Mim Beresford, 24, is volunteer co-ordinator at the Coventry Jesus Centre. She describes a typical day in the Coventry Jesus Centre
Coventry lads swagger in; they wanted to use the computers, “Sorry they are both currently in use, I can book you in for later”. One lad starts singing away to himself, the other lad wants help from a support worker. I put an appointment in for that too and then he’s asking about bicycles. Ron is our bike man running the cleverly named ‘Re-cycle’ service – he helps repair bikes and does up donated ones to give to other people. I tell the lad Ron wasn’t around but I could take his details, I need his number for this. “You can have my number if you want, love” He and his mate laugh – I politely decline.
It’s a Monday morning and as part of my job I am filling in on Reception. I work part-time at my local Jesus Centre officially as the ‘volunteer co-ordinator’ but unofficially filling in for other areas and sticking my nose into other projects.
For a short while I’ve had to cover our reception desk for a few hours a week – owing to a shortage in volunteers (I don’t think there was a correlation between the volunteer shortage and me… at least I hope not!) More recently this progressed to each morning on a Monday – which I didn’t exactly gracefully agree to doing when I was first asked.
On this particular morning I’ve had a bad night’s sleep owing to somehow hurting my neck at the weekend and I was requiring a dose of painkillers every few hours. So feeling sorry for myself I open up Reception ready for the day. Often Mondays can be a bit quieter; the main drop-in isn’t open but we have plenty of other services happening – however this Monday decided it was an exception.
Message taken and the guys leave – silence descends, momentarily. Julia’s ESOL students begin arriving, always smiling and saying “good morning”.
A middle aged man comes to enquire about English lessons, only he doesn’t understand very much English and speaks even less. The phone keeps ringing whilst we’re using a form of charades and Pictionary to communicate. We eventually reach an understanding – we have a free space for next week’s class.
The phone is still ringing: ‘Good morning Coventry Jesus Centre’ as I grab it before the last ring – too late.
Shortly after two more young lads, Students at the University, come to enquire about bikes. Jo, one of our most faithful volunteers whom I don’t know what we’d do without, arrives, Gina not long after her. She’s another faithful volunteer who is a crucial part of our team – “I’ve just received this bag of clothing donations.” I call through to Gina: “Just leave it there I’ll deal with it” comes the quick reply from her.
Rob, one of the centre managers, comes into the office. “Can you count this for me?” and dumps a heavy bag of change in my hand. Mostly 1s and 2s – a donation made by someone; the widow’s mite comes to mind. The next visitor wants to take his documents out of storage – I realise I’ve not done this before. I manage to locate a folder labelled ‘lockers’ so I must be on the right track. A quick flick through and I think I uncover the correct form. The visitor comes to my rescue: “It’s that bit there, I just need to sign and it’s locker 3, the keys are in that box” he says. Documents are found and correctly signed out. Glad the visitors know what they’re doing even if I don’t.
So the morning continues in the same hectic fashion. It is a whole new level of multi-tasking. Reception closes and I finish the rest of the day at my normal desk pondering the people that I came in contact with. I realise that I am lucky. I’m lucky not just because I’m healthy or that I have a roof over my head but that I am able to come to work and be shown the reality of my heart and have my perceptions challenged. I’m lucky because I work in a place that puts people first and that is the bottom line – people first, other people first.
We now have a new receptionist who is full time, she’s going to do a great job – although despite my initial begrudging I realise I think I’m actually going to miss it.