Volunteers’ Week is taking place from 1 – 7 June 2020. More now than ever, volunteers are supporting communities throughout Wakefield District due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

People who may have never volunteered before have now been offering their time to support the vulnerable throughout the pandemic in a number of ways, such as delivering food shopping, providing hot meals, and providing telephone befriending to those who may be isolated and lonely.

The long-standing volunteers in Wakefield District deserve a special mention this Volunteers’ Week. These are the brilliant people that regularly give their time to support organisations, groups, people and animals.

Here are some Nova Members with their stories...

Lord Lieutenant cards

Carers Wakefield & District and GASPED have both been in touch with us at Nova to say that they have received thank you cards from the Lord Lieutenant at West Yorkshire Lieutenancy. It’s fantastic to hear that groups are getting the recognition that they deserve!

St George's Community Centre

Words from Berni O Brien, CEO - St George’s Community Centre:

As our lovely volunteers began to return to work this week, we were becoming worried about how we were going to continue to deliver our Covid-19 Community Response. Then out of the blue, two new volunteers joined our team. We have a 17 strong team, collecting supplies, shopping for the isolated, packing food parcels, collecting vital medication and then delivering to the doorsteps of those affected by Covid-19. We are so very grateful for all their time and effort and could not do our work without them. Each year during Volunteers' Week we like to celebrate and thank the volunteers and usually plan a get together with cake, however due to Covid-19, staff will be reversing the role and delivering a little something special to their doorstep. Volunteers are the unsung heroes of this Covid-19 crisis and we could not deliver to the community without them, we asked them what motivated them to join our team and what they have enjoyed about it. This is what one of our volunteers Charlie O'Hara had to say:

"Like most of us the pandemic took me by surprise! I am fortunate to have my health and suddenly had an abundance of free time. After seeing daily news stories about the amazing work of other volunteers I was inspired to get involved.

Following an advertisement online, I applied to help out at St George's Community Centre. Sheena was quick to get me up and running and following a reference check and I was soon part of the team!

My role has mainly included organising the food bank, packing food parcels and delivering shopping for those unable to go themselves such as people shielding for the virus. I have found my role at the community centre extremely rewarding and I am grateful to have met some amazing individuals along the way.

I would like to thank all the staff at the centre for their hard work during these challenging times along with their welcoming, warm hearted attitude. I have always felt part of the team and over the past months we have all been able to enjoy each others company while helping those around us.

After experiencing the invaluable service this community centre offers to some of our most vulnerable I would encourage anybody who is able to get involved. You might be surprised how much you can get out of it."

Portobello Craft and Camera Group

Portobello Craft and Camera Group has been meeting weekly for over 12 years. The group is run solely by volunteers. The aim is to provide weekly supportive social opportunities with an informal learning facility. This normally includes planned workshops and participation in local events with attendees participating and sharing ideas and skills in craft, art and photography.

The group share a wealth of skills between them and are always happy to share these skills with anyone. Within the group there is a Community Artist, a Textile specialist, both of whom have published books, a Felter, a Painter, Knitters, Jewellery Makers - generally people who love and share a passion for creativity and who enjoy sharing and passing those skills onto others.

During the recent weeks as everyday life has changed dramatically for all, it was felt important to be able to maintain contact with each other: but how to do this? Not everyone had access to a computer but most had access to a mobile phone.

A WhatsApp group was set up and most members have been able to access this, using it to post photographs of recent projects, snippets of everyday things or just simply saying hello and having a bit of a chat. It has also been useful to post important information on, useful contact numbers, where to get help from, who to contact if concerned about self or others. Regular telephone contact has also been maintained with each group member every week.

During the lockdown period, group members have contributed to the Postcards from Wakefield Initiative, Queens Mill virtual craft week, masks have been sewn, thank you badges have been made and given away and many items have been made in preparation for the Christmas gift box scheme.

Here are a couple of comments from group members:

“This WhatsApp group has helped a lot during lockdown seeing what others have done and the comments we say to each other brightens up the day! Makes us feel we are still together.”

“This group is very friendly and will help with anything that they can help with be it supporting or just talking xx”

Senior Citizens Support Group (SCSG)

Since Coronavirus and the lockdown restrictions began, SCSG has had to recruit volunteers. Over 75 people applied most of these have been utilised in help desk calls, drivers, shopping deliveries and telephone befriending callers.

SCSG is now in a position where they can make calls to the whole of their membership to identify their ongoing needs and also if they are vulnerable and either on their own or without family help. The help desk support volunteers are responsible for ongoing progression of the calls and to keep the log updated with the actions taken. The telephone befriending calls delivered by the volunteers vary in length of time from a few minutes to over half an hour dependant on circumstances. The feedback is excellent and the receivers of the phone calls enjoy the conversation.

Due to cancellation of events at their venue, SCSG has looked at alternative methods to take events online to their members, and they are now delivering two fitness days and a choir rehearsal session each week, and are looking to extend their offer. An average of 42 group members have been participating in the fitness sessions which is fantastic.

SCSG has now built up several privileged processes with local suppliers to help with the picking, collection and delivery of food and pharmacy items. One thing that has been identified is the absence of I.T. knowledge in the age category of the group, and they plan to tackle this by providing suitable I.T. courses to help members with things such as online ordering.

Alan Hudders, Chair - SCSG, said: “I can’t speak highly enough of the volunteers. Some have expressed an interest to keep their involvement with the group, so the plan is to bring them all in on a coffee morning and introduce them face to face with the vulnerable people they have helped.”

Quotes from SCSG members:

"I am totally surprised that you turned up today on my 80th. I am lost for words I can't wait to get back and thank people and hope to have a celebration night again."

"This is a great service as I can't go out. Since I lost my wife I joined this group and it has changed my life, I now have friends. I couldn't dream of being in this position, I even go on coach holidays with them, it's a great group."