• Libby

Transcript - Opening the Door to Volunteering with Carol,Volunteer at Hardie Park, Episode 16


Libby: You are listening to Constellations, the podcast connecting charities, communities and causes in the Essex unitaries of Thurrock & Southend. In today’s episode we meet Carol who is one of the wonderful volunteers who works in the cafe at Hardie Park in Stanford-Le-Hope. We find out how Carol became a volunteer, how it has changed her life, and why if you haven’t tried volunteering yet, you should give it a go! Without further ado, let’s get stuck in!


Sharen: So today we are at Hardie Park and we are joined by Carroll, who is one of the volunteers here. So thank you for joining us Carol. Could you tell us about your role as a volunteer here.

Carol: I'm volunteering in the cafe. So basically it's doing the cafe duties during the pop up duties

Sharen: What are the pop up duties? every day?

Carol: Everyday we get the delivery of surplus food from Marks and Spencer, Lidl and Sainsbury's and we set it up in the corner of the cafe away from the counter where we serve coffees. And so it's nicely displayed, when it's displayed we take a picture of it and we put it on our passionate about Hardie Park page. So that people that have joined the passionate about Hardie Park can actually see what food we have in today.

Libby: It's amazing. We just popped out and had a look and it's just brimming with gorgeous, lovely things Isn't it?

Sharen: Hot cross buns.

Libby: Very excited. So that food is available for anybody to come along? Give a donation for.

Carol: Yeah, well you say take what you want, donate if you can.

Libby: Fabulous. So how did you get involved with being a volunteer here?

Carol: it's five years ago this month that I became a volunteer, but the year before that I lost my husband and it was through a year. I didn't, you know I was caring for him. I felt like I had lost a job as well and my daughters were trying to get me into different things and W.I and things like that. And, and then one day I see there was a volunteers fair in Grays in Essex in the Beehive and I decided to go along. I didn't tell my daughters just popped along. Um, and there was quite a few desks, Sense of Mind and I think there was Essex Wildlife and, and there was a gentleman and a lady standing up a sort of a podium thing and they asked if they could help. And I said, well, I don't really know what I'm looking for. And they said, have you heard of Hardie Park? And I hadn't. And they went on to tell me all about Hardie Park here. And um, and I felt interested right away, but I said, well, I think about it. So it gave me his contact name and number and on Sunday I asked my daughter if I'd like to pop along, to find Hardie Park. So on a Sunday morning we came down here and it was in february. It was cold. And I opened the door and I see Rob. It was Rob. Who was actually, he was the one who stopped me at the Volunteers Fair and I went to close the door. Didn't realise he'd be there like serving behind the counter. And he's seen me. Yes. And me and my daughter came in. We sat down and had a cup of tea and coffee with him and he went on to explain more and the rest is history.

Sharen: Thank goodness. Before you had the chance to shut that door

Carol: I hadn't even heard of Hardie Park.

Sharen: Are you local?

Carol: I’m in Grays. No, I didn't really know it was here.


Libby: We love it here. My family comes here regularly. I was telling Chris earlier and I didn't know about it until we were doing the podcast and we were researching different places to come to and people to talk to. And it's just amazing. So I'm so glad I found it too. It's brilliant here. So you said you weren't doing as much in the beginning. But now, how much time do you volunteer here?

Carol: I do four days a week. Yes,

Libby: Dedication.

Carol: It gradually builds up over over time. You know, when I got more confident here, I met more people and yeah.

Libby: Brilliant. Like a second home.

Carol: Yes.

Libby: It is lovely.

Sharen: And do you get a lot from the volunteering that you do here?

Carol: Definitely. You know, some days when especially in the winter months when I don't come in. Mm hmm. Because my daughter's work. So it's not like I just pop around there. But you know, for a chat and a coffee. You know, sometimes, you know, even feel lost some days when I'm not here. But I do look forward to coming in.

