Volunteers – the backbone of most groups, events and charities

The Torbay Vaccination Centres’ Volunteer Marshalls, celebrating at Torre Abbey Music on the Meadows, June 2022, with Volunteer Coordinator Matt Dart

Where would we be without volunteers? A difficult question to answer definitively, but one thing is for sure, the world would be a poorer place without them.

Popular events would not take place, organisations would not exist and so many of our hobbies and pastimes would not be available. End of.

Take the Airshow on Paignton Green, which is coming up on June 1st and 2nd; without volunteers helping out marshalling the crowds and ensuring it all goes smoothly, the show would not go on.

Another great example is the Pirate Festival in Brixham, which takes place on the first weekend of May; without the volunteers who organise and run it, it would not be one of the most popular events in the Riviera’s social calendar.

The Torbay Half Marathon and 10k event on Sunday, September 29th would be a non-starter without a small army of helpers who will all give their time willingly and free of charge.

Tens of thousands of pounds are saved every year because of the efforts of volunteers and the events they ensure take place, which, in turn, raise huge amounts of money for good causes.

The volunteer marshals return to the Riviera Centre in Torquay this week to continue the work they started in January 2021, ensuring the smooth delivery of tens of thousands of potentially life-saving COVID vaccinations.

Each weekend, pitches across the Bay echo to the sound of sports, nearly all delivered by the efforts of volunteer coaches – enthusiastic individuals who have stepped up to share their passions for their chosen game.

Behind the scenes are also the committees comprising treasurers, secretaries, communication specialists, chairpeople, and organisers, all giving their time freely to ensure the clubs continue to thrive.

Over the last few months, I have been lucky enough to share the stories of some volunteers and the organisations they turn so keenly support on my Good Morning South Devon radio programme on Riviera FM.

It always amazes me how quickly the three-hour slot between 10am and 1pm flies by as people talk about why they have chosen to give up their time for their chosen passions and what shines through them all is their commitment to them.

People give up time, deliver specific skills, and provide support for hundreds if not thousands of groups across the Bay each and every day, but that is not always appreciated by those who receive it. But that is OK; the vast majority are not in it for the kudos.

The vast majority of volunteers work behind the scenes, unnoticed, but the back-of-house roles are just as important as those that you instantly recognise on the front line wearing their brightly coloured tabards, the ones that engage with the public.

I was asked by someone last week to name just one outstanding volunteer from the many that I have met and interviewed over the last few years, and I baulked at it because it would be wrong to single one out from the others.

We all have different skills that we can offer back to the community, and just like other walks of life, there are the leaders, the doers, and those who prefer to stay out of the limelight, but none are more important than the others.

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to be talking to someone on my radio show about the joys of volunteering for a local branch of the Britain in Bloom organisation where their efforts are plain to see and very much appreciated by everyone. But again, not everyone fully grasps the enormity of the effort and expertise that goes into it from the fundraising to buy the flowers and planters to gardening skills need for them all to flourish.

From there, I went on to a Cream Tea celebration for volunteers put on by Torbay Communities at the Redcliffe Hotel in Paignton. A room full of volunteers whose efforts were many and varied and for once being cherished and praised as they so much deserve.

It is good to stop every now and again and think about how the efforts of the few do so much for so many, day in day out.

To explore a world of volunteering opportunities, go to the VolunteerTorbay.com website or visit Torbay Together. Alternatively, if you want to chat about it, call the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022.