“I know that everything I do with HARP makes a difference” – HARP Volunteer Maggie’s Story
As we continue to celebrate our joint 20th anniversary with CHESS Homeless in Chelmsford, we caught up with long-serving HARP volunteer Maggie.
Maggie has been volunteering at HARP for six years, helping at one of our complex needs hostels by cooking 19 meals every Thursday for the residents, as well as volunteering in our Southend High Street charity shop every Tuesday.
“I’ve always wanted to help homeless people. Even before I started volunteering with HARP, when I was working as a Civil Servant, I used to collect food at work and bring it down to the Bradbury Centre to donate it to HARP.”
When Maggie retired in 2016, she found she had more time on her hands, so decided to apply for a volunteering position at HARP.
“My first ever day volunteering was Boxing Day 2016! Now I’m here every Thursday making dinners for all the residents. What I cook depends on the ingredients that have been bought by Ruth in the Catering Team, but I usually get a text a couple of days before so I know what to expect!”
Having different recipes to cook each day keeps Maggie on her toes.
“It really could be anything that you can cook a lot of in a big batch to feed 19 hungry people - I’ve done spaghetti bolognaise, shepherd’s pie, sausage and mash, chicken pasta - really anything that is hearty, tasty and nutritious for the residents here.”
In the six years Maggie has been with HARP, she’s noticed a change since the pandemic.
“It used to be much more communal in the houses, you’d have everyone out in the garden, chatting away and sharing their life stories. It’s getting back to that now but I think people are still a bit cautious and want to stay in their rooms a bit more. That’s fine and everyone needs to do what makes them comfortable, but I do hope the socialising comes back a bit more.”
Maggie has met many clients and residents over the years, but one man, who recently passed away, stands out for her.
“He lived in one of the rooms downstairs in the complex needs residence. He was just such a lovely man. You could really have a laugh with him and he was so open and would tell his stories. He got very unwell towards the end, and he wasn’t able to eat much, so I made him special small portions which he really appreciated.”
Maggie loves volunteering for HARP, whether in her cooking role, or helping to sort through clothes and get them sold in our charity shops.
“I know that everything I do with HARP makes a difference - it might just be a tiny little difference, but if everyone did it, it would add up to a huge difference!”
We’re so grateful to Maggie and all of our volunteers who give their time freely to help support local people affected by homelessness - and so are our clients and residents.
“It’s so nice to get to know the residents, to get to know their quirky ways, and they are all just so grateful for the help we can give! Even if I just make them a cup of tea or have a quick chat while I’m here, that can really make their day and they are always so thankful and polite.”
This is part of our series Two Charities, 20 Years, 20 Stories, celebrating the joint 20th anniversaries of Essex homelessness charities - HARP in Southend and CHESS Homeless in Chelmsford. To read more, visit the Two Charities, 20 Years, 20 Stories Hub.
And don't forget - we're not just celebrating the past, we're also looking to the future. You can give blue skies and bright futures to local people experiencing homelessness by supporting our Bluebird Appeal.