We continue our series of short stories with Lorraine Pottinger. Lorraine has taken over the reins of Jacob's Well Care Centre from her parents Stuart and Angela. It's a huge responsibility, but one that Lorraine fulfills with not only enthusiasm and energy but also with the determination to take the charity into the future whilst keeping it's ethos.
Lorraine spoke from the heart when asked an array of questions regarding not just the charity, but her family's and her role within the charity.
WHAT ARE YOUR EARLIEST MEMORIES OF YOUR PARENT'S CHARITABLE WORKS?
One of my earliest memories of my parent's charitable work was as a small child getting home from school one day. My parents had saved up to buy a new sofa, something to look forward to sitting on when I got home, however they had given it away to a struggling family! They didn't seem at all fazed at explaining that we would have to sit on beanbags! It was then that it hit me that my parents were a bit different!
DID IT SEEM NORMAL TO YOU AS A CHILD?
Very normal! In fact I gave away my new school shoes to a collection at school, much to my parent's dismay! It's not as if they didn't teach me that giving is good, I was merely following their example!
DID YOU GET INVOLVED AS A CHILD?
Yes! As a child my parents spent all their time and resources helping others, at this stage their efforts were mainly concentrated on helping to ease the extreme poverty in Romania, thus I spent a lot of time sat on top of piles of clothing which needed sorting before being loaded into articulated lorries bound for remote parts of Romania. It may not seem like what a child would normally enjoy but they were great times, knowing that what I did was helping others.
WHEN DID YOU START WORKING FOR THE CHARITY?
I've been working on and off for the charity over the past twenty years whilst also bringing up my two daughters - Cherish and Grace. Since 2010 with more time on my hands and a desire to help my parents help others this became a permanent position.
WHAT DO YOUR CHILDREN THINK OF IT ALL?
Like myself they have been brought up with my own parent's philosophy and ethos. My eldest daughter Cherish works for the charity (whilst being a busy mum of three), and my youngest has a keen interest in charity work and has also been out to Romania to see first hand what we do to help those who really do have nothing - I am immensely proud of them both.
JUST HOW MANY DIFFERENT JOBS DO YOU DO? IE: FUNDRAISING, ADMIN, FOOD ETC...
Where to start answering that question? Let's take an average day (if there is such a thing at Jacob's Well!). Without our furniture warehouse and delivery/removal business our funds would run dry very quickly, this side of things needs administration: emails, phone calls, rotas, accounts - office work seems to never end. Along with what could only be described as a full time occupation in the office I also work in the warehouse, the Store Cupboard (checking and presenting food for those in need), and then there's also our bric -a- brac and clothing that needs sorting. Oh, I nearly forgot - there's always the cleaning that needs doing and our never ending fundraising in order help those in need. Do I ever get time to myself? Not very often but I wouldn't have it any other way, I love what I do!
CAN YOU IMAGINE DOING ANYTHING ELSE?
NOT AT ALL! My heart and soul is in this work, I love Gosport, the people and the community and just want to help as much as I can.
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF GIVING UP? IF SO WHY, IF NOT, WHY NOT?
The simple answer to that is no! I've never thought about stopping, our charity is relevant and current and needed, there is always more to do.
ARE YOU PERSONALLY AFFECTED BY WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN?
Every story of hardship affects me personally, yes the thought of people going without or being in difficulty stays in my mind even when at home. To mention just one instance recently, we gave a lovely pink wheelchair to a young girl who's mother was struggling financially, she was overjoyed, I actually cried when I went home that night.
HAS IT BEEN DIFFICULT TO GET OTHER PEOPLE INVOLVED?
It can sometimes be hard to find people that we can trust to simply fill the gaps that are needed without us having to chase after them. Volunteering is a fantastic thing to do, but it does mean being available when you say you will be, we have to be able to depend upon people. If anyone is interested in volunteering for us we are always willing to listen to what you can do, and how we can help you - simply come along and see for yourself just what we do and what you can do to help us help others.
DO YOU STILL VISIT ROMANIA?
Yes, we do still visit Romania, the people and communities out there are always very much in out hearts, just as Gosport is. I personally visited about two years ago. There is still a lot of poverty, though it has eased a little. We still own a distribution centre in Romania and a small pharmacy which is used by the Roma Gypsy community
DO YOU STILL THINK THAT THERE IS A NEED FOR THE CHARITY?
Absolutely, people still need help, now more so than ever in the UK, this includes help with low cost furniture, food, clothing etc...
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE CHARITY?
Yes, I worry that it is sustainable - I see the finances and know that there are some months when we struggle to pay the rent or even the wages. We are a wholly independent charity and receive no government funding which is why we are so grateful for any support that we receive.
WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE IN GOSPORT TO MAKE THINGS BETTER FOR PEOPLE IF YOU COULD?
Housing! Housing would have to be #1 on my list, the lack of council properties is shocking, however this is also a national problem and one that needs addressing. One thing that stands out is that the private rental market is too expensive.
DO YOU EVER HAVE ANY TIME FOR YOURSELF?
Not really, though I do have Sunday off, however even then I'm answering emails and trying to catch up with our facebook page.
The above question and answer session shows the dedication the Lorraine has for Jacob's Well, when asked if she had anything else to add, this is what she had to say:
"I love Jacob's Well with all my heart and have some pretty big hopes and ideas for the future.
There is so much more that I would like to do, my vision is to see it develop into a centre where anyone can come and obtain the help and guidance that they need. Our work with the homeless is an area that always causes me great concern, we always offer clean clothes and food and are willing to chat and offer guidance and signpost where we can. People on low incomes who find it out of the reach to buy large ticket items such as sofas can come and browse our large collection, always priced with affordability in mind.
We love helping, it's what we do. We also love to encourage people to reach their full potential in any way we can." ...Lorraine Pottinger
"Fab furniture, proper well made stuff, at bargain prices."