Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

I’m starting the New Year with a tribute a long-term volunteer who died too young over the Christmas period. Donald was cherished by the Good Food Team at Jane Street for his fellowship and the great contribution he made at different times. After getting over the shock and pain of loss there will be many good memories.

Donald’s story was featured in the local newspaper a couple of years ago. Every story is of course unique but not alone in demonstrating the thin lines that define all our lives and the huge quiet courage that many show in pulling their life back together.

I Feel Totally Filled In This Role And I Feel Great When I Go Home (extract from Edinburgh Evening News June 2008)

Loading crates of vegetables on to a van at a Leith warehouse, Donald is intent on his work. The 49-year old volunteers four days a week for the Edinburgh Cyrenians FareShare Scheme, collecting surplus food from supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer and delivering it to 43 homeless projects in Edinburgh and Lothian.

The father of three used to earn £40,000 a year and had his own home and company car. For 22 years Donald worked for a bottled water company, rising through the ranks to becoming a senior manager. He had a long daily commute and was constantly on call at weekends, but felt the stress was worth it when he arrived back each night to his big house and affluent lifestyle. Despite the support of his loving wife and family, however, work pressures led his already large alcohol consumption to spiral out of control to the point where Donald lost it all.

He explains “To the outside world my life was perfect. I used to put on my shirt and tie every morning but inside I wasn’t coping.”

Donald suffered a brain seizure in July 2003, which left his speech and walking affected. He went back to work months later in a reduced role but began suffering complete black-outs after drinking bouts. Social workers finally got him into a rehabilitation clinic in March 2005. “One of the therapists said ‘You are an alcoholic’ and I said “Thank God”. I had been in total denial. No-one would query question what I’d done.” Donald remained there for ten months, during which time his wife, legally separate from him.

After getting dry he was introduced to the Cyrenians scheme. Now sober and back on good terms with his family, Donald smiles: “I feel totally fulfilled in this role and go home on the bus feeling great. I want to be a volunteer full time. When I see the guys eating the food I feel great.”


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