An “inspirational” Middlesbrough woman who “challenges injustices and supports the needy” – even saving a drug overdose victim’s life – has won a Teesside Hero award.
Susan Gill has been volunteering in the community for a number of years with Neighbourhood Watch and Neighbourhood Welfare.
And she set up a Homeless Cafe on Princes Road in Middlesbrough a year ago which serves home-cooked meals to homeless, benefit-sanctioned and vulnerable people five days a week, 10am-1pm.
The cafe is run by a team of up to 30 volunteers, along with support from two inmates awaiting parole from Kirklvington Grange Prison, supporting its 500 weekly clients, cooking, serving food and interacting with service users.
Caring Susan, from Linthorpe, has now been recognised for all of her selfless work with a Teesside Hero award from Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.
As well as her award presented by Foundation patrons Ian and Adrienne Stark, Susan received a cheque for £1,000 which she will put towards the running of the cafe, while she also received a dinner-for-two at local restaurant Al Forno.
It has been a busy but rewarding past year for the mother-of-three, who saved the life of a drug-overdosed man who was found unresponsive in her Homeless Cafe before Christmas by administering opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone.
As well as being public-spirited, she said part of her desire to feed people in need stems from bringing up her son Paul, who was diagnosed with a rare eating disorder when he was nine which led to 10 hours nightly tube-feeding.
“I was shocked to win a Teesside Hero award, but it’s very flattering at the same time, and food can literally save lives,” said Susan.
“I can’t go into town on a Saturday without getting hugs everywhere I go. Our clients are so grateful for what we do for them – that’s my payment.”
Susan has established support network for the Homeless Cafe from local food outlets such as Upex Pies and supermarket Tesco, which she visits two nights a week to pick up surplus supplies.
Monday breakfast services are supported by Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, while Tuesday meals are paid for by a generous supporter, and the local community also helps to provide toiletries and clothing such as hats and scarves.
Generous Susan even served up her 60th birthday cake to customers last year, while she does housing referrals in her spare time and helped to house 14 people in 2018.
Susan was nominated for her Teesside Hero award by Homeless Cafe secretary Jackie Fovargue, who said: “The Homeless Café that Susan has established is a lifeline for those in need and requiring support.
“Susan gives up her time six days a week to ensure the service is fully equipped and manned and supported – she is so passionate about it.
“She is truly an inspirational and determined woman who will challenge injustices and support the needy.”