A local hero was “in shock” when a giant mural of her face was unveiled in the area where she has helped to feed more than 100,000 people.
Michelle Dornelly, 52, who has won the TSB Community Hero title in the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain awards, had no idea about the 80ft wall art until it was revealed last week.
Now the mum of four is urging the Government to do more to help “starving” Britons.
Since starting the Hackney Community Food Hub in East London in April 2020, Michelle has established a team of 100 volunteers and helped feed people of all ages and backgrounds. She is preparing for their busiest winter yet.
Volunteers, including Michelle’s partner Chris Merchant, daughter Renisha, 23, and son Reno, 14, gathered to reveal the portrait to the stunned campaigner on October 14.
Michelle choked back tears as she told the Sunday Mirror: “I’m overwhelmed. I’m proud. It’s an achievement for a woman, and a woman of colour, who represents so many people that she’s been looking after.
“I’m on benefits, I’ve got special needs children. But what I’ve always tried to teach people is that there’s no such thing as ‘I can’t’.”
Without a base, Michelle has to store supplies in her own home and works full-time and unpaid, driving across the borough making deliveries.
The local council has found her premises but Michelle says she will need a bigger building and more volunteers to meet soaring demand this winter.
She said: “Last year we took the elderly meals and got baskets together containing knitting needles, gloves and stuff. This year, it’s affecting us all – we have problems with newborns and mothers, too. We know we’re going to get lots more delivery calls so we need people to volunteer. Otherwise we’re going to have families at home starving.”
Michelle – who operates the food hub under the auspices of her Children With Voices youth charity – has also heard of kids taking empty lunch boxes to school and pretending to eat from them to avoid the shame of their parents being unable to afford to feed them.
She said: “It breaks my heart when you’ve got people like Boris [Johnson] who say they’re not going to support the school meals. For some people that’s the only meal they have.”
Volunteer Janine White, 36, said the mural, which took a Global Street Art team five days to paint, captures Michelle perfectly: “Her energy and warmth shine through.”