FOR a quarter of a century, Icolyn Smith MBE has been serving up soup to some of the county’s most needy in East Oxford.

Now it is the city’s turn to repay ‘Ma’, 85, for all of her tireless work by raising £10,000 by the end of the year to keep her kitchen doors open.

Mrs Smith fears the Oxford Community Soup Kitchen in Manzil Way will be forced to close if it does not find four more volunteers and the necessary funds.

Mrs Smith, who arrived in Oxford from Jamaica 50 years ago, said: “If something is not done to raise the money, these people will die on the streets.

“It’s our job to keep them alive and to make sure they have somewhere to go and someone to talk to, so they can live a normal life just like any one of us.”

Mrs Smith’s son Gary, 49, who volunteers at the twice-weekly soup kitchen, says it’s time people repaid his mother for her selfless work.

He said: “For as long as I can remember she’s looked after people. She’s very selfless and would do anything for anyone.

“Now it would be amazing if people could do something for her to repay her for everything she’s done for this city.”

Mr Smith, who works as a DJ and teaches classes to children in Bicester, says one of the best parts about the soup kitchen is the effect it has on the community.

He said: “It brings people together and gives those without a home or in need of care things that we take for granted – like someone to talk to and a shoulder to lean on. At the moment it seems we’ll have to cut down to one day a week and eventually altogether if we can’t raise the money, but I think that would be a real shame considering my mother has worked her whole life to look after people.”

The Oxford Community Soup Kitchen costs Mrs Smith’s charity, the Icolyn Smith Foundation, £1,300 a month to rent, feed and clothe its users.

Mr Smith said: “We’ve already had some donations from Merton College and Waitrose and we’re very grateful but we need to raise more money so that we can keep the kitchen open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“We need more volunteers because that’s just important as providing food – they’re the ones that lend an ear.”

Mrs Smith added: “We’ve all been through bad times.

“Goodness knows, I’ve been through bad times myself, and wouldn’t you want someone there to comfort you during the worst time of your life?

“That’s what my kitchen is for.”

To donate to the Icolyn Smith Foundation or to find out more about being a volunteer visit