When I first retired my initial choice for volunteer work was with St John's Care. My church (St Peter's, Weston) was making monthly grocery collections at Cooleman Court for its outreach program and I had already been a part of that ministry.
Once I had decided to volunteer "on site" at SJC I started helping with the monthly Friday lunch which, I was told, would be a practical way to involve myself with a wide range of SJC clients in a casual setting. A good prelude to meeting clients who might need assistance on a one on one basis.
I did this for about six months and used the lunch's to serve and sit with the guests and share a meal with them. I got to know the regulars and soon felt more comfortable in the company of a variety of personalities.
I then moved into the Emergency Relief Centre (ERC) to explore whether I would be more useful to SJC's clients in this environment. I now volunteer there on Thursdays.
Considering my own personal situation, I decided after a few months that I could serve the ERC better as a "back office" packer.
The ERC receives many products in bulk, which need to be repacked into smaller quantities, so that clients don't have to carry heavy bags home on a bus, e.g. a 5kg bag of rice or soap powder! Many of our clients are also homeless and have no access to storage - or even cooking or washing facilities.
Repacking is an essential and practical task as the ERC provides necessities for 3 days only. The smaller single or family packs are more manageable on a bus or bicycle. Some of the items donated in bulk which require repacking include coffee, tea bags, laundry powder, oil, flour, nappies, sugar, Milo, soap etc.
Fresh fruit and vegetable are delivered daily and the shelves are refilled. It is the aim of the ERC to provide an attractive variety of fresh items. We do not present on the shelves any produce we would not like to accept ourselves.
There is a real team atmosphere at SJC and I would suggest to anyone who might like to join the volunteering team, to introduce themselves gradually to the system by helping out at the monthly Friday lunch - you get fed too!
Eileen Lamerton, SJC volunteer
Wish List: Children’s toothbrushes, pouring custard, tinned fruit, fruit mince pies.
Photo: St John's Care volunteers with Program Manager, Jason Haines.