So, my five weeks of volunteering at the Carnegie Community Centre came to an end, but not before meeting some very special, kind and caring individuals who work at the Centre and others that became regulars for a meal and whom I would see when I served on Wednesday lunchtime.
The Carnegie Community Centre is owned and operated by the City of Vancouver and is funded by the Community Services Division, however apart from the paid staff, there are a lot of volunteers that work at the Centre and together they keep it functioning to support the people of the Downtown Eastside, the majority of these people are fighting their own daily battles and all have a story to tell.
What I love about this Centre is that there is no judgment and everyone is treated equally.
I was a volunteer in the kitchen, which I referred to as the, “Engine Room”, working two days a week for four hours a day and then on Wednesdays, I would work with Jenny, taking orders, plating up food and generally chatting with the customers, always with a smile on my face.
In the engine room there is Anthony, Steve, Jackie, Dianne, Shaun, Jenny, Dinah, Ben, Bill and many others, however these are the people I worked fairly closely with during my time at Carnegie.
Colleen, who was in-charge of the Volunteers, was very friendly, helpful and the first person I met when I arrived at the Centre. Skip, who was in charge of Security would regularly come up to our floor and visit Jenny and I on a Wednesday, to have a joke and more often than not, get one of those choc chip cookies, he loved so much.
Everyone in the engine room has their roles to play and they all have their own stories and idiosyncrasies, some of which I came to know well after my five weeks of working with them.
I would look forward to seeing Jackie at the start of my shift and hear her say, “Well Hey Renee” in her accent and happy jovial voice. I also loved our chats and her laughing at the, “crazy Aussies”. It was great how (Chef) Shaun would actually show me how to cook things and let me do some taste testing during the cooking process. Apart from that we would also share quotes and have a laugh; as he is a bit of a, “shit stirrer/joker” like me. Then there is Dianne, who is fairly quiet and reserved but she is definitely the Dessert Queen, she makes some of the best sweets and I loved helping out doing the nightly dessert for her.
Jenny and I worked really well as a team, as we are very likeminded and just got in and did what had to be done. I enjoyed my days spent serving with her and the laughs at some of the stupid that goes on. We will definitely keep in touch.
All the people that do the dishwashing do an awesome job, which is just constant from open to close, as the washing up never stops. All the dishwashers are volunteers.
The kitchen functions 365 days of the year, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for a very reasonable price or food tickets, if you work as a volunteer. All the meals are very much what I consider to be a good home cooked meal, made with love.
Whilst at the Centre, I learnt a lot about different fruits, vegetables, herbs, recipes, products, equipment and people in general. I was very grateful that the people I worked with would take the time to show me how things were done and also let me use my own initiative at times.
I loved the time I spent with my Carnegie Family and I hope to get back there soon to maybe help out again for a weekend or two.
Until Next Time,