• Tue. May 21st, 2024

Tributes pour in for Icolyn ‘Ma’ Smith who fed city’s homeless for three decades


Sep 23, 2022

Oxford City Council is among those who have been paying tribute to Icolyn ‘Ma’ Smith MBE, who fed the city’s homeless for three decades, who has died.

Leader of the council Susan Brown, and cabinet member for inclusive communities Shaista Aziz said: "Ma Smith touched many lives, over many generations, she passionately believed in community and dedicated her life to the service of the community."

We're deeply saddened to hear Icolyn Smith MBE passed away yesterday.
Full statement ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/h3q98bkmkw

In a statement on Twitter, the councillors praised her work at the Oxford Community Soup Kitchen, which she founded over 30 years ago.

The councillors wrote: "She was a friend to many especially those who felt they had nobody to turn to and treated everyone with kindness, compassion and a big smile."

Her grandson Darius posted on his Victorius Everyday page: "Rest in eternal peace and power Icolyn Smith MBE! Love you always Grandma."

And Oxfordshire Homless Movement said: "An amazing lady who did so much to help those experiencing homelessness locally."

Ma Smith, who was in her 90s, was awarded an MBE for her work at the soup kitchen off Cowley Road as well as receiving a Pride of Britain award in 2018.

She was also recognised by Oxfordshire's Lord Lieutenant Tim Stevenson OBE and in 2015 a book was published of her life story.

Oxford Mail:

When the Manzil Way centre where Ma Smith served meals every Wednesday and Saturday was forced to close during the pandemic, she and her team of volunteers had to adapt to keep helping those most in need.

Her son Gary reached out to Tesco on Cowley Road for support with sandwiches from March to May and subsequently to Kebab Kid and KFC, who helped provide meals for the homeless from May until December 2020.

A gazebo was set up outside the centre and volunteers then handed out the food to those who stood in a socially-distanced line.

Ma Smith was originally inspired to help others when she moved from rural Jamaica in 1965 and saw a young man searching through rubbish bins for something to eat.

Despite facing closure on numerous occasions, the soup kitchen, which became a charity in 2013 has always attracted plenty of dedicated volunteers and donations.

Gary, who lives in Bicester, goes by the stage name DJG, and has DJd at the Oscars and Golden Globes in LA.

He performed alongside his son Darius on BBC One's The Greatest Dancer competition.

The judges loved their energy so much that they got on stage with them to dance as the audience – which included Darius' grandmother Icolyn – cheered along.

She said: "They're more than two peas in a pod, they're best friends."

After their performance, judge Cheryl Cole said: "Were you the greatest dancer? No, definitely not, but you were the greatest vibes of the evening, so congratulations."

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