Sussex

Crawley Open House mystery donors fund hostel kitchen

Existing kitchen at Crawley Open House
Image caption Staff currently provide 800 meals a week from their old, domestic kitchen

A homeless hostel is getting ready to install a new kitchen after two strangers walked in and handed over cheques totalling £9,000.

Director of Crawley Open House, Peter Mansfield-Clark, first thought the men were plain-clothed police officers, because they were wearing suits.

After they started asking questions about the kitchen, he suspected they were environmental health officers and feared the hostel's ageing kitchen might not pass an inspection.

He said they had a look around, went away for 10 minutes, and came back to hand him the money.

Mr Mansfield-Clark said by the time he looked at the cheques, which were for different amounts of money from one bank account, and he realised how much they were for, the men had gone.

'Eternally grateful'

Image caption The hostel still needs to feed people while the kitchen is closed

The anonymous donation brought funds raised for the kitchen to £37,000 after a £40,000 appeal.

Staff are still working to raise the final £3,000 ahead of work starting on 13 May, but the order for the new kitchen has been placed.

Mr Mansfield-Clark is now hoping takeaway restaurants in the West Sussex town will step in and feed people when the kitchen is closed for three weeks during refurbishment.

He said he hoped each fast food outlet would cater for one evening and added: "With a bit of luck we'll get through the whole period with food for everybody."

He said the building currently had a large domestic kitchen that had been designed to feed 24 people in the hostel, but the kitchen now provided 800 meals a week.

The new set-up would be a professional catering kitchen and designed so dirty dishes came in to be stacked, washed and dried, and then moved round to the preparation area where meals were made and served, he added.

Mr Mansfield-Clark said staff would love to know who the men were, to thank them.

"We have no idea, other than the name on the cheque. We'll be eternally grateful," he said.

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