A Week in the World of Volunteering.

I’ve been volunteering at Focus4Hope since Feb 2021. It was mid pandemic, my business had crashed as a result, I was without focus or purpose and saw via FB that a friend was helping out delivering food parcels which were filled with fresh fruit and vegetables. I reached out to her, and she invited me along. The next 12 months were filled with time spent in a big, cold, warehouse type space, helping to pack food parcels and all the associated back-end jobs that went along with that; decanting sacks of pasta, rice, tea bags and tip runs with countless cardboard boxes. I met a wonderful bunch of selfless people, the camaraderie and friendships that were formed in those first twelve months proved to be invaluable in so many ways. Combatting loneliness, depression, confusion, it was impossible to be down when, at least 2 days a week, there was somewhere to go, people to meet and fun to be had. Throw into that mix the fact that we were supporting the most vulnerable in our community with essential food items and support, which added the feel-good factor and I thought I ‘got’ what the whole volunteering thing at Focus4Hope was all about. It wasn’t until April 2022 that I realised just how wrong I was.

You see, Focus4Hope was never set up as a foodbank. It certainly operates one now as part of its portfolio, and will continue to do so, but the initial vision was to support the lonely, isolated and vulnerable in the community. To reach out to those people who may not see another person from one week to the next, those without a home who are all too often ignored by so many and to offer fun opportunities to families who may struggle to treat their kids to events that so many families take for granted.

As the pandemic started to recede, we were able to branch out once more from just offering support in the way of food parcels, and were able to start operating events once more. They started with a trickle and before we knew where we were at, we had a full range of activities on the go.

Family Fun Day

Sunday 17th April was our Easter Family Fun Day. A free event held in the park on Daisy Road. Thanks to the incredible donations from Morrison, Tesco, Lidl, One Stop and Suma we had hundreds of Easter Eggs to give away and made an Easter egg treasure hunt so that each child had the opportunity to find 3 small eggs, bring them to us and receive a big egg of their choice too. We had games; giant Jenga, tin can alley, face painting, a tombola, a cake stall, pizza van and ice-cream van too. Over 100 people attended on what was fortunately a bright and sunny day. Families enjoyed picnics, children played, everyone went home with an Easter Egg or four and we raised over a thousand pounds.

Senior Days Out

On Thursday of the same week, was one of our fortnightly Senior Days Out. A group of 12 of the more mature members of our local community came together and we took them out to visit Bankfield Museum in Halifax followed by lunch at The Stump Cross Inn. It was a fun, interesting, informative day out, friendships were made, people got to sit down and eat together, enjoying a delicious two course lunch with lots of chat and plans were made to attend more of our events. https://www.focus4hope.co.uk/events/

Homeless Support

The following day was our homeless feed and community outreach in Leeds. Every second Friday we cook up fresh, hot and nutritious meals and take them over to the St Annes Resource Centre. We also have 2 teams who take to the streets delivering hot drinks and snacks. As with our food parcels, we see numbers increasing week on week and do our utmost to ensure that everyone has a hot meal and a take-away hygiene pack. We welcome new faces along with our regulars and it may sound crazy, but this is always a fun night; chat and banter, with some, lending a friendly ear to those who may not have been spoken to all week, and knowing that even if just for a couple of hours, you have made a positive impact on to someone’s world.

The gratitude we get back from all of the above events is truly humbling, and the smiles we put on people’s faces is truly heart-warming. I will never decry the importance of our work supporting families in need with the food parcels that we give out, but seeing first-hand the happiness Focus4hope gives out due to the community events they organise made me realise that this is why I volunteer, it is priceless.

Donate link here: https://www.focus4hope.co.uk/make-a-donation/

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