Volunteering In Carlow: St Clare's Hospitality Kitchen
St Clare's Hospitality Kitchen, situated on the banks of the Barrow River, is a beacon of hope for many locals in need of warm meals and support. We met with Volunteer Co-ordinator Michelle Maddock to talk about the importance of volunteers in the day to day running of the kitchen as well as to discuss the various volunteer roles available.
Michelle explains that the Food Servers are responsible for ensuring the area is suitably prepared when people start to arrive. The main duties they undertake include meeting and greeting people as they arrive, ensuring the tables are clean, the cutlery is out, and the jugs of water are filled. They would also be responsible for helping clean and wash up afterwards.
The Food Prep role requires some experience in a kitchen or relevant certificates or FETAC accreditations in food hygiene or food preparation. The kitchen is a very busy and pressured environment, which is why this particular role would require more experienced volunteers.
“Volunteers are above and beyond important’ Michelle tells us as we begin the tour of the kitchen. Michelle explains that everyone in St Clare’s Hospitality Kitchen is there because they want to be there, they have no paid employees.
Anna was the first volunteer we had the opportunity to talk to, sporting a red apron signifying she held the role of Food Server. Anna has been volunteering there since it opened, and puts in time every Wednesday. She explains to us that despite the role being a food server role, it is important to engage with the people as they come in. She explains that for some of the people that call in, it may be the only time in the day where they have someone to converse with. Anna explains that you build up relationships, and get to know people as time goes on, which she finds very rewarding.
Another volunteer Trish, is the Wednesday Supervisor, signified by her blue apron. Her role is to set duties for the volunteers, do temperature checks, set up the kitchen and pitch in with the food preparations. She explains that the kitchen is lucky to have a chef that can give the time to work there 3 days a week. Trish was involved before the Kitchen came into being, helping out with the food parcels in the community centre, and was then asked if she would like to help when the kitchen was established. Trish expressed that there was a self satisfaction being able to do something good for others. “It may be just one meal, but it means a lot”. Trish also praised the positive atmosphere the volunteers created, which I can vouch, is very much infectious once you step inside the door.
In the kitchen, Letitia was working as a Chef where she explained that all the food they cook comes from donations. St Clares Hospitality Kitchen always welcome donations of good quality wholesome foods as opposed to processed foods. The kitchen could be catering for anywhere between 80 to 160 people per day, so every donation and extra pair of hands helps in the smooth running of the Kitchen. Letitia shares that it is the satisfaction of helping people that motivated her to volunteer there.
Zeb, who previously served in the army, working on U.N missions, volunteers as security and door staff for the kitchen during the week. Involved with the Kitchen since the beginning, Zeb says he is happily addicted to volunteering, and the feeling of doing good in a community. Zeb shares that he also makes time to volunteer for other organisations like Saint Vincent de Paul. While the kitchen is open to anyone, with no questions being asked of clients, Zeb’s role involves man-ing the door, to ensure the safety of all the clients. Zeb also hands out special tokens that entitle clients to meals. Purple tokens can be exchanged for soup, while yellow tokens can be exchanged for dinner.
We had the opportunity to sit down with a few of the people that avail of the service to get a better understanding of how important the Kitchen is to Carlow and what it means to them.
James, a regular user of the service, took the time to explain to us that it was more than just a hot meal. He commended the work Michelle and the volunteers put in each day. Recently going through a tough time, he shares that it was the moral support, and having people to talk to really helped him get through it.
Michael and Eddie use the service every week, described the service as “brilliant”. sharing that they would be lost without it, with Eddie adding “the food is gorgeous”.
St Clare’s Hospitality Kitchen operates Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with food being served from 12:30 - 3pm, free of charge. Anyone is welcome, no questions asked. If you want to support the kitchen, they accept both monetary and food donations. They will also play host to an evening of music & song “Spreagadh na h’Eanair” in conjunction with The Carlow Involvement centre & The Adelaides guitar group on Saturday 23rd January 2016. Admission is free to the event which will be held in the Seven Oaks, at 8pm. There will also be an opportunity to win some great spot prizes in a raffle.
If you would like to learn more about volunteering in Carlow, in St Clare's Hospitality Kitchen or indeed in any of the other sectors, we would greatly encourage you to pick up the phone and give us a call on 059 9173033 and we can arrange a meeting to help you find the perfect volunteer opportunity for you. You can also find us on Twitter: @VolunteerCarlow and Facebook: Carlow Volunteer Centre where you can keep up to date with all our latest opportunities, events and general happenings in Carlow.