Volunteering in the lockdown – Linda’s story

| 02 June 2020

Summary: When resident volunteer, Linda, was told that MTVH’s Super Kitchen in Nottingham would close due to the outbreak of Covid-19, she was devastated. Not only had it become an award-winning social eating project in Bingham everyone was proud of, it was a well-loved community hub where people could enjoy a hot meal and make new friends.

Every other Thursday Linda and a group of other Super Kitchen volunteers catered for around 35 people. They used surplus food, collected from supermarkets and producers by charity, Fareshare, to create delicious meals for a small fee which was ploughed back into the project. “We’d become an established part of many people’s routines and often their only social interaction in a fortnight. I worried how they would cope in the lockdown,” says Linda.

But, Linda made up her mind she’d continue to offer vital help to people in need, to assist communities cope with the many consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. She wasted no time putting herself forward for another volunteering role. This time the 68-year-old would be driving for Fareshare collecting surplus food from local businesses and dropping off the weekly orders at local charities, food banks and community larders.

“I’ve got a bus licence, so why not? I work three days a week and love getting stuck in – two months ago we were strangers, but now we’re part of a team at the depot.  I’m learning all about the logistics of a warehouse operation; it’s quite something… and each day, I’m given my list, a Satnav and off I go. I love it!” she says.

Being a vital cog in the community has always been second nature to her. Linda can’t sit and watch the world go by. She used to go to gym three days a week and was chair of the social committee on MTVH’s Rushcliffe Estate in Nottingham where she organised activities and coffee mornings. “When all this finished, I was sad. I felt I needed purpose. I need to be around people, helping them, that’s just me.”

After her husband, Norman, passed away in 2003, Linda took on the challenge of running a catering service at a local golf course on weekends. And earlier in her life, she was a canteen lady on a building site. These experiences have all added up and today Linda’s organisational skills are exceptional. “I’m not academic, but then you don’t need to be to help others. But, I’ve always been a doer. I’m from a small village where everyone looked out for each other, so that’s all I know.”

Linda believes looking out for neighbours can help anyone feel better about themselves. “It helped me in the grieving process – it was very cathartic. When you’re helping others less fortunate than yourself, the focus is not on you. You forget about what is happening to you…”

“When someone needs help, Linda is always the first person to step forward, no matter how busy she is.  If some of the qualities of a volunteer are humility, patience, creativity, passion, resilience and fearlessness, then she has all those, and more… We need more Lindas in our communities. We’re so proud of what she’s doing and the huge difference she’s making,” says Katrina Campbell-Coupland, MTVH’s Regional Community Coordinator.

Even now, Linda still helps at her church and buys groceries for a fellow resident (she’s never met) when it became clear that he was unable to leave his home. “Volunteers around the country are coming together and pulling our weight to do something useful – we all have a role to play to make life better for someone else.” She is looking forward to the day she can look after her grandchildren and visit with friends, but until then she’ll continue making deliveries. Asked what she’ll do when we come out of lockdown, she says: “I don’t know where all this will take me, but for now, I feel blessed I can contribute.”