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

Saying thank you to HARCVS and HELP volunteers with Mayor of Harrogate District, Councillor Stuart Martin.
Saying thank you to HARCVS and HELP volunteers with Mayor of Harrogate District, Councillor Stuart Martin.

These days it seems there are “awareness days” for every conceivable topic, and indeed a quick internet search reveals that June includes days for fish and chips, cheese and hugging your cat, and is International PRIDE and bowel cancer awareness month.

Some of these topics might seem frivolous to some, while others are of vital importance, providing information and advice and bringing people together around a common cause. As I write this we’re coming to the end of Volunteers Week.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations coordinates the week, in which the UK celebrates volunteers and says thank you to them for the contribution that they make. The week also raises awareness about the benefits of becoming a volunteer and the diverse volunteering roles that are available. The estimated annual value of volunteers helping UK charities is £22.6 billion, and just under 12 million people volunteer at least once per month (that’s 22% of the population).

In the Harrogate District volunteering levels are higher than the national average and with its mix of urban and more rural areas volunteers make a vital and ever growing contribution to so many aspects of daily life, from running libraries to looking after our open spaces, organising festivals and community events and supporting those who are disadvantaged due to poor health, disability or poverty.

Here at HARCVS we are keenly aware of the vital role of volunteers in our own team. We have 19 staff, and all bar one of us work part time. We have 110 volunteers who contribute approximately 270 hours per week of their time to help us achieve our mission, which is to make the Harrogate District a great place to live and work. Every week they are making a difference, whether it’s getting people to medical appointments, visiting those needing some company at home, helping tidy up gardens and making homes more comfortable and safer, or helping in the office.

Volunteers Week is about celebrating and thanking all these wonderful volunteers.

We were delighted to welcome the new Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Stuart Martin and his wife April to Harrogate Community House to meet some of our volunteers and present them with certificates of thanks. They are invariably embarrassed at being put in the spotlight and so modest about their contributions. The occasion is also a chance to chat to people and find out why they volunteer.

“Just wanting to give something back” is a common theme and this year I was interested to meet someone for whom volunteering in our craft group provides the opportunity to improve her English.

She is also keen to learn how volunteering contributes in the UK, coming from a country where there is not that same tradition.

We also held one of our regular Volunteer Managers Network meetings this week, attended by an ever enthusiastic group of colleagues who between them look after hundreds of volunteers who drive cars and trains, take people out and about, provide companionship, information and education and make and bake and grow lovely things.

Amongst their plans to thank volunteers were social events including barbecues and fish and chip suppers, chocolates, cards and steam train rides! If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or joining our Volunteer Managers Network find out more via www.harcvs.org.uk – and we’re on Twitter and Facebook too.