May 25, 2023
Marisa Regan is well-known around Cheltenham for her tireless work helping others in the community. For this month’s blog, we spoke to the ‘Tesco Lady’ about why she loves to make a difference and what an impact a listening ear can make.
Q) What motivates you to do the work you do in the community?
A) I love people. Young, old, of whatever culture. I love learning about other cultures, especially their food, their religion, and what they like to do. Being a foodie, I’m always interested in the spices, textures, smells, and tastes. Food is something that everyone likes to talk about and it brings people together.
Speaking of food, I was involved in the Reduce Waste Great Taste sessions, with Ali, who used to be the SPTM Big Local Community Worker. As part of the sessions, we used food donated from the supermarkets to make things with the kids. What I loved was it gave them the chance to taste things differently. For example, a lot of the kids said they didn’t like chickpeas but one day we made chickpea burgers and every single one of them ate them. All we did was changed the way we cooked them.
Q) What is your favourite thing that you’ve been involved with?
A) Back in 2019, Me and Kelly, the former SPTM Project Co-ordinator, had a meeting about food waste and how Tesco and other local supermarkets always had food left at the end of the day that was still good enough to eat.
So we started off a food project. At the beginning, we had a couple of boxes of stuff, and people would come and help themselves. Then Covid happened and the project turned into something really big. We had so many volunteers and loads of food from the local supermarkets, and we were sorting it, boxing it, and delivering it to vulnerable people.
It was very humbling knowing that you did your bit and we did deliveries. I did doorstep deliveries and some people I delivered to hadn’t seen another person for weeks. Sometimes I had conversations with them through the window and they were crying, or just joyful that they had seen another human being. For those who were lonely, it really was a lifeline knowing that me or another volunteer would be coming every week. Not just for the groceries but for the human contact.
Q) How has Tesco supported you with your community work?
A) They’ve given me such a big platform. I’ve helped schools, youth groups, churches, older people, pantries and food banks across Cheltenham. Tesco has given me that opportunity to shine and do what I’m good at; networking and working with people.
There are also the practical things like sometimes items like shampoos have to be taken off the shelves if the packaging has changed for example. I usually donate these items to the pantries and Open Door, one of my favourite charities.
Q) Which Big Local events have you been involved with?
A) Where do I start? With Big Local, I have done Easter events, Christmas events, and summer events, gathering families together. One thing we’ve noticed through Covid and beyond is that young families and elderly have lost their confidence to go out and meet people.
One young stay-at-home mum I knew became so isolated during Covid, she was afraid to go out and felt like she didn’t fit in anywhere. I got her connected with a coffee morning and invited her two children to events. She met other like-minded mums and now they are a really strong friendship group.
It’s very humbling to think that we made that happen. Now she helps out at events and spreads the word about events, and that attracts more people.
If I spot someone that lacks confidence, I will go to them, engage them in conversation, and make them feel listened to. I call it my ‘listening ear.’
Q) What would you say to anyone who wants to get involved in the community?
A) I would say that you don’t have to commit to an awful lot, just commit to one thing, one little project. Take enough small steps and you’re at the top of the mountain.
It’s all about people working together for the greater good. We are all small cogs in a big wheel, but together we can do something and make a difference.
If you feel inspired by Marisa and you’d like to get involved with SPTM Big Local to make a difference in your area, there are plenty of opportunities to do so! Visit https://sptm.org.uk/get-involved/ to find out more.