THE BLOG

A Lesson in Volunteering: How to Get Involved With Food Banks

10/12/2014 18:27 GMT | Updated 08/02/2015 10:59 GMT
John Rensten via Getty Images

Picture this: a 15-year-old girl lives in only the clothes on her back. She has no home or belongings, she doesn't go to school and has no food to eat.

While it may sound totally desolate and unlike anything you could ever imagine, this 15-year-old girl just so happened to be temporarily staying near to where I used to live. Pretty grim, right?

One evening I received a call from Jake Bennett, coordinator for Telford Crisis Support. He urgently needed clothes for the 15-year-old girl who, he estimated, was between a UK women's size 8 and 10.

My mum and I rustled together whatever we could - which ended up being two bags full of 'stuff' comprising leggings, tops, dresses, jumpers, a faux leather jacket and ballet pumps (among other things) - and headed out to meet Jake on a housing estate nearby.

We arrived at the house where the girl was squatting - to cut a long story short she'd been kicked out of the house she was originally staying and had arrived at a different place. The first thing I noticed was her beautiful smile and what a lovely person she seemed - very polite, clever, sparkly.

We showed her the clothes and she examined them all carefully and held them up against herself. She whooped and smiled and laughed. She hugged me and hugged Jake, and then hugged me again. It was such a small act - for me, anyway - but it had genuinely made her day. And it made mine too. This girl now had more than one pair of clothes to live in. For her, it was a step in the right direction.

This is one of the hundreds of times that Telford Crisis Support has helped someone in the surrounding area - it just so happened that on this particular occasion, I was there too.

Since its inception two years ago, the organisation - which used to operate from the back of a church - has fed over 10,000 people in Telford. They've also supplied clothing and toiletries to those in need, helped hundreds of homeless people find accommodation and have offered assistance to people searching for jobs.

The service that Telford Crisis Support and the food bank offers to the community is invaluable - in fact, I'd go as far as saying that every town and city needs one.

While they do an amazing job, local food banks and support groups for people in crisis are not 'powered by pixie dust'. These charities need volunteers. The only thing is that if you don't know how, it can be a little confusing as to how is best for you to get involved.

With Telford Crisis Support, there are hundreds of opportunities to get involved and volunteer. They run the food bank for Telford, which takes a lot of people power in itself - many volunteers offer to pack food parcels every evening between 5.30-6.30pm.

There are also opportunities to help out at the new community store, donate clothes, bucket shake (collect donations in supermarkets) or create marketing leaflets and brochures. Anyone with any kind of skill can help.

When I first began volunteering for the food bank, it was on a need-supply basis because that's all of the time I could spare due to working full time and running a fashion blog, So On Trend. At one point I was receiving clothes to review constantly, so I decided to donate the clothes that I'd received to the food bank.

From this small but regular contribution, the Telford clothes bank was born and many people have since donated to the cause.

While you might think that volunteering is a huge commitment and that you have to do it every week without fail, which for some, just isn't realistic. The reality is that you don't.

Whatever free time you can spare to help out your local food bank or charity is always appreciated - regardless of whether you spare one hour a month, or three hours a week.

Find volunteering opportunities at Telford Community Store / Register as a volunteer