03 Jun Church and charity praises volunteers transforming lives across Essex
This Volunteer’s Week (1-7 June), The Salvation Army is recognising the key role volunteers play in its work to support those in need across Essex as well as highlighting the wellbeing benefits of volunteering.
Volunteers are the vital backbone of The Salvation Army’s outreach and community work, which tackles a diverse range of issues in response to local need, from homelessness to poverty, isolation to unemployment. Local Salvation Army volunteers join a movement mobilised in 131 countries worldwide working to transform lives and communities.
The church and charity has 21 church and community centres across Essex, a Lifehouse in Braintree providing accommodation for people experiencing homelessness, a care home in Southend for older people, a network of drivers and chaperons on standby to escort victims of modern slavery to a place of safety and a 900-acre estate in Hadleigh supporting adults with additional needs and offering a great day out for all the family.
When Peter’s wife died he was grateful for his job volunteering with The Salvation Army’s Trussell Trust Food Bank in Clacton.
Peter, 76, says: “It takes your mind off things. At home there are memories there and it gets upsetting. We had 53 years of marriage and the worst part – we were mates. The people at The Salvation Army have been very good to me. It’s helped me a lot.”
As the food bank’s warehouse manager, one of Peter’s closest volunteer colleagues is Patricia, who manages the distribution of food parcels to clients.
Individuals and families in crisis are referred to The Salvation Army for food parcels by care professionals such as health visitors, schools and social workers. Patricia, 71, finds offering a listening ear and compassionate support is just as important as the food.
She says: “People may need or want to talk to you about their various issues. Some people are totally embarrassed when they come with their voucher. I try and reassure them and make them know there is no shame and that it could happen to any of us, it could happen to me.”
After more than five years of volunteering with the food bank, Patricia is as dedicated as ever: “I’ve never looked back. I’ve got the ability to do it, so I do.”
Research from nfpSynergy’s latest Charity Awareness Monitor has shown more than one fifth (22 per cent) of the British public has volunteered in the last three months. Key motivators for volunteering include a desire to help local community and gain work experience to support career development.*
The Salvation Army is encouraging people from all walks of life to consider how volunteering can also support wellbeing. For Peter, volunteering helped him with bereavement while others have built up their confidence or tackled mental health issues.
Claire Bonham is The Salvation Army’s Volunteer Development Manager. As she works with local Salvation Army leaders across the UK to support around 12,000 frontline volunteers, she is inspired to hear about the personal benefits of volunteering.
Claire says: “Every day, we see how much individuals gain from giving their time to help others. Often people are looking for a way to give back to the community they live in but our volunteers, like Peter, also testify to how volunteering has improved their own wellbeing.”
The church and charity lists volunteering vacancies on its website but people can also contact their local Salvation Army to see how they can get involved. While Christian faith motivates The Salvation Army to reach out to people in need and serve the community, volunteering opportunities are open to all – to people of all faiths and none.
Claire believes the skills and experience of volunteers like Peter and Patricia are invaluable to the work of The Salvation Army.
She adds: “When people come to us in desperate need we help them overcome their problems and get their lives heading in the right direction. We do this by giving them unconditional love and support and by offering a range of services run by trained staff and volunteers.
“Very often, we can help when no one else can. We are a ‘safety net’ for people who fall through the gaps in society and the skills and experiences of our volunteers are absolutely vital to help us in this work.”
The Salvation Army run a host of volunteering opportunities from one off events to longer term commitments across Essex. To find out more please visit – https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/volunteer-for-us