Lockdown love: How a retired police officer is using her bike to help others

After a 30-year career in the police, Charlie is now using her bike to help her local community
When Charlie Parker from Berkshire, a member of our Pumped Up Crew, retired last year from the police force after 30 years of service, she decided, as the pandemic struck, to combine a fervour for serving others with her love of cycling

I completed 30 years’ police service last year, it was an amazing career and both the best job in the world and the worst. A career change prompted an opportunity for volunteering – and what better way than to bring together my passion for cycling and helping my community as a Community Response Volunteer?

It was a privilege to serve my community and I still wanted to help, but perhaps without the heart-wrenching things I had seen, so I joined the Bracknell Forest Community Response team as a volunteer. It felt right to be helping people in my neighbourhood, to be able to give something back when lockdowns and Covid had taken so much.

My tasks

Volunteers are led by a team leader. Overseen by the Community Response Team, we are assigned tasks such as collecting prescriptions, delivering medical equipment and food bank parcels, and conducting safe at home checks on people who are vulnerable and may need support.

Tasks are assigned via WhatsApp or via a direct call and my experience is you need to be quick in responding as there are lots of volunteers all eager to help.

It’s a great team: we take tasks when we are available so there is no pressure when other things are going on. I generally take about three tasks a week, but it depends on the number of tasks to be allocated and there are some really busy days as the number of available volunteers varies.

Easier by bike

I always cycle when completing tasks as I enjoy any excuse to ride, but also finding addresses, which maybe tucked away, is easier on a bike.

My first task, though, was a real learning opportunity: collecting a prescription and delivering it to a local resident.

When I arrived at the chemist, I found out that I had two prescriptions for the same household and that carrying all the boxes on my bike, even with a small rucksack, would need some planning in how to transport them safely. Rucksack, pockets and an emergency bag got me on the road, and I made a mental note to bring my larger daysack next time.

My MTB to the rescue

It was during the snow that I had a blast cycling across playing fields to the chemist and then along cycle paths towards the address. The road itself was iced up, certainly no place for a car, but my MTB made short work of it. I rang the doorbell and waited, Covid compliant with mask on and two metres from the front door.

I was well wrapped up with hat and neck buff, and the resident was quite surprised to see me on their lawn with my mountain bike and their medication in tow. It made them smile and gave us something to have a chat about while handing over the package.

A weight off their mind

The volunteers make a difference each time they visit, and I wasn’t quite prepared for that. Delivering medication may seem a small thing, but to the resident it was a weight off their mind and allowed them to continue shielding safely. A check on their welfare generally, offering to arrange help with anything else they needed was really appreciated.

With a “lovely to meet you” and a wave, I was on my way. I updated my team leader that the medication had been delivered, and that the residents were all OK. That was my task for the day, and I cycled home in the snow for a warm-up cuppa.

Making a difference

I have also conducted safe-at-home checks for residents who are newly shielding, or who haven’t been contacted their support network for a while. I am unsure what to expect when attending these tasks: it could be meeting someone who is absolutely fine, or it could be someone needing help.

These visits really make a difference, it’s knowing that someone has come to see you

Charlie Parker, Community Response Team and Pumped Up Crew volunteer

The people I have visited have been lovely and really appreciate contact from the Community Response Team. If help is needed, I give the request to the team and I know that it will be arranged. These visits really make a difference, it's knowing that someone has come to see you, whether it’s your neighbour or someone who lives a couple of streets away, as it shows that the local community cares.

Sharing the cycling bug

My volunteering complements helping at my cycling club, Bia, where I look after new riders and members who, for whatever reason, want a relaxed ride. This sparked an interest in coaching. Who knew? I certainly didn’t, but once you start sharing the cycling bug, there is no stopping.

I am working through qualifications and am taking a Club Leader course with Cycling UK later this year. When I retired from the police, I had no idea a coaching career would await me. Sometimes you need to follow where your cycling passion takes you so if you are thinking of volunteering, just do it – who knows where it will take you.

Going the Extra Mile: nominate someone for our Lockdown Love Awards

Are you like Charlie and using your bike to help out in your local community? Or do you know anyone else who has?

Maybe they’ve also been delivering groceries and prescriptions or helping the homeless? Perhaps they’ve been helping to put people’s bikes back on the road or have set up Zoom calls and quizzes for their group or club to maintain morale?

Whatever it is, we’d love to hear about them, so get in touch with the volunteering team at Cycling UK and we’ll put them forward for the recognition they deserve with a Lockdown Love award.

Pumped Up Crew

If you want to help others but don’t have much time, why not also consider joining the Cycling UK Pumped Up Crew? This small army of volunteers carries out simple tasks to inspire and enable other people to go cycling.