WHILE most of us will be opening our stockings and relaxing at home with loved ones on Christmas morning, Zero Carbon Futures boss Dr Colin Herron will be having an altogether different experience.
Between 10am and 2pm, he and his wife and two daughters will be helping out at The People’s Kitchen, in Newcastle, a charity which feeds and supports the North-East’s homeless.
And while most people would see this as an extraordinary sacrifice on such a significant day, Colin, who helps out at the charity every Sunday, doesn’t see it that way.
“We really enjoy it. A lot of the people who come to the kitchen I would class as friends. You get to know them. They have so many people who come into their lives and leave them quickly, but because we’ve been there for a long time, they trust us.
“It is a very difficult time of year for them. One of the things they want is continuity and they expect to see us on Christmas Day.
“You have got to remember that afterwards, we go home to a nice house and they go back to underneath the High Level Bridge, and when they wake up on Boxing Day morning, there is nothing.”
The charity, based in Newcastle, helps homeless people across the region and is run entirely with a team of 100 volunteers and donations of money and food from individuals and businesses.
Colin has been volunteering for the charity for three years, since his younger daughter, now 19, raised money for The People’s Kitchen after hearing one of its volunteers speak at her school, and he donated several fees from public speaking to the cause.
“I was able to write one particularly big cheque and one of the volunteers, Maureen, who I like to call the voice of the kitchen, said to me, ‘It’s about time you got your hands dirty’.
“I was in the kitchen at 6am the next Sunday morning. That was three years ago and I’ve been there almost every Sunday since.
“You always think you should be doing something but you never get round to it. I thought it was chance to jump across the line and do it. I’ve never regretted it.”
He said he had never felt unsafe helping out at the charity.
“Unfortunately, sometimes there are disturbances which we try to break up. But I have never, ever felt threatened. If someone attacked one of the volunteers, the rest would attack them.
“They know what we do for them and they would try to protect us.”
“It helps to balance my life. I am very fortunate. A lot of the people who come to the kitchen had normal lives – families, jobs, mortgages – then they just lost control. Working there helps you realise how close we all are to the possibility you don’t want to think about.”
• Anyone who would like to become a regular volunteer for, or donate food or cash to, The People’s Kitchen should contact 0191-222-0699. Please note, volunteers are not needed for Christmas Day.