Leamington restaurateur cooks up a plan to help the homeless this Christmas

It comes at a particularly welcome time for the volunteers, who are gearing themselves up for an increased demand over Christmas

A new Leamington restaurant is supporting the local community this Christmas by joining forces with a charity that helps the homeless.

We Love Pizza, in Regent Place, is supplying its leftover food at the end of the day to Helping Hands Community Project soup kitchen which provides hot food to hundreds of people a month.

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It comes at a particularly welcome time for the volunteers, who are gearing themselves up for an increased demand over Christmas.

Jose Ribeiro hands over just one of the many pizzas during his latest delivery to Brian Halford, a volunteer at the Helping Hands soup kitchen. Photo supplied

The soup kitchen was taken over by Helping Hands six years ago after originally being started by a Christian couple with a van outside Leamington Police station.

But during Covid-19, they have instead had to adapt to providing takeaway meals from a van parked outside their Althorpe Street premises.

Sue Verne, who heads it up, said: “Before Covid-19 we used to serve food inside the premises, unfortunately we have to serve outside at the moment on a takeaway basis.

"Only four people are allowed to serve in the kitchen at any one time in order for us to keep a safe distance.

Jose Ribeiro hands over just one of the many pizzas during his latest delivery to Monique Khaira, a volunteer at the Helping Hands soup kitchen. Photo supplied

She added: “The pizza is a welcome treat and very much appreciated.

"We are so grateful for this vital support for the most vulnerable people in our area at this particularly challenging time.”

The soup kitchen van serves from Monday to Thursday 6.30pm to 7.30pm as well as offering a takeaway breakfast on Tuesdays – and even the occasional birthday cake - but will not be able to hold its popular annual Christmas party this year.

The charity also provides sleeping bags, quilts, clothing, footwear and toiletries as well as additional seasonal support such as warm water for hot water bottles and waterproofs in winter and sun cream in summer.

Jose Ribeiro, owner of We Love Pizza, was determined to work with the community despite his business facing its own challenges against the backdrop of the pandemic.

He was forced to close his restaurant throughout the second national lockdown and tier 3 restrictions, just weeks after first launching in September and is now operating a takeaway and click and collect service.

But he said: “I always knew I wanted to create a social enterprise so there is a charitable element to what we do as well. We want to use our food to impact positively on society and people’s lives so decided to work with a charity which can benefit from our surplus food at the end of each day.

“Since we moved in just a few weeks ago, we have been warmly welcomed by our new community and it is a pleasure to be able to already start to give something back.

"We sincerely hope that by supporting the fantastic work of this local charity we’re actively able to do that.

“My partner and I want to become positive members of the local community. We have that obligation to help people out that need us, especially right now.”

Jose and his team at the pizza restaurant, pride themselves on delivering ‘affordable quality’ to customers by using 'only the best and most nutritious flour combinations' and implementing exact temperature control and longer fermentation periods for the sourdough.

Fresh ingredients, sourced directly from Italy as well as locally, are prepared by a team of five chefs from four corners of the globe.

Anyone interested in supporting, donating or volunteering at the soup kitchen, or wants to learn more about how to get involved with Helping Hands, can go to: https://www.helpinghandscharity.org.uk/For more information about We Love Pizza go to: https://welovepizza.uk/