In Māori custom, there's an ancient proverb that refers to people being the most important thing in life.

For Tauranga woman Nicki Goodwin, this whakataukī encapsulates exactly why she still loves her job as manager of Tauranga Community Foodbank five years after first applying for the role. Not that she knew it at the time.

"What my perception was and what the reality is still blows me away today," she said.

Goodwin's background is mostly in clerical work. When the job as foodbank manager cropped up, she said to herself: "Yep, that's the job for me."


"I thought it would be about helping people with a management role - two things I love.

"What I didn't expect was the effect the foodbank has on the community. I didn't realise how much we rely on volunteers, and I didn't realise that would be my favourite part of the job."

Goodwin begins to gush a little as she describes the diverse bunch of people offering their time to help at the charity service.

One day a week, the foodbank is helped by a team of special needs volunteers. Another day the ages in the volunteer team range from 15 to 86. Some days can include several retired people working with a youth completing community service. Other days volunteers include former recipients or big business executives.

"There's banter and a few bad jokes here and there, a bit of singing," Goodwin said.

"On the radio, different days have different radio channels. On Thursdays, the radio is always a little bit louder," Goodwin said, laughing.

"But it's hard work. It's quite physical work."

Goodwin said for most volunteers - who spend all day on their feet - helping the community was "top of the list", next to being part of a team and helping make a difference.

"It's more than just handing out food parcels. It's also making sure that we are giving them to the right people. Part of handing out parcels is having a handle on how much help we can give. That has been hugely successful. We see the results from that," Goodwin said.

The foodbank is affiliated with 95 local social service agencies including Tauranga Budget Advisory Services. For Goodwin, it's knowing they have the ability to help people who, for the most part, believe they have nowhere else they can go.

"There are so many different circumstances. Someone might come in and you can tell it's taken every ounce of effort to come in our door. I just take my hat off to them. We might never, never see those people again. They might have just had a day or week where they have no resources but we give them a parcel, they leave here really, really grateful because of our amazing volunteers."

Goodwin said she learned something new on a daily basis, which added to the magic of the foodbank.

"Every day is different. Every day is challenging. What better job is there? Helping the community and working with volunteers is just amazing and so rewarding. I've never worked anywhere like this before."