Today I stopped by VisionWest’s community banks to meet our beloved volunteers.
While there are a number of valuable volunteers at VisionWest, I was able to sit down with Astrid, Nettie and Margaret and hear about what they do in the foodbank and why they do it. Instantly feeling their community vibe, I sense their love of this place and the work they do.
Nettie has been volunteering at VisionWest for 30 years. A foundation member, she has had a number of roles over the years including board member, treasurer and volunteer in the community banks. Although she also works, Nettie says this is where her heart is. “I just love being here.” Nettie’s enthusiasm is infectious and I know she really means it.
Margaret has been volunteering for 20 years in the foodbank and is considered ‘Manager’ of the food area. When asked what keeps her motivated, Margaret says offhandedly “well, you know, I just think tomorrow it could be me”. I am struck by her candid humility. There was no pause to think, Margaret knows why she’s here.
Astrid is a more recent addition, volunteering for the last three years. Margaret’s 2IC (2nd in charge) they tell me. Although I get the impression the titles are imposed rather than assumed.
Among other things, volunteers at the VisionWest community banks welcome and host clients, stock shelves, put food packages together and distribute curtains and uniforms as needed. Regardless of what time of day the community banks open, they are always here a few hours beforehand to get things organised.
“An efficient system allows our clients to get what they need and on their way.” Although tea and coffee are always on hand when the situation calls for it.
When asked if they ever get giving fatigue, Margaret shakes her head “The Lord keeps my tank full.” Him and the stories. She goes on to tell me about two young boys who came in with their mother for food. About five and eight years old, one of them asked “if we take this food, will there be enough for others who need it..?”
While we are chatting a client comes through for some food and I sit back and watch this well oiled machine in action. Margaret and Astrid disappear out the back where the food is and start putting together a package, while Nettie welcomes the client and works out what she needs.
As it quietens down again, Margaret and Nettie are back and we continue our chat, talking about how tough it is for families these days. The high cost of housing is limiting families’ ability to provide other necessities. For some 85 per cent of their income is going on rent.
But as Nettie concludes, “all you can do is start by helping the person in front of you”.