They give their time, energy and skills to the rural community they are proud to call home, but today, International Volunteer Day, it was the turn of helpers in the market town of Hawes to relax and be thanked for their hours of dedicated service.
A buffet lunch was served in the market hall for those who work freely throughout the Upper Dales, driving the Little White Bus, offering food support through the open pantry scheme, giving a break to carers who otherwise cannot leave their home, or advising on fuel costs, computer use, online services, and a host of other matters.
Abbie Rhodes, general manager of the Upper Dales Community Partnership which oversees the growing number of volunteer services and activities in the town, said it was the perfect opportunity to thank people and also showcase the work they do.
“The number of volunteers fluctuates as people have different commitments and priorities. For instance, those people who were furloughed during Covid helped in any way they could. When they went back to work, many of the people who they helped at that time have become volunteers themselves. People are very generous and want to give back to their community,” she says.
“There can be a lot of isolation and loneliness in rural communities and also pockets of poverty. What started as a service for older people is now across the age range and we’ve had a fantastic response from volunteers.”
Julie Greenslade is manager of A Good Life which started as a one-off project pre-Covid and during the difficult months of the pandemic, and which is also under the UDCP umbrella. It has now developed into an ongoing service offering a three-days-a-week “community hub” within the market hall where people can seek help and advice, or simply relax and chat with a coffee and a cake.
Julie echoes Abbie’s observations on the helped and the helpers.
“People who may have come in for company, or advice, or just to feel warm and safe, often start volunteering themselves. It works so well. It’s a lovely, welcoming place,” says Julie, as she helps prepare the lunch in the newly-decorated and welcoming room in the market hall.
Julie and Abbie worked with the community hub co-ordinator, Allison Wade, market house administrator, Laura Dunn, and the hall trustees – of which Abbie is chair – to source grants for redecoration and refurbishment of the room which also acts as the hub on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, from 10am to 3pm.
Having been awarded the Carers’ Break Contract for the Upper Dales earlier this year, enabling them to provide a sitting-in service for carers, Abbie and the team are already looking ahead to the next project, the Upper Dales Home Care Service.
This will offer paid-for practical support in people’s homes for cleaning, bed-making, washing up, vacuuming, gardening and other day-to-day tasks.
For a confidential chat, to enquire about any of the services offered through the community hub, or to volunteer drop into the community office in Hawes or call Julie on 07817 711227 or email email@example.com.
All pictures by Julie Greenslade.