The spirit of volunteering is visible everywhere you look at the Shannon Kai Hub. From the bustle of stocking the shelves, to the friendly chatter in the opp shop and sitting room, to the clean-up after opening hours, the work here is shared by a team of 27 volunteers. They come from as far away as Levin and Longburn. Some drive to Palmerston North and fill their cars at Just Zilch for the weekly stock-up, another does the banking run when working up there. A Steering Group of eight put in more volunteer hours managing the centre, and even the core group of paid staff put in double their paid hours, doing extra volunteer work.
Shannon Kai Hub has been operating for 6 months now, having opened in May this year. Their vision is better lives through kai. Sharon Williams, Community Innovation Navigator, elaborates:
“Our focus is not just community food distribution, but a greater sense of connecting the community and offering wider encouragement and empowerment. We want our community to have more abundant food and know this leads to better health. We want to feel better connected to each other; to be able to support, nurture and cherish each other. We offer opportunities for community members to volunteer and support others; at the same time we want to support our valued volunteers as part of the team, no matter how many hours a week they gift.” Sharon firmly believes that volunteering should be as inclusive as possible, cost neutral, and that “everyone, regardless of their circumstances, is able to volunteer.” Snacks for the volunteers are provided, birthdays are celebrated, and fuel vouchers provided when necessary. And with so many options under one roof, there’s a volunteer job for everyone. Organising the opp-shop, customer service, stacking shelves, and outside there’s work to be done in the building of a community garden and mini laundromat.
The youngest volunteer is Bear Starstrider, aged 11. You’ll find her at the Hub every Friday with her mum, Willow. Willow recalls mentioning the soon-to-open Kai Hub to Bear back in May. “I want to volunteer!” was her enthusiastic response. Since then, she has become a master of shelf stocking, barcodes and customer service. Bear weighs each customer’s food, and records the data, along with how many people they are feeding, and where they live. This information is used to keep track of how much kai flows through the Hub, and how many people are benefiting. “I really enjoy putting out the new food products,” says Bear, “it’s fun!” Willow enjoys being “managed” by Bear, and keeps busy behind the scenes. She has really enjoyed getting to know more people in the community through this volunteer role. Both agree they get more out than they put in. “At the end of the day, no matter how slow or busy it’s been, we come away feeling ‘That was good!’ People are excited to get the products they most need or enjoy. People are grateful.”
Complex Manager Anita Nunn has been involved since the Kai Hun’s inception. She is also a member of the steering group, requiring a lot of volunteer hours. “I like making a difference.” She says. “At the Kai Hub I feel part of something bigger.”
Lynette Metcalfe loves the company. As an older person living on her own, the friendly environment and opportunity to socialise mean a lot. Like most of the volunteers, she also enjoys being a customer at the hub, and was “roped in” to volunteering at the counter.
I met “Vinnie,” Michael Vincent, outside. He had parked on the footpath to be closer to the doors, while unloading a station wagon’s worth of food from Just Zilch. He told me how important it was for him to fit the weekly “kai mission” into his busy working week, and how much he enjoyed seeing the empty shelves fill up again. “People are going hungry” he said, “this is the least I can do.”
Anyone interested in joining the volunteer crew at Shannon Kai Hub can contact them via Facebook, on 021 08950544 or pop in to the centre which opens Tuesday – Saturday 10am -3pm.