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Postman's fancy dress helps raise funds and big smiles for Ballymena Foodbank during coronavirus outbreak

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Postman Geoff Aiken delivering post in Ballymena

Postman Geoff Aiken delivering post in Ballymena

Postman Geoff Aiken delivering post in Ballymena

Postman Geoff Aiken delivering post in Ballymena

Postman Geoff Aiken delivering post in Ballymena

Postman Geoff Aiken delivering post in Ballymena

Postman Geoff Aiken delivering post in Ballymena

Seeing your postman in fancy dress isn't quite what you expect in the morning.

But for residents in the Ballymena area, that is what will be happening for the next couple of weeks.

Some postmen are dressing up to raise awareness of the desperate help required for the Ballymena Foodbank.

And if they can spread some joy and raise a smile along the way - all the better.

The idea was started by Broughshane postman Geoff Aiken (57) who has been in the job for more than 30 years.

But he caused a stir when he started the week by wearing a cow onesie on his rounds in Broughshane.

Geoff hopes to raise money through donations and awareness of the work being done at Ballymena foodbank. It is a lifeline for those who are facing hardship - especially now as they have experienced an influx of those in need as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

And now he is able to do even more, as Geoff and his colleagues have been given the go-ahead to act as go-betweens for the foodbank.

So as of next Thursday, if you live in the Ballymena postal area - BT42, BT43 or BT44 - you can leave a bag of non-perishable food items on your front step clearly marked for foodbank, and your postman will lift it - though not necessarily straight away - and bring it to the depot where Geoff will do a weekly run to the foodbank.

The reaction on the doors so far has been more than he could have expected.

"It was amazing. People were out, their children were out and taking photos," he said. "Everyone from toddlers to people in their 90s were out waving and smiling which made it really nice.

"People asked me what I was doing it for and if I knew them well enough I said, 'if you looked in the mirror and saw the smile on your face, that's part of the reason'.

"But really I'm trying to raise money and awareness that the food banks really need people's help."

So for the next couple of weeks, the postmen are aiming to dress up on Tuesdays - with Royal Mail also agreeing to donate to the cause.

Every bit of help is greatly welcomed by Janice Colgan who runs the Ballymena Foodbank.

The 45-year-old said their stocks have been "decimated" due to the increase in demand.

And while they have been trying to limit the interaction they have with people due to social distancing restrictions, they have been amazed at how people are still finding ways to donate and give in terms of financial donations.

They have 55 volunteers signed up to deliver parcels of food.

Janice said: "Before, roughly we were averaging about 20 to 30 people a week.

"But since March 16 to April 6 when the coronavirus outbreak started to impact locally, we have been giving parcels out to 270 people."

Those who has been in contact are in a range of circumstances, including those isolating and those who have been laid off work.

They are mainly giving out non-perishable items and, while they are grateful for grants from the council and the Trussell Trust, Janice said the amount of generosity from the public in the past few weeks has been "phenomenal".

They have fixed donation points in Tesco and Sainsbury's and even in the current difficult circumstances people have still been donating a range of items.

Cash donations have allowed them to place bulk buy orders from the likes of Hendersons.

Janice said: "We are still getting donations in which is amazing and a total testament to the people of the Ballymena area.

"And people like Geoff doing things like his fundraising and collecting, that is just amazing."

She added: "In the madness and chaos of all this you see so much good in the midst of it.

"So much has happened over the past few weeks and people helping and supporting us has been amazing."

To contact the Ballymena Foodbank to donate or if you need help call 028 2542 2543.

You can donate to Geoff's fundraising at www.gofundme.com/f/postie-foodbank-fancy-dress or in person.

Belfast Telegraph