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Volunteer stories: ‘I see first hand the incredible positive benefits it makes’

It’s Volunteers Week and what better way to celebrate than to showcase the amazing people that keep FoodCycle running. We spoke to Karen from FoodCycle Exeter, who has given over 250 hours and has no plans of slowing down. Karen, we applaud you! 

How does it feel to know you have given over 250 hours to making FoodCycle Exeter happen?

I feel very privileged to have found this volunteer role which gives me so much pleasure and satisfaction. I see first hand the incredible positive benefits it makes to our guests’ lives and of course other volunteers too.

Why did you first get involved with FoodCycle Exeter?

I was in a volunteer role for the NSPCC’s Childline School Service for about 2 years which I loved because of the interaction with the children. When some new changes came in, I felt it was a good time to look for another volunteer position. I was also had a little more of an idea of what I would be looking for.

I love both cooking & people, so FoodCycle seemed to be the ideal marriage of both and it was local to me. I’m not a vegetarian, but I also wanted to learn more about that too.

What do you most enjoy about volunteering with FoodCycle?

Well actually, the whole process of making it up as I go along, not knowing what we will receive in surplus, what we are going to make, which new interesting people I will work with, and who and how many will come to eat. Maybe topping that of course, would be sitting down, chatting with our guests and seeing them enjoy eating healthy nutritious food! Needless to say the clearing and washing up doesn’t feature amongst this.

What has been your most memorable moment?

Our Christmas Dinner at Wonford on the Tuesday before Christmas Day. We managed to get the use of the main hall making it quite an occasion! And for once we had prepared a menu enabled by saving the ingredients from the previous 3 months of deliveries, preparing and freezing each dish to produce an authentic Christmas dinner accompanied by a nut roast, Christmas pudding and an enormous Christmas cake for the guests to take home. We felt that everyone should experience a proper Christmas feast. My Husband and both my children signed up to help and meet all the guests. The whole evening was a very moving celebration and a great success.

If FoodCycle was a fruit or vegetable, what do you think it would be and why?

Well, I guess a bunch of grapes? It signifies all the different elements evolved in what appears to be something simple but it has many parts that make up the whole experience.

What else do you do when you’re not being a fantastic FoodCycler?

I exercise every day. I am lucky enough to live in a village adjoining a network of cycle paths, so I cycle at least 20 miles. I also cycle with a group of girls every week locally and once a year we cycle abroad, India and Cuba have been our most memorable. I have lived in my village for 23 years and am very involved in organising village social events and raising money for the locally based charities, while making sure we all have a ball raising it! I have a busy house, 2 children, one at university and one still at home. My husband and I are keen supporters of the Exeter Chiefs and of Exeter City Football Club so weekends are following both those teams. I also love to cook and entertain my friends and family. 

What would you say to anyone who is looking to do some volunteering for the first time?

Take a moment to think about what you enjoy and your interests are. To do a good job you need to look forward to the volunteering that you choose and have some interest in it. The time involved and the responsibility required by the post must be realistic for you also. And if the 1st time selection doesn’t work out, go back and try again. You will know when you have made the right choice.

Fancy volunteering at your local FoodCycle project? Sign up here.

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