The value of volunteers

Jane Sewell's Sally the scarecrow

Sally the scarecrow by Jane Sewell

Having worked in the third sector for over 15 years now, I’ve seen an incredible amount of volunteers working tirelessly to make a difference in their community.  However, most go unrecognised, silently changing lives and, at times, not even realising the difference they have made or the impact of their kindness.

Volunteers, ones true to the word, do not look for gratitude or recognition. It’s as though they know help is needed, and so they appear, enlist and do what is needed with passion, compassion and caring.  They do it to make a difference, however little they feel they do, because they can and they want to. And so sometimes they leave when work is done.

I remember receiving emails from countless potential volunteers wanting to work with us and I felt humbled by them.  “Join the club”, I said, “the more the merrier”.  And of course it was merrier and crazy most of the time.  Mark Sykes would just come and see us once in a while and produce websites for every project we started and put up with my numerous emails to change things; Jane Sewell produced all of the amazing designs for the Communigrow project, and it was such fun seeing all her little creatures come to life in print, Julia Commons tirelessly worked on the allotment and brought her whole family in to help out too;  Laurence Snook who has now taken over the plot; Luke Sutton who designed and continues to work on all of our logos and printed materials for the Ashford Festival of Arts, Centre for Creativity and Enterprise and of course ArtiGras; Siobhan McManmon and Robbie Miller who single handedly pulled off the sound and music for the Festival of Arts and Technology; Becky Withey is event managing and working hard on the ArtiGras festival and has managed to pull in some really great entertainment for both days; Claire Ghoussoub helped with all of the marketing for the Community Crafts Centre; Alison Newbury designed the photo book for Ashford Festival of Arts and Technology; Laura Nye who helped with our project in Gravesend and who is now a very good friend; Chris Tucker who designed the Unum Designs logo; Louisa Jones who despite now being heavily pregnant still comes in every Wednesday and helps the ladies with craft projects; and of course Keighley Cook who has been more than a sewing tutor, she has been my support in every way during moves and turbulent times; Linda Bishopp for watching over me and the Centre and making sure I don’t mess up; and finally my daughter Natasha Aidinyantz who helped create our logos and all the branding for the Centre for Creativity and Enterprise and organised the whole of the Festival of Arts and Technology and made it work perfectly.

And these are to name but a few, in addition to the young people who volunteer for the IT project and George Stephenson who manages the project voluntarily.

If I have forgotten anyone, it is not on purpose but because there have been so many of these angels who have gone through our doors.  I feel I need to say thanks again, and tell you all how much you have meant to our existence and the continuation of our work.  You have all left something for us to remember you by and I truly appreciate your work.  It has been a hard day at work today and I am having a nostalgic moment.  What is it they say about making sure people know how you feel about them as often as possible, well here I am making sure of that.

Treat volunteers with respect, they are one in a million.  If given the opportunity, they will shine and help you with your progress.  Give them freedom to use their creativity and imagination and you will be amazed at the quality of work they will produce.

I am sure there will be many more to thank after ArtiGras but, for now, I will stop before I am being accused of being too mushy.

Volunteer Day should be every day, at least for us it should. So I leave you with a very wise quote:“To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind.”Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973);

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