I got in touch with the organisation after reading about the amazing work The Welcome Centre does and I was keen to become a part of it.
I’ve always been interested in the Charity sector so after a search around I found The Welcome Centre website with an email address to contact, an application to fill out and within the next few days I was invited to visit the foodbank. I was given the warmest welcome by Volunteer Coordinator Lada Rotshtein, just as every person is given from Lada each time we step through the door, as well as all the staff and volunteers, who made me feel comfortable straight away and now I’m grateful to know them as my friends.
My normal volunteering role can range from greeting clients in reception, making food packs in the store, or in the fresh area preparing clients’ packs with fresh food. Every day is different in the food bank; one day we’re rushing around with 30 food packs to make in a day, and the next I’ll be sorting through hundreds of carrots to make sure they’re fit to eat (which was one of my first tasks at The Welcome Centre and I’ve never seen so many carrots since!). Taking the step of coming to a food bank isn’t always easy for people and it takes courage when you don’t know what to expect and worry about being judged; this is not how it is here. Everyone is greeted with a smile and a warm welcome.
Each food pack is organised in the store and made for a person’s specific needs.
We consider their dietary requirements cooking facilities and family size. Here, I’ll fill the food packs with non-perishable foods such as tinned meat meals, cooking sauce, pasta, baked beans etc. Once the client arrives in reception their pack will be taken to the fresh area to be filled with produce such as fruit, vegetables, bread, biscuits and a fresh meat meal. The food can vary day to day depending on what donations we have in stock. Some days we’re fighting with mountains of bread and others looking at bare shelves and trying to find ways to replace fresh produce. Every day we are grateful for the generosity of donations provided by Huddersfield’s community. And of course, we wouldn’t enjoy our work half as much without Centre-Coordinator Tina Skeldon’s motivation and enthusiasm each and every day.
I have now become more involved with how the food bank works through an internship. With greatly appreciated support from Ellie Pearson (Centre Manager), I have worked on fundraising and grant applications. It has been really interesting to see where funding for the foodbank comes from, how much we rely on donations for stock and how many packs we give out each year. In 2017, we supported 3,200 clients (907 were children), which added up to 150,389 meals given to those who would have otherwise gone hungry. Grant funding is a main source of the Welcome Centre’s income, so I was keen to help with applications and gain more experience.
I was also really happy to work with Emma Greenough (Marketing & Publicity Worker) on social media projects. I had never worked on a social media project before, but it was really fun to find creative ways to engage with our supporters. This was timed well with Marshfest 2018 coming up; I was able to help promote the event and involve more people with the great weekend that raised an amazing £5,041 for The Welcome Centre! And with the Centre’s new website being prepared to launch soon, I was given the task of taking pictures for our current shortages pages, which meant being as creative as possible with tinned food and toiletries!
During the summer holidays we had our Feeding Families fundraising appeal, which I worked on alongside Cath Williams (Development Worker), who does such important one-to one work with clients. Everyone at The Welcome Centre worked so, so hard during the 6 weeks summer holiday to make sure children had enough food for breakfast and lunch each day. My job was to keep the massive amount of vouchers we received each week in order. It was astounding to see how many packs were given out (100 packs on just the first day) and how many families would have otherwise struggled to feed their children.
Working in a foodbank is inspiring but at the same time saddening.
It’s inspiring to see the staff work their hardest to ensure they can give the best support possible to clients. It’s inspiring to see the volunteers who come from all walks of life and work together and laugh together because we want to help those in need. However, it’s saddening that we have people relying on us for a basic necessity; people having to choose between feeding their families, keeping warm and going into debt. The reality of food poverty is devastating and distressing, and even though I feel lucky to have met all the wonderful staff and volunteers at The Welcome Centre, it’s saddening that food banks still exist.
We cannot do the work we do without the kind financial donations of our supporters. Any support you can give us today will enable us to help vulnerable people in your area.