Spreading the importance of World Homelessness Day with our MasterChef Johnny Banger
29 January 2024
It's no secret that homelessness is a growing issue in the UK, and with the Cost-of-Living Crisis still looming over many households, the possibility of homelessness is becoming more of a reality for many People. Thankfully, initiatives like our own Mill Bank Wellbeing Centre provide all important housing and support for struggling families and individuals nationwide.
World Homelessness Day is an international event held on the 10th of October that sees people, charities, and organisations raise awareness for homelessness and the struggles that can come with it. One such person is our Head of Customer Complaints, Johnny Banger.
The MasterChef Day was born from a conversation that Johnny, a former MasterChef contestant, had with Mill Bank Service Manager Rebecca Mayman on a monthly Customer Hub catch-up. The pair landed on the topic of food and came up with a great idea to host a cooking event that taught Customers valuable practical skills while giving them a therapeutic outlet to talk. From that point, Rebecca began promoting the MasterChef event through the Mill Bank Centre, and it quickly gained popularity.
On the day, Johnny led a team of volunteers from around the organisation and Mill Bank Customers to cook and serve a meal for the Community for World Homeless Day. Johnny supervised the volunteers in creating chicken and vegetable curries from scratch to feed their neighbours while also passing on some handy kitchen skills along the way.
"I saw the day as an opportunity to give back to the Community and show my support," explained Johnny. "Before joining Places for People, I'd worked in a few more corporate environments, mostly within insurance, which was great, but I didn't feel like they had a big social impact. I've always tried to give back when I can by volunteering in soup kitchens and organising charity events – so I jumped at the chance of combining my two passions (volunteering and food)."
The beginning of the day saw the food prep take place. Johnny supervised the volunteers in chopping and preparing the vegetables and chicken for the curries. As the team were working with limited space, this portion of the process took up most of the morning, but that was not an issue, as it gave the team plenty of time to talk to the Customers volunteering and learn more about their stories.
"One thing that I found interesting about the day was how open the Customers were about their stories and the struggles that can come with living within sheltered accommodation. Everyone was so engaged while we were preparing the food, and it struck me how the Mill Bank team had created such a stable environment that their customers might not have had without it."
By 4 pm, the curries were ready to serve. This was the perfect timing, as many families from the Mill Bank Community popped by following the school run to enjoy the food. Places for People also provided samosas, which went down a storm! The event was an enormous success, seeing more than 100 Customers enjoy the meal. The event was the first in a long list of similar events that the Community Hub has been organising throughout the year.
"Volunteering has always been a big part of my life, and working for an organisation like Places for People has allowed me to do more. My role as a Head of Customer Complaints enables me to make a difference in our Customers' lives daily. At the same time, my work with the Customer Hub allows me to give back to our Communities. I've finally found a role that sits right with me, both personally and professionally, and I don't intend to go anywhere else!"
Since the roaring success of the MasterChef day, the Customer Hub has organised a range of other events for the Mill Bank centre, including a coat and toy collection and jet washing and gardening events. We are so happy to see that the excellent work the Customer Hub is doing has continued, and it's fostered such a great working relationship with the Mill Bank Centre.
Johnny and the team embody the People Promise of One Community. Their commitment to recognising their privilege and paying it forward to our most in need Customers is commendable. The Customer Hub is an asset to Places for People, and People like Johnny make their work possible.