The Harrogate and Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service column with Karen Weaver

Heather Rayner and Pat Wormald of Harlow Friendship Group receive the Dragons' Den award from High Sheriff Linda Fenwick.
Heather Rayner and Pat Wormald of Harlow Friendship Group receive the Dragons' Den award from High Sheriff Linda Fenwick.

I’m a big fan of the Action for Happiness movement, a national charity committed to building a happier and more caring society. Their website is full of inspiration and they share monthly calendars packed with actions to help create a happier and kinder world. This month‘s theme is Optimistic October and today (October 10) suggests we look for the good intentions in people around us.

Last week I was fortunate to be part of the team supporting the second High Sheriff of North Yorkshire’s Dragons Den event, this year held in the Harrogate District in partnership with THE LOCAL FUND and kindly hosted by Rudding Park Hotel.

Our partners at Two Ridings Community Foundation had assembled an amazing panel of most generous Dragons, and six brave local charities dared to step into their daunting Den, just like the TV programme.

Following a lively welcome reception, the audience made their way into the Den, where the Dragons were seated on a quirky mix of “up-cycled” chairs from the Disability Action Yorkshire furniture store.

The pitching organisations had already been through an initial selection process and in order to be eligible needed to be smaller local charities supporting good mental health.

We heard in turn from Opening Minds, Arch Resolution, Artizan International, Emerging Voices, Harlow Friendship Group and Supporting Older People.

These six groups together demonstrated the huge positive contribution being made by very small charities working on a shoestring and supported by dedicated volunteers. We heard from people with lived experience now raising awareness and supporting others facing similar challenges and from inspirational artists and musicians who see the difference that being creative can make to people’s lives. Helping people to come together to socialise might seem a very basic thing to do, but it requires time and money to make it happen.

Each group presented their shopping list of essential items including websites, better marketing, more activities, rent, admin support, skilled workers, training for volunteers and new equipment.

There was a surprising item on the very practical and modest shopping list from the Harlow Friendship Group; the purchase of new lightweight teapots and china cups.

Why? Well it is so that their members, many of who are becoming more “vintage” themselves, and struggle with arthritis, can still help out in the kitchen and provide that welcoming cuppa every Wednesday.

It’s the little things which can make such a big difference.

Thanks to the amazing personal generosity of the Dragons, combined with the funds raised from ticket sales, the six pitching organisations received £34,500 between them.

One of the best things about this particular way of growing local giving is that each group will be entrusted to spend the money on what they need it for, with no strings attached and no forms to fill in.

These are “unrestricted” donations; something as rare as hens’ teeth in the charity world. The only thing they will need to be ready for is a friendly follow up visit from the Dragons to see how they’re getting on.

A huge thanks from HARCVS to everyone who played their part in such an inspiring evening of turning good intentions into positive action.

If you’d like to find out more about how our charity is working really hard to grow local giving and volunteering please get in touch or visit