Celebrating Torbay’s Volunteers

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

Welcome to Volunteers’ Week, a celebration of all things volunteering, which kicks off tomorrow (Thursday).

Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of millions of people’s contributions across the UK through volunteering in their communities and in Torbay they number in the thousands.

So much work goes on behind the scenes, often unnoticed by those that benefit from it, but for this week at least, organisations are taking time to celebrate and thank the army of volunteers without whom many would cease to exist.

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes and in all forms tackling everything from the back of the house to up front and personal and every job and service imaginable in between.

Over the last few weeks, I have been lucky enough to meet just a few of them and have put each and every one of them up for an award for their hitherto unsung efforts keeping things going day in, day out, week in week out.

Take 70-year-old Andy Baker, who drives the number 61 OurBus service one day a week on the round-robin route from LIvermead to Torquay and up St Lukes and back again. His passengers know only too well that without the efforts of people like Andy, the service would stop and some of them would become isolated in their hilltop homes.

Andy does it because he enjoys it, but he also does it because he knows how important his role is in driving what is often called a mobile community centre. You too could become one of the team of volunteer drivers by getting in touch with Community Transport Coordinator, Kelly Bedoyan 07816 407495.

Husband and wife volunteers Jemma and Paddy Cain began using Cricketfields Community Garden in Torquay when lockdown meant their options to get out and about with their young autistic daughter were severely curtailed.

“We were all going a bit stir crazy,” said 36-year-old Jemma, “and coming here was one of the few safe options for us and we loved it,” she added.

In fact, they loved it so much, they began helping out gardening and maintaining the grounds as they developed and now help coordinate other volunteer efforts throughout the week.

For Jemma, volunteering gives a purpose: “It gives me gratification that I am doing something meaningful and like so many things Cricketfields would not exist if it were not for the volunteers. It is a community asset.”

Paddy 31, tells a similar story: “I enjoy volunteering; it gives something back. I used to run a charity shop and often reminded the paid managers that they would not be able to carry out their work or get paid themselves without the efforts of the volunteers; they achieve so much in charities across the Bay.”

Student Ollie Brown has his sights set on the stage and is helping others achieve the same.

The 19-year-old from Broadsands starts a degree course at Bath Spa University later this year which he hopes will help catapult him into a career in musical theatre, as an actor and singer.

But before he leaves, he is coaching others through Doorsteps Arts in Paignton and recently helped groups of youngsters deliver three sell-out shows of Matilda at the Palace Theatre in Paignton.

“We have so much fun. It is all about the enjoyment and drama is all about the enjoyment;” said Ollie. “It is good to be able to give something back,” he added.

Potentially lonely and isolated people across the Bay look forward to an uplifting phone call from a volunteer befriender every week.

William Northway from Torquay knows that when his phone rings late afternoon on a Wednesday, it will be his chance to chat about a wide range of subjects – his eclectic work life and food in particular.

“That phone call means so much to me. Those calls cheer me up and I enjoy them very much,” he said

On the end of the phone is 37-year-old Rae Stanton from Paignton, who was put in touch with Bill via Age UK Torbay

“It is a great way of giving something back and it is a two-way thing; I get a lot out of it and with someone like Bill to talk to, you always get to learn something new. I would recommend it to everyone. What’s an hour?” she added.

For a world of volunteering opportunities, go to: volunteertorbay.com