Next up in our series looking at the crucial role of volunteers at the Good Shepherd, we catch up with Viv, who also combines her role at the charity with also being a trustee.
What do you do at the Good Shepherd?
At the Good Shepherd I always work with our clients, and hopefully offer a, smiling, friendly, cheerful, sympathetic and helpful face! I usually work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with totally different groups of people.
On Tuesday I am part of the team welcoming families, predominantly mothers and a few fathers who arrive to visit our Food Pantry, to stock up with necessary items for the week.
While they wait, we offer them hot drinks and biscuits and, if required, a sympathetic ear. We also try to provide some toys or simple art materials for the little children if it is appropriate and not too crowded. Lots of the little ones who come at the moment are very young babies, and it’s lovely to observe them developing. We gradually hope to encourage them to chat and feel they can trust us. There is a lot of fun and happy greetings.
On Wednesdays I work with the single, predominantly male clients who come for a meal. Again, I mostly serve the hot drinks and have a hopefully cheery exchange with the clients, some of whom I have known for many years. I believe it is essential to be smiling, polite and respectful but have fun and a laugh too!
Why did you decide to volunteer and how long have you been volunteering?
I decided to offer my services at the Good Shepherd shortly after I retired from teaching, which involved being in charge of the Nursery at an Infant School. I was 65 and would have stayed at work if I hadn’t run out of some essential energy because I loved my job! I retired in the summer and a dear friend, a former nurse, suggested I joined her at the Good Shepherd. I turned up one day in the following January, back in 2012, and am still here now. The first person I met was Brother Charles who was so polite, gentle and kind to me. We are still laughing and chatting.
I also became a trustee just over four years ago which is another really fulfilling role, It offers an in-depth insight into how the Good Shepherd is managed and it’s nice to feel I can contribute a little bit in that respect as well.
What do you find the most fulfilling about volunteering here?
The most fulfilling aspects of volunteering at the Good Shepherd are all centred around the people. The Good Shepherd, and all the people who work and volunteer there, are like a big family, an extension of my family. I feel completely at home, happy, comfortable and part of an important team. And there is, on the days I work, a real feeling of togetherness, of commitment, of teamwork and affection.
I also believe that the clients build up relationships with us, learn to trust us, sometimes confide in us but usually feel relaxed and comfortable around us. We help them or find the appropriate person who can do so.
Why do you feel the work of the Good Shepherd is important in Wolverhampton?
The Good Shepherd has now been part of the broad landscape of Wolverhampton for over 50 years. Few people have never heard of it. It has been a lifeline for many, a prop for any number who lose their way in whatever direction and a temporary place of sanctuary and sustenance for countless clients, short or long term. It is the warm and welcoming heart of the town.
What is the most special memory you have experienced whilst being a volunteer here?
There are so many!
Serving food out of a window propped open with a length of wood, in the freezing cold, wearing an essential hat for warmth and observing the massive queue extend round the immediate vicinity and down School Street. One or two episodes with mice at our former site on Darlington Street.
Opening a door for a client and saying cheerio, before he turned around, smiled and shouted as he walked away: “Bye love, take care, you’re a good un!” Off he went with a wave and I was suddenly so tearful. Contrast his life to mine.
And the beautiful service just before Christmas in St Peter’s Church when people suddenly realised how much the Good Shepherd have done in this town for the poor and struggling.
Describe the Good Shepherd in three words?
Compassionate, inspirational and practical.