Libby: It's got such a lovely sense of community in the cafe when I came in at the weekend with my family. And I was saying to Chris that you were both here behind the counter. You can tell that everybody loves it and just being here like, and it's so lovely just coming in and having a drink when everybody behind the counters all talking to each other and smiling and you can tell that everyone's enjoying it. Like, it's so genuine, I love it. Mhm. So are there any other volunteering opportunities at the park that aren't in the cafe and the pop up shop?

Carol: Um there’s a gardening group, I would say at the moment, we used to have Men in Sheds, which was ideal for men at the time before the Covid. But at this present time really it's just the cafe and the garden gardening group.


Libby: If someone listening is thinking I could maybe volunteer, but they're not feeling confident or not sure about their feeling how you were when you open the door and we weren't sure it was going to go to shut it. What would you say to encourage them to come along and get involved.

Carol: Well, I mean, we do have a couple of people like that but basically we try and put them with someone who's sort of been here and is confident and sort of take them under our wing. We just try and include everyone and if some people are not happy with cooking they're happy to do the coffees and teas that's fine, it helps. Just build them up, put them with someone who's.

Sharen: And can they offer as little or as much time as what they've got.

Carol: Yeah because even washing up, some people just come into a couple of hours to do washing up on a busy day. Yeah. All those little things help.

Libby: There's so many things that you don't necessarily think about if you haven't worked in a cafe before that they need to get done

Sharen: That happens behind the scenes

Libby: For sure. It's not just making teas and coffees and

Carol: Like the afternoon in the afternoon shift. People that do morning, go home lunchtime. In the afternoon shift. We have to clear up everything. That is hard when you're here all day that it's nice to have some help to actually clean the coffee machine, the griddle, everything, the sinks, the oven.

Sharen: It's an amazing atmosphere here. It's hard to portray that, isn't it?

Carol: The customers and they just, they just come every day some of them, you know, just for a bit of banter and yeah,

Libby: From coming in with my family like you can tell you have lots of regulars coming in, which is really lovely. That's obviously a good sign of all of the fantastic work you're all doing here.

Sharen: Had you done any volunteering work before this role?

Carol: No, no. I mean, it's the best thing that I've ever done. I've made so many friends here. I mean friends, not just colleagues. We've been on holidays away for weekends. Yeah, there's about five of us are really clicked and anyone else is welcome, but five of us have clicked and you know, we've been to Potter's a couple of times. We went to Torquay last year. Just people that we've met here. And basically we're all, we're all on our own. It's been lovely,

Libby: Brilliant.

Sharen: It’s changed your life really in such a positive way.

Carol: I've got lots of friends, but they all live about an hour's drive here and now it's drive there and it's nice, you know, just to be able to come here.

Libby: When you reach a certain age. It doesn't come naturally anymore, does it? And if you're not in a work environment then yeah, it's more difficult to put yourself out there. Is there anything that we have not discussed that you'd like to discuss or say.

Carol: Only that if anyone hasn't tried volunteering. Give it a try. It's changed my life.

Sharen: It's a good message.

Libby: Definitely. We love volunteers. There's so many the charity sector as a whole, obviously couldn't function but with community projects like Hardie Park. Just its volunteers are the life and soul, aren't they? And it is amazing. Volunteering is one of the best feelings. I love volunteering.

Sharen: Yeah so get involved with your free time.

Libby: Brilliant. So, we will pop up some links to sign up for volunteering at Hardie Park in the show notes. And all of the social media links as well. Carol thank you so much for talking to us today.

Carol: Thank you, thank you.


Libby: Thanks so much for tuning in, we hope you enjoyed learning about Carol’s journey into volunteering and how it has changed her life. If you would like to find out more about Hardie Park, volunteering or the opportunities available in your local area, check out the Show Notes for this episode on our website at constellations-podcast.org.

Please do share this podcast with anybody you think would enjoy listening - it is the best way to help us grow and carry on sharing the fantastic stories in our communities.

We’ll be back with another episode this Thursday! Tune in to hear us talk to Chris, who is a trustee for Hardie Park, as well as being a regular volunteer in the cafe. Until then, take care. Bye!

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