Make a difference campaign: Helping struggling Kirkcaldy families to help themselves

Members of the New Linktown Tenants and Residents outside the Philp Hall.
Members of the New Linktown Tenants and Residents outside the Philp Hall.

After giving out their 3000th pack of baby food to yet another struggling family in and around Kirkcaldy, members of the New Linktown Tenants and Residents Association say they are only reaching a fraction of those needing help.

But they have been overwhelmed by the thanks they have received from single parents crippled by debt, working families who are struggling to make ends meet and many others in between.

“It has been absolutely unbelievable the uptake on this baby food, and it really shows just how bad things are that we are having to do this to help people get by in this day and age,” said Shane Halstead, who together with his wife Lizzie and the rest of the nine-strong committee, has been sending word far and wide that the food is available to any families with children under a year old who could benefit from a bit of help.

It’s just the latest in a long list of things that the tenants and residents group has done in its 15 year history to assist those in need in Linktown.

From helping to set up job clubs and a flourishing Credit Union to encourage people to help themselves and take more control over their finances, to running youth clubs, Christmas and Hallowe’en parties for youngsters so they don’t miss out on what their friends are enjoying, and running errands for the elderly during the horrendous snowfalls at the start of March, it’s all part of the strong community spirit which is abundant in the area.

And even those who don’t have much themselves have shown a kindness and generosity of spirit which would put their wealthier neighbours to shame.

“There is still a huge stigma about living in the Links, but there is also a huge amount of generosity and community spirit, and people here in The Scheme are always willing to help out their own,” said Lizzie who, as well as being a very active member of the tenants and residents association, also runs the West After School Play club and cleans the Philp Hall, the hub of the local community.

She is there at all times of the day and night to open the premises for mother and toddler groups, jobs clubs, fitness classes, and everything that goes on.

And, because she and her family have lived in Linktown all their lives they know what is going on and who really needs help.

“We all know there is a huge problem with drugs, which are being dealt quite openly on the streets, and that there are issues with gangs from different parts of the world, but we really care about our community and particularly the local kids.

“We have good links with our community police officers and Leah Levein, the local development officer and John Farmer, community development manager with Fife Council do a huge amount of work in the local community too.”

And it’s thanks to groups like the New Linktown Tenants and Residents Association that, even in an area classed as being highly deprived, people have somewhere to turn to in times of need.

The supplies of baby food are just the latest help on offer and came about after a local window company CMS at Hayfield sourced it for the Cottage Centre in Templehall.

“What happened was that 17 pallets of the food were delivered to the company’s premises and they were having difficulty finding room to store it all.

“David Torrance MSP, who has also been a great supporter of ours over the years, contacted us to ask if we would be a distribution point for the food and we agreed.

“It has been a great success and a real lifeline for many young families both here, around Kirkcaldy and even further afield,” explained Shane who has made several collections in his van and brought it to the Philp Hall.

“But there’s still a real stigma and we’ve had grannies coming in to get food for their grandchildren because the mums are too embarassed to ask for it.

“People are getting better at asking for help because they know us and know we don’t judge them, but there’s still a long way to go.”

Helping people to help themselves has always been a big part of the work of the tenants and residents group.

This year, for the second year, it has been using the raised planters in the Saunders Street playpark to grow potatoes and other vegetables for use by the community.

“They were meant to be for floral displays, but the council does the big floral displays and we felt that flowers don’t feed people, so we decided to use them for growing vegetables instead,” explained Lizzie.

“We plant them with the local kids and when they are ready we bring them down to the hall and they are distributed in the local community, whether that is by pensioners or young families.

“We did it last year for the first time and this year we are doing six planters for potatoes. We get the kids to help deliver them to the old people and they will also get some to take home. Hopefully it’s something they will remember and keep on doing in years to come.”

Recently we also had a birthday party for the Queen’s birthday and we might do something for the Royal Wedding.

“It’s just about bringing people from different backgrounds together and having some fun together to help boost people’s spirits.

“We just make a big pot of soup and have teas and coffees and there’s face painting and a bouncy castle, which we bought recently, for the kids.

“Fraz from the local shop is also a great help to us and during the snowfalls he was fantastic, going out of his way to find supplies of milk and bread which we then delivered to the old people.

“We may not have a lot, but we make sure people are looked after when they need some help.”