The Helping Others column with Karen Weaver

Harrogate Mayor Nick Brown and his wife Linda with some of our volunteers at the annual celebration.
Harrogate Mayor Nick Brown and his wife Linda with some of our volunteers at the annual celebration.

Last week we were delighted to welcome the Mayor and Mayoress of the District to Harrogate Community House for our annual volunteer celebration.

More than 130 volunteers support our work, mainly via the practical support services offered by the Harrogate Easier Living Project (HELP) but also providing vital assistance in our offices in Ripon and Harrogate.

Councillor Nick Brown presented certificates of thanks to 13 volunteers and he and the mayoress heard about the huge difference they make in their varied roles.

By helping clients with practical things such as gardening or driving, helping with admin or making a friendly visit to older people who can’t get out and about, each volunteer is enabling scare resources go further and contributing to the wellbeing of our area.

Our annual thank you event is an opportunity to chat to volunteers and a great way of finding out what motivates people to get involved. Sometimes a change in people’s lives leads them to try something new or different, be that retirement or even bereavement.

Putting skills to good use is often mentioned, and volunteering can also offer the chance to gain new skills, perhaps en route to a new job or change of career.

Being part of a team and getting to know new people is another benefit, and people who have just moved into the area are often keen to get involved as a way of settling into their new home and community.

Volunteering enables people to do things that they really enjoy whilst benefitting others and many of our volunteer car drivers are a good example of this.

They really like driving, which is just as well as over the past 12 months our two services in Harrogate and Ripon have carried out over 6,000 trips, an average 16 journeys per day.

Some are short trips to appointments at the doctors, hospital or hairdressers, but there are longer journeys too.

One driver told me of a trip he’d made to Louth in Lincolnshire, and how he loves both the driving and the chats he has with the people he helps. Some drivers take people on regular trips, whilst others help when they can. Another aspect of volunteering highlighted in our celebration is the prevalence of what I call “serial volunteers”.

Once people get started and find out how rewarding it can be, they often proceed to take on further roles.

For example one of our volunteers joined our Help at Home team after attending the 2016 Volunteer Oscars.

He was there as a volunteer for the Nidderdale AONB and heard about the practical gardening and DIY service we run, and realised this would complement his outdoor volunteering, especially in the winter months.

Whatever the reason people get involved, there are wonderful benefits to both the volunteer and the person or people they support and here at HARCVS we’re hugely appreciative of every single one of our volunteers. Next month I’ll have early news of the plans for 2017 Harrogate District Volunteering Oscars in October.

This will be the 10th annual ceremony and promises to be a very special celebration of volunteering across the Harrogate District.

Find our searchable Volunteering Directory of hundreds of volunteering opportunities with local organisations at www.harcvs.org.uk/Volunteer, including www.helpharrogate.org.uk.