Young people, staff and volunteers all play an active part in KEY

25 Years This year marks 25 years since KEY was set up. We will be marking our 25th anniversary with a series of exciting events throughout the year, a total of 25 in fact. Dates for these will be announced via our Facebook Page and News Section.

Volunteering for the Key Project

KEY’s volunteers provide a vital element of the support that helps homeless and vulnerable young people to improve the quality of their lives.

Volunteers are crucial to our work – without them we would not be able to run many of our services. The high level of support we receive from volunteers enables us to keep our operating costs low and means a very high percentage of income goes directly on supporting young people.

To apply to be a volunteer with KEY – complete and return a Registration of volunteer interest v1. And we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Find out more about donating your time to KEY

Food Bank Volunteers

Volunteers helping stockpile food donations for emergency support packs. Left to right - Pat Walker, Joan Taylor, Ian Taylor, Joan Montgomery, Mary Woods.

Volunteers helping stockpile food donations for emergency support packs. Left to right – Pat Walker, Joan Taylor, Ian Taylor, Joan Montgomery, Mary Woods.

KEY has been collecting food donations and distributing them as part of emergency support packs to young people since 1992.

The packs are mainly made up of just food but sometimes will include toiletries and other household items depending on needs. Food donations are always needed from local schools, churches and concerned individuals. From the donated food, KEY makes up bags of food to be given out to young people in need.

This service relies heavily on a volunteer team to collect and stockpile the food as well as distribute the emergency support packs. Here they talk about why they volunteer.

John and Mary Woods
Volunteers since 2009

John is a retired civil servant and Mary a retired teacher. They live in Jarrow and got involved after learning about KEY from an appeal at their local church.

“We got involved because we wanted to help young people in our area. You also get to meet other people with similar interests who are like kindred spirits.”  Mary Woods

Ian and Joan Taylor
Volunteers since 2013

Ian is a former director of an engineering consultancy and Joan is a retired teacher. They both attend Cleadon Methodist Church.

“I feel I’m doing something useful and like to help young people. I look at my own children who’ve had support and it’s very satisfying to know you are helping young people who don’t always have those support networks. Plus by helping out you get to see people and it’s a bit of fun and a good chat.”  Joan Taylor

Pat Walker
Volunteer since 2013

Pat is a retired teacher and lives in South Shields.

“Its nice to think that in some small way you can contribute to helping young people not as fortunate as your own.”  Pat Walker

Joan Montgomery
Volunteer since 2012

Joan is a retired teacher and lives in Cleadon. She attends St Gregory’s Church.

“After I retired from teaching, I wanted to do some voluntary work. There are so many worthwhile charities but I had read about the Key project on St Gregory’s Church’s bulletin and felt I would like to help there in a practical capacity such as helping with the food bags.”  Joan Montgomery

Young People Volunteers

Young people we support also often go on to become volunteers with us too. We offer a range of activities that they can get involved with from peer education to helping organise and participating in KEY events. Two of our most recent volunteers are Glenn and Billie. Here they talk about why they do it.

Glenn White
Volunteer 2011 – 2013

Glenn with his Volunteer of the Year Award nomination at the North east Youth Work Awards held at the Stadium of Light in 2013. Left to right - Glenn White (KEY Volunteer) and Kevin Hall (KEY Tenancy Support Officer).

Glenn with his Volunteer of the Year Award nomination at the North east Youth Work Awards held at the Stadium of Light in 2013. Left to right – Glenn White (KEY Volunteer) and Kevin Hall (KEY Tenancy Support Officer). *

We supported Glenn in his first tenancy after he became homeless at the age of 18. Glenn went on to become one of our most committed young volunteers. He was nominated for Volunteer of the Year Award at the North east Youth Work Awards 2013. He now works at Dunes Leisure Facility in South Shields.

During his time with KEY, Glenn got involved in various volunteering activities:

  • assisting to organise training opportunities for young people.
  • being part of a young person’s interview panel.
  • practical help when preparing emergency food parcels or moving donated furniture.
  • preparing and delivering a passionate speech at our annual AGM.
  • preparing and delivering presentations in schools for our peer education service.

* Photo courtesy of Regional Youth Work Unit North East

Billie Fagan
Volunteer 2011 – 13

 Billie helping out with the meeting and greeting at a KEY AGM

Billie helping out with the meeting and greeting at a KEY AGM

Billie is a young mum to Chloe and lives in Jarrow. She became a volunteer after we supported her in her first tenancy. Billie is a very active volunteer at KEY. She first got involved in our peer education service going into schools to talk about homelessness. She also helps out on the day at our Annual General Meetings, attends our marketing groups, and recently did a presentation at a KEY board meeting.

As well as volunteering Billie finds the time to play hockey for the South Shields women’s team. Billie is currently studying and hopes eventually to work in social care.

