A day in the life of helpline volunteer Bob Ward

Until a few weeks ago 67-year-old Bob Ward was enjoying delivering Mercedes vehicles all over the UK. Then when he was furloughed, he was determined to help others. Here is his story.

Bob 'The Butcher'The alarm goes off around 6 am, which is late compared to when I ran my butchers shop, Save on Meats in Redden Hill Road, Babbacombe. Then it was 4 am six days a week come rain or shine, but I sold that in March 2019 and went into phase one of my retirement

Today, like every day, starts with a good walk with my two little dogs Dolly the Shihitsu and Bonny, the Pommy-Pug cross, which I like to get in before the distractions begin. A quick stroll from home in Torwood Gardens Road, into the park and then back home for a shave, shower and a bit of breakfast.

By 7.30 am I am outside Morrisons in Paignton picking up yet another delivery provided today by the staff themselves. Amazing. I fill up the Beemer, slide back the roof and head back to Torquay, heading for Eat that Frog.

As soon as I was stepped down from my job for Snows in Exeter, I found that for the first time in my life I had time on my hands and I just knew I had to do something and I began filling in forms to volunteer. The first was on day one of the nationwide appeal for volunteers, but that led to nothing and I was losing time. I was itching to get started.

More form filling and phone calls followed, and the fist volunteering opportunity came through the Torbay Community Coronavirus Helpline – a young lady called Tara Acton called to ask me to walk a dog for an older lady in lockdown. I jumped at the chance, but unfortunately the dog was ill, so it didn’t work out.

Picking up suppliesDays passed and I as champing at the bit when I received a call from a young friend of the family who works for Colgate and was offering some of her samples to anyone who could make use of them. I was in the car like a shot and over to Teignmouth to pick up thousands of tunes which I offered to the Crafty Fox Food hub in Foxhole for their food parcels with the balance going to Eat that Frog.

It seemed like a small thing, but the smiles on the faces of the people that were putting together the food parcels said it all, and I knew I wanted to do more, so I began pestering Tara for more.

Stacking suppliesI also saw that Eat that Frog were in need of help preparing meals to be delivered to vulnerable people and I jumped at the chance, but there was a problem – they needed help peeling potatoes and I must admit I have never ever peeled a spud in my life and needed an urgent lesson from my wife Sue before starting.

Three bags of spuds and three hours later, I had rough freezing cold hands and a determination to source an automated potato peeler* for them and when I got home that night I put a fundraiser up on Facebook to pay for it. As far as I was concerned it could not come too soon – my hands hurt

In addition to the spuds I helped make bread and butter pudding (which I don’t even like, but they are a great team, and we all get along really well (socially distanced of course), and we get the job done.

I have also hooked up with a lovely lady called Rita – doing a bit of shopping here and there picking up prescriptions from Croft Road – I was there before it opened one morning and joined a queue to get in and the only person I spoke to was to acknowledge the person coming out under the only two in the shop rule. It was all very subdued.

But Rita soon put a smile back on my face, she is so grateful for all the smallest of things being done for her, but it is the least any of us can do. I am now working my way through her front and back gardens, tidying up, a bit of weeding, a bit of grass cutting.

I have seen people speechless at the kindnesses they are experiencing and I have seen tears and smiles. A lot of smiles. It is lovely to see the community coming together, and the people who are organising it all are doing a fantastic job on the logistics.

When I am not heading out for individuals who urgently need things, I am driving one of the vans and moving food around from the supermarkets to the food banks, whatever is needed.

Then it is home to lockdown with my wife Susan. We always go for a walk early evening, just us and the dogs before settling down to a game of backgammon or the latest boxset on Netflix. Then it is off to bed by 10pm where I quickly fall asleep and dream quite often. About what? That would be telling.

I am loving doing the variety of jobs and being of some use to the community at this difficult time. One thing is for sure spare time is not a problem any more. I haven’t got any. And it has made me realise, that even then I get back to work and things begin to return to whatever normal is, I will continue to volunteer, I will always find time for that.

Bob and his potato rumblerThe potato rumbler/peeler has now been installed at Eat that Frog having been collected from Exmouth for a knockdown price, once the seller knew where it was going and it has been serviced by Bob’s son Elliot. He is now asking friends and relatives to help pay for a fruit dehydrator which comes in at £795 + VAT.

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