Each month, we shine a light on an individual who plays a vital role at Cambridge City Foodbank. Previously, we have focused on the different distribution centres and profiling the trustees. This month, we spoke to long serving volunteer, James Dore. Read on to hear about his background, his life as a dedicated volunteer, and what he enjoys doing in his spare time.
Can you tell us about your background?
Before I signed up to volunteer at the Foodbank, I was an accountant, and worked in Cambridge for around 35 years. Following a life working in numbers, I was very keen to explore volunteering opportunities doing something completely different. Cambridge City Foodbank turned out to be the perfect fit for me.
When, why, and how did you first start volunteering at the Foodbank?
I’ve just completed a decade of volunteering for the Foodbank; first joining in June 2012. I had a few months off after retiring from work and knew that I wanted to get involved in some volunteering. Initially, I volunteered at my local rugby club to help look after the finances, but I wanted to also do something that was a bit more practical and hands on. I went along to a Cambridge charity recruitment evening at OLEM, and Cambridge City Foodbank was one of the charities present. It seemed like a really great organisation for me to join, and importantly, I wouldn’t be doing any accounting!!
What are your roles and responsibilities at the Foodbank?
We used to joke that my title was assistant, temporary, acting, deputy warehouse manager, which tells you I was involved in a few different areas across the charity! A lot of my time is spent inside the warehouse, processing and organising our food supplies, however, I also purchase stock as required, and I’m our main supermarket liaison. This means I keep in contact with all the supermarkets where we have collection bins and try to make sure that those collections are running smoothly.
How has the Foodbank changed over the years?
When I started, we were quite a small organisation with only three distribution centres and around 30 volunteers. We had four or five units located in different areas of a self-storage building, and my job when I first started was to move crates of food from one unit to the other. I had a flatbed trolly that I tried to load up with as many crates as it could take and I was even jokingly known as ‘the muscle’ in the warehouse!
Since then, the Foodbank has grown enormously. We’ve not just expanded in terms of the volumes of food we provide for those in need, but also in the range of services that we offer those that we support. During my 10 years volunteering, Cambridge City Foodbank has undergone a professionalisation in many aspects. For example, when I first joined, we were a solely volunteer run organisation and had no paid staff. It’s obviously very different now, but the bedrock is still all of the amazing people who have stepped forward and committed their time and energy to the cause.
Do you have a favourite moment from your time with the Foodbank?
The thing that sticks in my mind is the expansion of the warehouse at Orwell Furlong. We took on the neighbouring unit which meant instead of having to cram everything into one, inadequate space, we were able to run things in a much more straight forward way. It was a fun and rewarding experience to set something up that improved the way in which we worked, and the warehouse is a physical reminder of how far the Foodbank has come as an organisation.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not volunteering with the Foodbank?
I have a small portfolio of volunteering roles. I’m involved with Cambridge Rugby Club where I still provide financial support and advice. I also do some voluntary driving which involves transporting people from my village to hospital and medical appointments, and, as well as this, I’m treasurer of my church, St. Laurence’s in Cambridge. On my days off, I really enjoy getting out and about in nature. I go on a lot of walks, and particularly like going through woodlands and spotting different wildlife. I’m also a big sports fan, and love rugby, cricket, and tennis.
If there is someone out there that’s considering volunteering for the first time, or looking at volunteering again after some time off, what would your message be to them?
If you turn on the TV, you’ll see lots of news that makes you despair somewhat, but if you come along to volunteer at Cambridge City Foodbank, you’ll find that the volunteers’ energy and enthusiasm restores your faith in humanity to a great degree. The volunteers at the Foodbank are so committed to helping others, and there is so much goodwill and commitment that you can’t help getting a real lift.