Volunteer to deliver food and clothes to struggling families in his corner of Fife, Gordon Brown knocked on the door of a mother whose two children slept on the floor instead of in beds.
The appalled former PM did the most Gordon Brown thing ever… by rushing home to dismantle his own sons’ bunks to donate to the destitute family.
“You should’ve seen them all standing in her house, trying to put them back up for her,” laughs Marilyn Livingstone, chair of the inspiring Cottage Family Centre in the ex-Prime Minister’s Kirkcaldy hometown and former constituency.
Mr Brown taking down then reassembling beds as his wife Sarah bought sheets and duvets for the struggling household, plus presumably replacement beds for their boys John and Fraser, is typical in a hard-pressed community pulling together.
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Battered by Tory cuts on top of thousands of lost coal mining and linoleum factory jobs that once powered Kirkcaldy’s local economy, volunteers in the remarkable Cottage demonstrate daily how to fight back.
Established in 1987, it provides counselling and support to feeding the hungry and clothing the threadbare.
Pauline Buchan, the Cottage’s manager, typifies the can-do spirit of a centre at the heart of one of the most deprived areas in Scotland.
Are you a parent struggling with poverty? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
“If you’ve had the stuffing knocked out of you then you need it put back in,” she says.
“We try to help but it is depressing when forces outside our control keep creating more demand.”
So successful is the centre in West Kirkcaldy, and so high is the demand for its services, that a second Cottage Family Centre is to open on March 20 in Kirkcaldy East, where poverty is a grim way of life for many kids.
The Cottage’s brilliant women are most proud of those whose lives they helped transform.
People such as the young mum-of-two in her early 30s we’ll call Angela, who was broke and broken in a depressive relationship with a partner spending much of their money on alcohol.
Turning her life around and grabbing a second chance of education, she is brimming with hope. “I felt I was never going to amount to anything,” recalls Angela.
“They helped me with my mental health and counselling and classes.
“Now a lot of people come to me and ask for advice on how to improve their lives.”
Fundraising is a perpetual grind and the project seeks donations wherever it sniffs folk with a conscience.
The boss of local offshore engineers Briggs Marine is praised to the hilt for writing cheques.
Fife Council supports them financially as do appeals such as Children in Need.
The rising need saw the centre support 1,300 families at Christmas.
Give Me Five
The Daily Mirror is calling on Boris Johnson to hike child benefit by £5 a week to end the scourge of child poverty.
Without action the number of kids in poverty in the UK is set to rise from 4.1million to 5.2million in the next two years.
Our Give Me Five campaign wants an immediate increase in child benefit – a move that would lift 200,000 children out of destitution. Our campaign is backed by charities, politicians and union leaders.
“It’s hard with £30million a year being taken out of Kirkcaldy by social security cuts,” fumes Gordon Brown.
Pauline Buchan chips in: “The system is creaking at the seams. Someone has got to help them. That’s what we do.”
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