Helper clocks up milestone of over a decade during pandemic

published on 4 Jun 2021

A regular volunteer for well over ten years at The Salvation Army’s Penrith corps, Sue (real name) has served hot meals to the vulnerable and isolated, as well as accepted and sorted through donations given by members of the public.

The 72-year-old, said volunteering not only helps the community, but provides her with company and a sense of purpose.

A retired bank clerk, who has two grown up children, she said: “It was not just working in the kitchen, it was meeting people who came on a regular basis for a meal and for company.

“During the pandemic, I was accepting donations (socially distanced) at the door, handing out thank you cards and sorting the food. Donations were coming in so fast; it was unbelievable the amount that we were getting. It really touched me and opened my eyes to how in need people are, and how generous the community are.

Volunteers at Penrith Salvation Army
Sue and volunteers help out at Penrith Salvation Army

“I enjoyed having regular conversations with people who would drop off donations, getting to know them and thanking them for what they were doing. Speaking to individuals and families who were accepting food parcels, you could also glean what people needed and how you could help in other ways. For me that was very rewarding, people were appreciating what you were giving them and the difference it would make.

“I’ve got to know my fellow Penrithians. You can have a chat about the weather, but that leads onto all sorts of conversations.

“We’re a good group, we’re very friendly and muck in together, and for me it’s about company. It’s hard work but very rewarding and you feel you’re putting something back into the community. There are six of us, we’re such good friends and help each other out, and have a laugh.

“It’s giving something back to The Salvation Army, who have helped me out in times of need. I lost my partner four years ago, and they were very supportive and helped me through that bad time.”

It’s hard work but very rewarding and you feel you’re putting something back into the community.
Volunteer Sue

At the beginning of the pandemic when Sue was following government advice for the over 70s to shield, corps officers Majors Carole and Alan Donaldson and community worker Heather Watson made sure she was not without food.

Sue said: “More recently, I’ve had health problems and have not been able to go out for weeks, so they have brought meals to me at home. It was not just a meal, but a little conversation over the doorstep, which would be the only contact I’d have with a human being that day. I’d look forward to them coming. Even if I’ve just needed to talk, Carole and Heather have been there for me and made sure I’m okay.

“They are always willing to help people. When relatives of mine have struggled, and when a neighbour, who kindly ran errands for me when I was stuck at home, was going through a tough time, Carole was there with a food parcel and a friendly ear. They are there for people who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

“The Salvation Army has filled a bit of a void and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done.”

Officer chats to a woman over a cup of tea

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