Thursday Outreach Team Leader
What lead you to The People’s Kitchen?
I am a teacher and was in our Harvest Festival assembly about 12-13 years ago at Central Newcastle High School. In came a lady called Maureen Hogg who thanked us for our Harvest Festival donations and talked about the work of the People’s Kitchen. I was completely and utterly inspired by this lovely lady. I have lived in the North East all my life and can honestly say I must have been in a bubble as I did not even know about the Peoples Kitchen. She talked about Alison Kay and her kindness to those on the streets. She talked about someone who asked for a pair of shoes as his had holes in. When she took them from him to get some the same size she saw the shoe fronts were filled with newspaper – they were three sizes too big, but all he had. She talked about the gratitude of the friends and that no-one takes a salary from this charity. I feel that I remember everything from that day. I volunteered three years later when my children were older. Meanwhile and still today, I co-ordinate all the Harvest Festival collections at School for the People’s Kitchen and Carol Singing at Christmas to fundraise for the Peoples’ Kitchen.
What does an average volunteering day look like for you?
Arrive at the Alison Centre around 4.15. Sign in, aprons on, hands washed. Get our trolley with all the tins, ingredients on. Start preparing the food for that night. We do a main course and a pudding, as well as preparing the flasks for teas and coffees. We then have to prepare the van ready to go out, plug it in to get the electrics on etc. Someone will get some clothes together to take out; a range of hats, gloves, underwear, toiletries and some sleeping bags. We also butter bread to take out, and load the van with any ‘give a ways’. Sometime these may be pot noodles, bags of biscuits etc. We have a little ‘team tea’ about 6.00 where we go over Kitchen information, up and coming courses, plan menus etc. We load the van up at 7.00, are down on the street for 7.30 and serve up our food, teas and coffees chat, listen and help. Then we return to the Kitchen about 8.45, wash out the van, do all our washing up including tea towels and aprons. Lock up and go home about 9.30.
What’s the best part about volunteering?
• Working with like-minded people. The volunteers on a Thursday Outreach and across the whole of the Peoples Kitchen are all willing to give up their time, and are thoughtful, caring people. Over the years we have become a group of friends rather than just individual volunteers. Several of us on the Thursday Outreach have worked together for nine years now.
• The friends we help. I can honestly say that when I leave the Peoples Kitchen after my Thursday volunteering session I feel so much better. I go there with the intention of giving, but I, in return get so much back from the people we serve. I feel we become an integral part of the friends’ lives. For some we become the family they don’t have/don’t see. We become a constant in their lives when they don’t have constants. They look forward to seeing us and we really look forward to seeing them. I love volunteering at the Peoples Kitchen.
What’s your most popular recipe?
Our version of a Carbonara (really it has a cheese sauce rather than cream)
Chicken and vegetable curry
Corned beef hash
Sponge pudding and custard
What do you think about the Knorr Flavour For All project?
I really think this is a wonderful project. I know that all of the cooking teams that work at the Peoples Kitchen put in a great deal of thought about what we cook for the Friends. Often we have to use tinned meat which can lack flavour. Certainly the Thursday team and also the other teams use lots of products including Knorr to improve the flavour and taste of our cooking. We aim to give the friends tasty, nutritious food. Our mantra is that it should be as close to home-made as possible because that’s what the friends don’t get.
I like the fact that a big brand like Knorr is enlightened enough to look at everyone in society. I welcome their support (and not just financially) of the people we support. I welcome all they can do in terms of advice and support in helping us make the lives of the vulnerable in Newcastle more pleasant. (I wanted to put palatable there as it fits in with Knorr!! But it was a bit cheesy!! You know what I mean.)