“I was genuinely shocked at the number of young people experiencing homelessness and that was what motivated me to volunteer at KEY. I like the thought of making a difference and meeting new people. Volunteering exposes me to new experiences that I would never get otherwise”.  Billie Fagan

Volunteering at Flavia House and Strickland House

Flavia and Strickland are our supported accommodation projects. They provide shared accommodation for up to 5 and 4 young people. Both houses are located on the Lawe Top in South Shields. Although we employ residential workers to help run both houses, there are lots of volunteering opportunities to help out including advocacy and mentoring support for young people and organising activities like trips out and cooking sessions.

Here Penny and Jen talk about why they volunteer.

Penny Hayton
Volunteer since 2012

Volunteer Penny Hayton

Volunteer Penny Hayton

Penny is a retired primary school teacher and lives in Boldon. At Flavia she provides both management support and helps out with organising activities. She gets involved in cooking the house Christmas dinnerand walks. When it comes to volunteering, Penny is one of our all-rounder’s doing a bit of everything. As well as volunteering at Flavia, she also sometimes helps out at KEY’s office and with our peer education project. Penny helps prepare presentations to speak at schools about homelessness.

“I feel very privileged and fortunate with my life, and felt I should give something back. Although retired I still feel I have an important role to play and contribution to make. I like to think I’m making a difference. Volunteering at KEY fills ticks all those boxes for me. Plus I’ve made lots of new friends. I absolutely love it.”

Jennifer Robbins

Volunteer Jen Robbins speaking about the benefits of volunteering at a KEY AGM 2012

Volunteer Jen Robbins speaking about the benefits of volunteering at a KEY AGM 2012

Jen was involved with KEY for several years. During her time at university she had volunteered for a local homeless shelter. When Jen returned to the North East, she wanted to carry on doing volunteer work and so got in touch with KEY.

“Working at KEY made me realise how vulnerable young people are, as I had only previous worked with adults. I wanted to help make a difference and help them realise their potential. Volunteering at key has been extremely rewarding. Knowing you have helped make a positive difference in someone’s life and helped them to gain the skills to go on and live independently is invaluable.”

Jen speaking about the benefits of volunteering at the KEY AGM 2012 held at the Salvation Army Hall in South Shields



Students placements and Graduate Volunteer Placements

We often have young people do student placements or volunteer with us after graduating.

Typically, students have either been studying for diplomas or degrees in social work, health, housing, politics, youth or community studies. We always enjoy their time with us and the positive contribution they make both to KEY as an organisation and the young people they work with.

Here Toni, Callie and David talk about their experiences of volunteering at KEY.



“I absolutely loved my time at KEY. The management and staff were so welcoming and supportive. It was great getting  to know the young people and wider homeless community. It is a real hidden gem.”

“I enjoyed all aspects of the placement from the front line work in the two supported accommodation projects at Flavia and Strickland Houses to volunteering at the Food Bank, scrapbooking, Midnight Mass, Christmas Day Lunch and fundraising including the evening walk and jumble sale.”

“Once my placement hours are finished I still plan on giving up my free time to the many interesting  up and coming projects such as Faithful Neighbours  and The Recovery Tree.”

Toni gained a 80% (1st) grade for her placement module whilst at KEY. She is now on the third year of her Community and Youth Work Degree at Sunderland University. She continues to volunteer with KEY.


“I graduated from Durham University in 2016 and wanted to gain more practical experience of providing  housing  for those in need before  embarking on my own career in social housing.”

“During my time at KEY I was able to get involved in various projects, allowing me to  expand my knowledge base. I was able to lead my own experiences here, get Involved with projects that  interested me, plus propose some projects of my own.”

“Working at KEY was a really rewarding  experience, largely because of the dedication and enthusiasm of everyone who works at KEY. I am really excited to start my own career in social housing, putting to use and building on all the skills and knowledge I’ve learned here.”

Callie spent 10 months with KEY,  before leaving to join the Sanctuary Group on its Graduate Development Programme. We wish Callie all the best for her future career.



“I study Politics at Newcastle University and will graduate in 2019. I wanted to gain an insight into social issues, particularly homelessness, and how government policy affects this. Working at KEY has helped develop my research, communication and analysis skills by applying them to KEY’s projects. This will  help me greatly in my career.”

“At KEY I‘ve researched and given a presentation on youth political participation to the young people KEY took to Parliament . It explained why it is so important for them to be politically engaged. This went well – the young people really took on board the message. My experience at KEY has made me reflect on my career aspirations and encouraged me to look for work in the charity sector.”

It’s clear that working at a place like KEY means making a difference to the lives of ordinary people in need of help.


Checks on volunteers

All volunteers must undertake an Enhanced Disclosure Check (old CRB). This is done to ensure the safety of our both the young people and volunteers themselves. This is paid for by KEY.