It was the coldest night of the winter so far and there was still a crisp white frost on the ground when volunteers turned up to open the doors of the welcome centre in Maryhill.

Temperatures had dipped to -15C in parts of Scotland and in Glasgow were as low as -8 yesterday morning, but for some there was no option but to brave the cold if they were to feed and heat themselves this week.

St Gregory’s Church in Kelvindale Road is one of five warm hubs being run in the Maryhill area and is part of a joint churches initiative. Every day there is a place for people to go to get a cup of tea, chat and something to eat and yesterday it coincided with one of the busiest days for St Gregory’s Food Bank which is now a lifeline to more than 400 people including adults and children.

The Herald: Eileen Low, co-ordinator of St Gregory's Food Bank, says demand for their service is highEileen Low, co-ordinator of St Gregory's Food Bank, says demand for their service is high (Image: Newsquest)

Volunteer Christine Vennard had a hard job to talk one newcomer round at the warm hub. He had visited the foodbank for the first time after losing his job and was hesitant about walking into the hub next door.

“I saw a man looking a bit unsure and eventually he decided to come in for a roll and cup of tea. I said ‘just come in and try it.’ If he didn’t like it he didn’t need to come back, but as he was leaving he was looking for me. He wanted to thank me for bringing him and asked how he could help – he wanted to volunteer,” said Mrs Vennard.

“We are not looking for thanks, we are here to do what we can. I get something out of it as well as with my faith there is a need in me to serve.”

The Herald: Volunteers at the St Gregory's community breakfastVolunteers at the St Gregory's community breakfast (Image: Newsquest)

The volunteers in the kitchen have come together from several churches in the area. When the warm hubs initiative launched last month, Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said he believed it was "obscene that low-income families and individuals are being forced to choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table in 21st century Britain due to political choices."

While there is an argument that decision-makers should be doing more to help people, this is a sense among the volunteers that they are there to help rather than feel anger.

Iona Craig, community outreach worker for Immaculate Conception and Maryhill and Ruchill Parish Church, said: “We have had a breakfast club running here since the summer and with the food bank next door, we have a captive audience.

“When we first started this initiative about a month ago, we had had a relatively mild winter and now we are really seeing the weather turn cold this is when we can help. If being here means that someone doesn’t have to heat their home for an afternoon we have helped. It could well be a decision between heating and eating.”

The Herald: Jim Hamilton and Iona Craig at the warm centre in MaryhillJim Hamilton and Iona Craig at the warm centre in Maryhill (Image: Newsquest)

As they serve up a hot meal and drink with a friendly smile, it is with the hope that they can help people feel a little less isolated. While the warm hubs have been created out of necessity in a response to the cost of living crisis, and may well become as vital a service as foodbanks, there’s a  feeling they could be here to stay.

Fellow volunteer Jean Nicholson, of Findlay Church, hopes the warm hubs will help people feel less isolated.

“We have people who come in for warmth and or food, but it is the human contact that is so important. Poverty causes isolation and that is what the warm hubs offer - a place to help people feel less isolated. There is someone here to listen to them and have a chat. At another hub families come in after school and some kids do homework or play with the toys. They even come in to use some of the charging facilities.”

Some of those attending came in for company and a chat in between picking their children up from school, while one regular attender said she was glad “just to have somewhere warm to go.”

The Herald: Jennifer Gavin, of North Glasgow Healthy Living, has been on hand at the hubJennifer Gavin, of North Glasgow Healthy Living, has been on hand at the hub (Image: Newsquest)

Jim Hamilton, a Church of Scotland deacon, helps run the warm hub at Ruchill Parish’s Mackintosh’s Hall on Fridays.

He said: “We teamed up with partners in the local area to ensure five buildings are kept open as warm hubs throughout the week. Every day of the week there is somewhere for people where they will get a warm welcome and a place of us to help them. It is important to break down any stigma for people because as churches this is the kind of thing that we should be doing. This is what we are here for.”

Just yards away the volunteers at St Gregory’s Food Bank have been on the go filling up bags ready for people who turn up on a Monday morning.

The Herald: Eileen Low and Anthony Mitchell prepare for a busy morning at St Gregory's Food BankEileen Low and Anthony Mitchell prepare for a busy morning at St Gregory's Food Bank (Image: Newsquest)

It has been running for five years and for co-ordinator Eileen Low she sees no sign of it being able to end soon. As soon as supplies come in they are bagged up and ready to go. As well as essentials the volunteers are making up Christmas packs and goody bags for children – anything that will put a smile on their face.

“We are handing out 180 bags a week and are here five days. We don’t work on a referral system and we’re not here to judge anyone,” said Mrs Low. “Behind everyone one of the numbers is a real story. We had a lady come to us who hadn’t eaten four days. She had lost her job and while she did have another job coming up, she was left with nothing in the mean time. She was in tears and trembling.

“Some people come to us have no recourse to public funds either refugees, asylum seekers or those who are on benefit sanctions. We see 'working poor' as in those who have a job but just don’t have enough to make ends meet and people who are living alone who might have encountered social problems. We are seeing more people of pensionable age, who would always have managed their own budgets, but perhaps now they are helping children and grandchildren.

“We are here for the long haul and this is a marathon, not a sprint. We won’t going anywhere.”

Warm hubs can be found at:

Monday - St Gregory's Hall, Kelvindale Road 10am to 2pm

Tuesday - Acre Community Hall, Acre Road 12 to 4pm

Wednesday - Findlay Church, Clarendon Place 12 to 4.30pm

Thursday - Immaculate Conception Hall, Maryhill Road 10.30am to 2.30pm

Friday - Mackintosh Hall, Shakespeare Street 12 to 4pm

Read more:

Cost of living crisis: Scotland's churches create warm hubs and here's where you can find them

Govan to Partick bridge: landmark stage of new bridge completed