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Volunteers play 'vital role' in helping to support homeless at Wintercomfort

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Wintercomfort volunteer co-ordinator Emma and volunteer Cassie. Picture: Keith Heppell
Wintercomfort volunteer co-ordinator Emma and volunteer Cassie. Picture: Keith Heppell

A volunteer who has dedicated the past 11 years to helping at Wintercomfort has spoken about her experiences working with the homeless charity.

Retired nurse Cassie Sparks, who lives in Cambridge, volunteers at the day centre twice a week. She mainly helps in the kitchen, lending a hand with the washing up.

“I really enjoy working with people, I always have done, and here you get to meet a mix of characters,” she explained.

Volunteers play a vital role in helping to provide the charity’s services by working with service users, staffing reception and helping with publicity and events.

Volunteer co-ordinator Emma Gerrard spent time helping at Wintercomfort before she was appointed to her current role.

She said: “We are committed to providing volunteers with a safe, fulfilling and rewarding experience, as well as offering the opportunity to meet new people, experience new things and help to make a real difference to the lives of homeless men and women in Cambridge.

“The volunteers are very valuable. Currently, we have around 30-35 volunteers at Wintercomfort. Volunteers do all sorts of jobs – some have specific skills they want to share – we have a reflexologist and a barber – and some just want to give their time. Sometimes it’s just about showing a service user that someone cares and other times it’s helping them with their CV.

“When you hear someone say they came in feeling awful and have left feeling better, that makes it all worth it.”

Cassie added: “I worked in care for a long time so I enjoy being here. But here you don’t have to take on responsibilities. It’s the relationship you build with the service users that gets to you. It’s hard to see the people you’ve been helping sleeping out on the street. It’s upsetting.”

Most volunteers offer their help during the day, with some volunteering weekly and others less frequently. Emma said there are currently volunteer opportunities at Wintercomfort, and those interested can visit the centre in Victoria Avenue or contact them online.

The Cambridge Independent has launched a campaign to raise £10,000 for the charity to continue its incredible work and cope with the increasing demands of the winter period. It will ensure those sleeping rough in Cambridge can still find a warm place to go, get a cooked breakfast and gain the invaluable advice and support needed to get their lives on track.

We are asking our readers to help support the charity. The best way to donate is by cheque. They can be made payable to Wintercomfort and sent to: Overstream House, Victoria Avenue, Cambridge CB4 1EG.

Alternatively, you can donate online at wintercomfort.org.uk/cambridgeindependent.

Please mark any donations: Cambridge Independent.

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