THE HUSBAND and wife team behind Leamington Christian Mission are finally stepping down after more than 20 years.
Steph and Geoff Devlin have run the mission – which provides a soup kitchen near the centre of town three nights a week – since 1990.
Originally set up to give support and food parcels for the homeless, the mission quickly grew and began to extend its help to a number of others struggling in society.
And despite being two decades on, Steph insists the problems continue to exist. She told The Observer: “There are people losing their jobs and homes so the need is still there – if anything it is actually greater than ever.
“If we had decided to step down 20 years ago, the town would have been in a very different shape as there was not a lot around in terms of provision.
“The only difference compared to when we first started is that now there are a lot more outlets where people can get help for example with foodbanks.”
Although the pair haven’t decided on their next step yet, Steph insists they will continue to help in whatever capacity they can.
She added: “We’re not exactly sure what we’re going to do but I imagine we will still be helping people – it just won’t be on the same scale as now.
“It’s been a very rewarding and satisfying time for us and I’ve felt my life has been worthwhile. I’m definitely going to miss it – it’s given as much to me as to those we have supported.”
And one particular encounter has stuck with Steph over the years.
She said: “I was at Coventry Cathedral watching my sister graduate one day when a young man came up and said he wanted to thank me. I was a bit taken aback and unfortunately didn’t recognise him.
“It was then he told me: ‘I was on the streets as a heroin addict and you were the only two people who cared and wanted to help. Without you I wouldn’t be here getting my degree so I just wanted to say thank you.’
“Although it’s been hard at times and I’ve asked myself why we do it, moments like that really strike a chord and make you realise.”
The project has received backing from a host of individuals, churches, schools and businesses over the years – without whom Steph insists it would not have been possible to continue.
She added: “We would like to thank everyone for their support and for everything they have done over the years.
“It has definitely had its up and downs but I would do it all over again and it has helped make me into the person I am today so for that I’m extremely grateful.”