Meet the Volunteer: Rachel
From 1st to 7th June 2023 it is Volunteer Appreciation Week!
5th June 2023
Rachel is a farmer’s daughter, born and bred in Cumbria. She attended boarding school as a child and later, teachers’ training college. Rachel specialised in home economics - something she had always planned to do - and became a home economics teacher and eventually Head of Technology. Rachel met her husband, Alan, when they were both teaching at the same school. Alan was Head of Humanities and has helped at Oak Tree several times.
Rachel’s current cat is a rescue named Tig’ (short for Tiger) who was previously mal-treated but has now found a safe forever home with Rachel and Alan.
Rachel retired after thirty-one years of teaching and after a short break, embarked on a gardening course at Newton Rigg Agricultural College.
Rachel’s volunteering day is a Tuesday and sometimes begins at ten past eight when help is needed and finishes around four o’clock. But she’s willing to work on other days if required. On a practical level, her role involves washing up, setting the Tearoom ready for visitors, sanitising the tables, ensuring the knives and forks are ready for use and wrapped in their napkins, making ready the coffee machines and filling the shelves with canned and bottled drinks, making sure they are chilled and within date order. She also operates the till, prints the order and passes it to a member of staff to prepare and then takes it to the customer when it’s ready.
Rachel is also involved in Oak Tree Fairs that take place throughout the year and participated in ‘Fright Night’ last Halloween! She has also baked for stalls previously and says she does it “because I want to and I’m reliable!”
Rachel was drawn to Oak Tree after visiting the Tearoom and was told they were looking for volunteers. Rachel said, “I tried it and it worked, and I’m still volunteering almost six years later!”
The Tearoom is open seven days a week and can get very busy yet still runs smoothly. Rachel credits Brenda who runs the Tearoom for this, saying “Brenda has a wonderful knack of making everyone - staff and volunteers alike - feel valued and part of the team”. Rachel believes it’s the principal reason she enjoys volunteering so much. She also enjoys making new friends and meeting visitors. When she has time, Rachel loves to chat with the visitors and hear their stories adding, “Being a dog-friendly environment also increases the enjoyment”.
Choosing the most rewarding aspect of volunteering is difficult for Rachel because she enjoys all of what she does and says, “It’s very fulfilling”. She believes an important aspect of the Tearoom is the standard way of doing things. Also, Brenda listens to staff and volunteers and understands everyone’s skills, personalities, and abilities. And this is maximised in the presentation of food to customers. Rachel recognises that Oak Tree has an important role, “They help people as well as animals, serving the families, customers, and all the team working directly with the animals”.
Rachel has great faith in the Tearoom, her and her husband, Alan, have lunch there at least once a week!
Rachel would like to encourage anyone who is thinking of becoming a volunteer to give it a try, “there’s something to suit everyone’s interest”, she says. Rachel has watched the development of the Tearoom and is also aware of its importance within the community, citing the inclusion of wheelchair users who are made to feel welcome and part of the overall experience. Friends who come for coffee and bring their dogs - often up to seven dogs at a time - are always made to feel welcome. Oak Tree is a welcome place for families who are able to take advantage of the facilities such as the children’s play area, the outside heated canopy, views of the horses, donkeys and goats in their outside paddock and the wonderful woodland walk.
Rachel would especially like to encourage volunteers from the older generation. Her message is: “There is a volunteer role for everyone. Oak Tree is about people and animals and would never discriminate on the grounds of age, disability or anything else. Come and give it a try!”