Henk is director of the Food Bank after a big loss

Henk Denissen from Berkel-Enschot is a well-known face in Tilburg and the surrounding area. He committed himself to road safety through the Village Council and was a member of Tilburg’s city council. Since September 2022, he has helped even more people as director of the Food Bank. He doesn’t have it easy at home. Henk lost his grandson, daughter and indeed his wife of ten years.

The bell rings. Daughter Franka van Onzenoord runs to the front door as fast as possible. “He doesn’t know anything yet,” she says, as an editor at inner-city Tilburg is packed and packed in the hallway. The surprise? A Christmas package and Christmas angel prize!

‘We are so proud’

Henk looks surprised when suddenly there is a stranger with a large box in the living room. A curious look quickly turns into tears of emotion. Franka: “Remember that text that Senna, Rob, Bryan and I sent as a joke?” Henk has to think for a moment, but then he remembers. They wrote: Despite all the setbacks, something new has come to you. You have become director of the Food Bank! We are so proud of you and how you do it all! And that commitment to another is rewarded. “Very nice, very nice,” he says.

Grandson Joris died

The setbacks? It all started ten years ago. “My grandson Joris died after a short illness. He was born with a severe metabolic disease and was unable to absorb nutrients into his muscles. When he was born, everything was in place. But no matter what diet we tried, it didn’t work.” His short life included hospital visits in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Nijmegen and Tilburg. “He died after 2.5 years on December 27. My middle daughter and his mother, Cindy , is a police officer. Colleagues collected his body with the police car. Then Joris was laid out. The next morning I arrive at the Jumbo and someone asks: ‘Was your daughter picked up by the police car?’ Well, you have to count to twenty to make sure you don’t hit anyone’.

‘This leaves deep scratches in your soul’

Cindy and her husband Rob had another son, Jens. What they could never have predicted: he would lose his mother at a young age. “Cindy was a tough one, a cop. She could take a beating! Suddenly she called at 9:00 in the morning. If I wanted to take the kids to Circus City for a while. The doctor was at her house. Then it turned out she had a very rare form of colon cancer. “I’m not coming to your birthday on March 31,” she said. On March 29, 2021, my daughter died at 1:30 a.m. I was there, just like when Joris died. I’ve been in the military for Age 46. I’ve shot at others and I’ve been shot at, but losing your child and grandchild leaves deep scratches in your soul.”

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Henk receives a Christmas package and prize for the Think about each other campaign from indebuurt and eight newspaper titles. Photo: Tilburg quarter

‘I feel like I’ve already lost her’

When Henk is surprised with the package, he has had a hard day. Although it was supposed to be so beautiful. He’s been married for 49 years, but it’s not a big party. “My wife was picked up confused. She had a period where she thought half the world was going to end. Then she shouted that we should all move to Denmark or Norway or whatever. She spent a long time at GGZ’s psychiatric nursing ward and now lives in the care center De Hazelaar. She has brain damage and her lungs are very bad. That’s why she now has a tube in her nose. This morning I brought a bunch of flowers. The first thing she said was: “What are you doing you?” It cuts into your soul, you don’t want to know. I feel like I’ve already lost her, I’m a married widower.”

Thousands of people help

Henk tries to be busy as much as possible. “Then you are among the people. Via, via I have been asked as the new director of the Food Bank Tilburg. They are the entire distribution center for Zeeland and Brabant. All goods from, for example, Unox, Unilever, Jumbo and Albert Heijn come to us. I lead and direct it. You can feel that people are feeling heavier. On 1 September we helped 630 Tilburgers, now – from memory – 1040 customers. The fact is that I come home alone and the walls close in on me. The challenge in the Food Bank came at the right time.”

With a smile and a tear

Christmas time is filled with family. The empty places where Cindy and Joris should have been will always remain. Many Christmas decorations remain in boxes in the attic, but grandson Senna still put a Christmas tree in the living room. Daughter Franka: “And we have a nice time together on Boxing Day. Then we play shuffleboard with the whole family.” Henk: “I have been shuffleboard champion for Berkel-Enschot for ten years.” Laughs out loud. “You think so yourself, don’t you?” Henk continues with a smile: “Yeah, I just never got around to it.” Then Henk looks at the figure of a Christmas angel that he just received. “Thanks again. Really beautiful.”

With Think of each other, indebuurt and eight newspaper titles come together by highlighting stories and initiatives at different times of the year. Our goal is to connect people. The Christmas Angels campaign is the second in the series, after we celebrated friendships in October during Week Against Loneliness.

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