The Hornbeam Centre, located in Walthamstow, is a community centre and café with a positive focus on sustainability and the environment. They run a variety of workshops and events and have a range of volunteering opportunities. As the centre is mostly run by volunteers, they understand the importance of recruiting volunteers for community cohesion and engagement to make changes within their local area.
The project, Volunteering on Wheels as funded by TfL’s Cycling Grants London, aims to engage and develop a network of volunteer cyclists from a range of communities to encourage more people into cycling. The Hornbeam Centre have various partner organisations that they work with: Hornbeam Joyriders, Cycling Sisters, Age UK and Community Waltham Forest Volunteering to name a few. With this they have been able to recruit cycling volunteers and seek out beneficiaries around Walthamstow and Friday Hill housing estate, Chingford.
The project has created cycling volunteering opportunities through a food surplus rescue scheme, where cyclists collect surplus food from shops in Walthamstow and distribute it to a number of places, such as: food banks, housing estates, as well as a stall out the front of The Hornbeam Centre.
Some of the volunteers have children and have managed to fit the food collection and drop-off into their morning routine before the school run. They have also used the opportunity to teach and show the children about food waste and the importance of cycling.
“Without bikes, this project wouldn’t have been able to happen because of time and logistics”, says Emma, the Project Coordinator. There is a small window between picking up the surplus food and dropping it off at the centres and food banks when they are open, as sometimes their opening hours are short. The project is looking to reach out to more hubs in the area that will benefit from surplus food, to increase the impact of the project, getting more people into cycling and reducing food waste at the same time.
The volunteers have benefitted from being part of this project and have seen directly who the food is going to, which is really touching, and paints a positive picture of cycling and its benefits to the rest of the community.
“I wanted to give something back to the community, and it worked out well with the school run. Sometimes I cannot see the kids in the back of the cargo bike as it is full with surplus food surrounding the kids.” – Volunteer
“The staff are so grateful for the food donated and any food is very welcome. I am very thankful for the volunteers for the deliveries that come on time, making it easier to redistribute it to the hubs.” – Project Coordinator