Karen Burgon: It’s my perfect job, except...

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Karen Burgon has a 40-hour a week job which pays her - exactly nothing. She is project leader at north Leeds food bank. Jayne Dawson reports

Karen Burgon used to be a ward sister but now she helps people in a different way. She lives in Chapel Allerton and is married with three children, aged 23 to six.

My first job was running the cloakroom in the local community centre when dinner dances were held. I did it with another girl and we used to split the takings, we were about thirteen years old.

The best advice I ever received was to think before you speak. One of the ward sisters said it to me when I was a student nurse at St James’s in Leeds. I think I needed to be told.

My guilty pleasure is eating crisps. I could say it’s wine, but I had better not.

My pet hate is people who are rude to people who are doing them a service. A lot of people complain to staff who don’t have the ability to do anything about whatever the situation is.

The person I would most like to meet is my husband’s father. He died in his early 40s, when Phil was a teenager. I have only ever seen photos of him and I don’t know what he was really like.

My ideal weekend would involve my husband being at home, he runs a music studio, so there’s a lot of weekend and evening work.

I would tell my teenage self not to worry so much about my teeth. They stuck out and they got me bullied. I would tell her things she worries about now will not be a problem later, she is going to grow and change. There is so much pressure on girls to look perfect.

I came to social media quite late, now I use Facebook but it does suck you in. If I hear Phil coming up the stairs I shut it down, so I must know I am wasting time on it.

The food bank happened because I went to a meeting at the request of my vicar, and it was like a bolt from the blue. I knew that was what I should be doing, but I didn’t want to because my youngest child had just started school and I was supposed to be looking for a way to earn extra money. I literally sat on my hands so I wouldn’t volunteer, but in the end I did anyway. That was two years ago.

People might think north Leeds doesn’t need a food bank, but it does. It is there for people in crisis, they might not all be in permanent poverty. Sometimes things happen - a husband or wife will walk out and clear the bank account, or there might be an unexpected bill that simply has to be paid. They get three days’ food for each member of the family.

There is no queueing at the food bank. People sit at tables. We do not want anyone to feel humiliated. On average we see 30 people a week. People always donate pasta, and we are grateful because we are grateful for any donation. We don’t get much tinned veg - we could do with a lot more.

My philosophy on life is also part of Brownie Law - I was a Brown Owl. “Think of others before yourself and do a good turn every day.”

I hate to say it, but I couldn’t live without my phone. It isn’t about being able to contact people, it is about my children being able to contact me.

My most embarrassing moment was probably the day I forced my husband to put the phone down on the DJ John Peel. I thought it was his friend John, and I was trying to get ready before visitors arrived.

The last time I cried was listening to some music on the radio. I don’t cry all that much, but I think having children makes you softer.

It would probably surprise people to know that although I am 51 I have a six year old daughter and my two grown-up children. She was a happy accident and I am a more laid-back parent now. I have realised most things don’t matter.

I have a strong faith so when I was asked in my interview for my school job why I had applied I said it was because God had sent me. I was worried afterwards but I got the job. I am a lunchtime play leader.

I enjoyed my childhood. I lived next door to my infant and junior school, and my comprehensive was a ten minute walk way so I didn’t have to travel far.

With teeth like mine there wasn’t a lot of kissing going on when I was a girl.

I think my first kiss eventually happened at a sixth form party, and I can’t even remember who with.

The first record I owned was the Pinky and Perky version of Yellow Submarine.

But the first one I ever bought was Ride a White Swan by T. Rex.

What I love about Leeds is Chapel Allerton, it has everything I need.

Ian Watkins

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