THE future of Icolyn Smith’s soup kitchen has been secured thanks to Oxford Mail readers.

‘Ma’ Smith, 85, feared she would have to close the doors of Oxford Community Soup Kitchen in Manzil Way after 25 years if not enough money and volunteers were found.

But she is “overwhelmed” by the amount of people who put themselves forward to save one of the city’s safe havens following an article in this newspaper.

She said: “I really can’t express how grateful I am to all the people who have signed up to help.

“We only needed four volunteers in the first place but now we’ve got 20, which is fantastic.

“It will mean I can look after all of my children and grandchildren in Oxford, who need a hug and looking after.

“Sometimes all these people need is someone to talk to and someone listening to their problems and without my kitchen and the volunteers who come here I’m not sure what they would have done.”

Mrs Smith, who arrived in Oxford from Jamaica 50 years ago, said the closure of the kitchen could have been fatal for those living on the streets.

She said: “I see some of these people coming in off the streets and I feel for them and want to look after them because they’re in such a bad way.

“But now there is still somewhere for them to come and be safe.”

One of the kitchen’s long-term volunteers, John O’Shea, 63, said he was pleased more people had signed up to volunteer.

The grandfather-of-two said: “It’s great that more people are going to come along because it’s important to remember that it could be any one of us in that situation.

“So you’ve got to take care of each other and give something back. It’s a very fulfilling role and what Ma does is great.”

Mrs Smith’s son Gary, 49, who volunteers at the twice-weekly soup kitchen, said he was “thrilled” with the amount of donations the kitchen had received.

The DJ from Bicester said: “We were hoping to raise £10,000 to pay for our rent and overall costs for the year and we’ve now managed to raise £7,000 in total, which is amazing.

“We received £2,000 from Merton College and £5,000 from private companies.

“I want to thank the Oxford Mail and everyone who donated or signed up to volunteer – you can never understand how much it means to us.”

To donate to the Icolyn Smith Foundation or to find out more about how you can help by volunteering visit: