local residents falling on difficult times. He wished the venture well and offered his ongoing support.

Sister Rita then cut the ribbon to formally open the centre, after which we enjoyed a lunch, prepared by the FFF team. She then spent time circulating and talking to the lunch table members, before it was time to head back to the station and her return to Manchester.

Both the Food Facts an Friends team, Sister Rita and Max learned a lot about each other's operations and a strong bond between the two  groups has been made. An open invitation to visit was made and we look forward to  the FFF team introducing some new activities in their ongoing quest to help those in difficulty. St. Mungo's is proud to support the venture, what true Christian outreach into our community is all about.

Donations of food from local shops in Penicuik are used in the food parcels. You can support the venture through donations of food or cash, every Monday and Friday from 10.00am  to 2.00pm in the church hall. You can also meet Mark on a Sunday morning in St. Mungo's church

Hunter William Brown and Sister Rita listen to the speeches

Thanking the Piper

Hug from Sister Rita before she departs on her way back to Manchester
Updated - 12 June 2016

Penicuik: St. Mungo's Parish Church (Church of Scotland). Scottish Charity No SC005838