June means Volunteers Week and we have been celebrating!
Fri 14 Jun 2019
I am delighted to have been present at two of our six Volunteer Star Awards this year, which have been rolled out from a firm foundation in the east of the county. These awards have been delivered through the hard work of our local teams, supported by our countywide staff, and made possible through the generous sponsorship of local businesses and organisations. May I offer my sincere thanks to everyone who has been involved in making them happen; and there are still two to come!
Volunteers Week is all about taking some time to recognise the people in our community who give their time freely, without promise of material reward, to help the people and places around them. Some people may have volunteered all their life, some may have that volunteering has its own rewards since they retired, or whilst on breaks from school or university. Those who manage to squeeze it into otherwise busy family and working lives, especially have my personal admiration; and in that sense it’s not always about how much you do, but how valued what you do is.
Our Awards and the many events and activities that are being held by our members and partners this month are a tribute to the often unsung heroes in our community, who we may sometimes come to take for granted. It’s a time to step back and say – wow that person is really amazing – they do all that stuff not because they have to, or because they are paid to, but because they choose to – because they aren’t afraid to show they care about the people and world around them. The people who instead of saying ‘ someone should do something about that’, just roll up their sleeves and do it, often quietly, but usually doggedly.
As someone who works with organisations who rely upon volunteers to deliver services to some of the most vulnerable in our community, I am all too aware of the step up that our county’s volunteers have already made in recent years. Whether it be in running libraries, in providing community transport, in supporting older people, in running youth clubs or in hospitals, volunteers have become an integral part of our public services; and I believe those services are usually all the better for that involvement.
But we must also remember that the home of volunteering is here in the voluntary sector – that’s why it is called the voluntary sector; and those taking part do so, not because of statutory requirements or persons in authority. They volunteer because of a sense of commitment to their friends, family, neighbours, and their community.
So, Volunteers Week, is also a reminder to anyone in a position of responsibility or power, especially those who can influence central government through their MP or otherwise, that volunteering is not free. Volunteering is superbly good value for money with dozens of added value extras.
We would really welcome a renewed focus from Central Government, upon how we can all better support the existing volunteers and encourage more residents to get involved, as well as through their places of work; to ensure the future sustainability of local volunteering.
So, to the volunteers, in all your variety. You support, advise, inform, assist. You garden and build. You care and create. You are older, younger, of all backgrounds and demographics. From me and from Support Staffordshire a huge personal thank you for continuing to be the lifeblood of our sector.
In a world of ever faster and more jam-packed stuff – the gift of time remains the most precious that any of us can give.