Foodbank Volunteer Coordinator, Jackie, writes:
Each year in June there is a week dedicated to the celebration of volunteers all over the country. It is a way to publicly thank the millions of people who volunteer hours of their time to various charities and projects throughout the UK.
The theme for 2023 is – Volunteering Weaves Us Together.
This got me thinking about our volunteers and why they volunteer, is it just for the cause or is it something more?
In 2012 when the foodbank first opened, our volunteers mainly came via local Churches who were supporting the Foodbank and rallying their congregations to the cause. As time went on and Foodbanks became more widespread and food poverty headline-worthy, volunteers contacted us directly to offer their help.
In 10 years plus we have never had to have a ‘volunteer drive’, we have never had the need to ‘recruit’ volunteers. I have always had a long list of people who want to help, want to give their time, want to give something back. This became an even longer list in 2020 during the pandemic and the shutdown of all our centres. Thanks to the kindness of dozens of people, we were able to provide a home delivery service to quite literally 100 plus homes each week. We were able to provide a service that ensured people didn’t go hungry because they were vulnerable, when the country was in lockdown.
Some of those who volunteered during the lockdown have continued with us in different roles. However, the majority drifted back to their usual work as necessary, their job with us complete. They had offered their help at a time when it was needed, they had given time to help their wider community. In return they had a purpose during a very dismal time for a lot of us.
Our foodbank centres reopened and before long it was business as usual. Many of our pre-pandemic volunteers returned to us in their previous roles. Unfortunately, some felt they were now too old, too vulnerable, or had taken on more family responsibilities to continue volunteering with us. It’s always sad to say goodbye to volunteers but life moves on and changes in family life happen. They had done their ‘bit’ and for that we will always be grateful.
Post-pandemic, the once ‘bustling, all hands on deck, anyone can help’ warehouse is now a much more streamlined operation, open every week day but with smaller teams. It is still bustling but, in a calmer, more efficient way. After so many years I think many volunteers are friends rather than just colleagues. I know of many instances that would prove that, many acts of kindness, thoughtfulness and support.
Although the volunteer teams in the centres are more fluid, there’s still a level of concern for each other, a sense of caring for other volunteers. A feeling that we’re all part of the same team.
So back to the original theme – Volunteering Weaves Us together – we may start volunteering to give something back or to support a worthy cause, but I think we continue volunteering for the relationships we make and the feeling of community we get. And let’s be honest if it wasn’t for volunteering, we probably wouldn’t have met many of the lovely people we now interact with on a regular basis. Our volunteering has woven us into a tapestry of community spirit and friendships, and for me that can only be a good thing.
So, on behalf of the whole Epsom & Ewell Foodbank team, I would like to thank our volunteers for being part of our tapestry, part our Foodbank community. We really do mean it when we say, ‘we couldn’t do without you’. We need each and every volunteer in whatever role you do. We need our packers, our delivery teams, our collectors, our drivers, our centre teams, our cake bakers, our sorters, our sideline supporters, our donators…we need you all. Thank You.