Volunteers needed for vaccination efforts as new variant of COVID looms

Welcome to the new normal.

Winter has always meant flu jabs, particularly for older and vulnerable lung conditions, but it also means COVID vaccinations these days.

The Riviera Centre in Torquay threw open its doors again last week and hit the ground running, delivering between 1,200 and 1,600 vaccinations a day, all made possible by dedicated staff from the NHS and an army of volunteers recruited by Torbay Communities.

It was a grand reunion for many of them, who had been looking forward to the call to return to act as marshalls and oversee an efficient operation – all delivered without delays, a minimum of fuss and a friendly smile.

Some had kept in touch over the Summer (whilst the vaccination centre has been closed),  others had been volunteering elsewhere, but all jumped at the chance to return.

Like so many volunteers, the vaccination centre team keeps coming back for more and some have now been marshalling from the beginning, in 2021 when the rollout began.

Margaret Rodaway from Chelston has been volunteering since March 2021 having spent 22years as a nurse at Torbay Hospital: “Because I used to work for the NHS it seemed to be a natural next step, so when the call went out, I signed up,” recalled the married mother of two boys who began her volunteering careers years ago in a children’s hospital.

She recalls the heady days when more than 2,000 people were receiving their vaccinations daily: “The feedback has been fantastic; people really appreciate that we are volunteers. I even had one lady who was afraid when she arrived praise me on social media for helping her through it.

“We have a great team here and all get on with each other. We also get to meet lots of new people. There is a caring attitude all round,” she added before urging others to sign up “I would recommend to anyone. It is great to be back; I missed it when we weren’t here.”

Sue Tresidder from Torquay is another volunteer who enjoys giving back to the community. At the beginning of COVID, she was recruited by the Royal Voluntary Service, delivering shopping and prescriptions before joining the vaccination centre team: “It is nice to feel that you are doing something useful. I love it; I absolutely love it.

“Not only do you get the companionship of a great team of people you also get to help others, particularly the nervous ones and it is always appreciated,” said the former emergency medical technician for the ambulance service.

For Sue, who is a mother of three and a carer for her husband, it is just one of many volunteering posts she has on the go. She used her downtime in the Summer to organise coffee morning fundraisers for various causes, to which she invited her vaccination centre colleagues.

She is also busy with Upton Vale Church, providing afternoon tea and cakes,  has volunteered for the Towns Project, the Community Larder and has done eight seasons in the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust’s rose garden at Cockington. She is also about to start with the Guide Dogs for the Blind.

“A number of people have become friends and I keep in touch with them all year round. I miss it when we are not here and was keen to return.

“I can’t recommend volunteering enough; it is one of the best things that has happened to me. You get so much out of it. Furthermore, it is not just what you put in but what you get out of it as well,” she added

Clive Johnson from the Willows is in complete agreement: “It is all about paying it forward. Without volunteers, life would be very difficult for some people,” he said.

Clive also originally signed up with the RVS shopping and collecting prescriptions, but when the call went out for volunteers for the vaccination centre, he stepped forward and now does two or three shifts a week.

For 71-year-old Clive, volunteering has had unforeseen benefits. Initially, it meant he avoided being locked down and latterly: “It means I do not spend the whole week doing housework,” he said with a smile. “And most importantly, we have a lot of fun,” he added.

To volunteer for the vaccination centre or anything else, please visit www.volunteertorbay.com or call the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022.

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