A VOLUNTEER at a soup kitchen has shaved his beard for the first time in 18 years and raised £5,000 in the process. 

Tom Tunney, who is also the secretary of Newbury Labour party, volunteers at Newbury Soup Kitchen every other week. 

He said: “I can’t always get down to here to help, and I thought, what else can I do?”

The target was to raise £2,000, but so far people have donated £4,330, plus £700 from gift-aid. 

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Meryl Praill, who runs the soup kitchen, said it was a ‘huge donation’. She said the money will help put people in bed and breakfasts and ‘get vulnerable people off the streets’. 

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Mr Tunney said: “Thank you to everyone who’s donated, it’s been awesome. My kids are going to be confused, and I wonder what the dogs are going to think.” 

His beard was shaved off on November 21, by Kate Greenslade, the soup kitchen’s volunteer hairdresser. 

After she was finished, Mr Tunney said: “It feels weird. It’s not cold yet, but I’m sure it will be later.” 

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The soup kitchen is open on Thursday evenings at Salvation Army, on Northcroft Lane, and outside on Saturday afternoons by the wharf. 

Up to 60 people a week are fed a three-course meal, all home-cooked, with food donated from supermarkets and a vegetarian option. 

Reading Chronicle: Meryl and TomMeryl and Tom

Ms Praill said the kitchen was looking to expand into their own building.

She said: “We could open a minimum of five days a week then. We could be more organised.”

At the moment, the volunteers ‘have to set up fresh and take it all down again’ at the start and end of each Thursday evening. 

The soup kitchen started in January 2017, and Mr Tunney began volunteering in March later that year. The volunteers provide outreach, support and a friendly ear. 

Ms Praill said: “It’s not all about sticking plasters; we can hopefully move people forward. Hopefully they can make better decisions in life with the support we can give them.”