Spring Volunteering is Off to a Great Start From the 1st of June, the UK will once again stop and show the admiration and respect for the army of volunteers that give their time, energy, skill and care to families, friends, neighbours, and wider community. We at Cherry Trees will be marking National Volunteers’ Week to thank our own band of hidden heroes who do so much to help our charity. Lead by the National Council For Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) each June, the week celebrates volunteers. Social media pages have a feel good flavour to them, bought alive by happy images showing our most generous, willing and helpful individuals working hard to make life better for others. Over 26,000 people have already posted content using the hashtag #volunteersweek with thousands more to follow during National Volunteer’s Week. Images of food banks, DIY projects, garden planting, call centre support operatives, first aiders, reading projects… the list goes on, making for heartening posts to scroll and scan over. As the Deputy Mayor For Social Mobility in London Debra Weekes-Bernard so succinctly puts it; “Volunteers’ Week reminds us all to take the time to say thank you to the millions of volunteers who give their time to improve the lives of friends and neighbours. From Trustees to fundraisers, and mentors to befrienders, thank you all for making our communities happier places to be.” It was one of the more uplifting stories back in the early days of the first lockdown, when the NHS asked for help, the tidal wave of love that surged forwards, with over 400,000 people signing up in one day alone to help the NHS with driving and delivery jobs, reaching our most vulnerable people shielding at home. Locally, Voluntary Action For South West Surrey (based in Guildford town centre) had 700 people register to volunteer at the start of the pandemic and this support remains strong, reporting 1,101 people signed up to support the three covid vaccinations sites. The pandemic may be lessening its grip on us, but the seeds to create a fairer and more giving society have been sown and blossom today. At Cherry Trees we have over 200 volunteers registered with us, some frequently supporting our children’s charity, others giving time on a more ad-hoc basis. Our task force of volunteers (or Cherry Makers as we refer to them) range from Trustees, bus drivers, administration assistants, events assistants, Patrons, collectors and cake bakers. All of them differ in age, life experiences, skills and interests, but they all bring something to us that we simply couldn’t operate without, collectively giving thousands of hours of support. Some of our volunteers have been with us for over 30 years, others newly finding us in the digital age, approaching us to volunteer for their Duke of Edinburgh awards. We have seen an increase in people making contact interested in volunteering. What we didn’t expect was how quickly we would have to re-think and then re-direct how we could work with them over the last year. With Government guidelines limiting all of our lives, we have had to creatively re-deploy people in a safe and new way. We have had people assisting with deliveries and collecting items needed by our house and families, marketing literature delivered on foot, raffle prizes sourced remotely, whilst research and administration has been undertaken on home pcs and tablets. Rare moments to hold open air, in-person events like our Christmas market finally let people help ‘in-person’. Over 30 people helped set-up stalls, serve refreshments and man the covid secure entry points on a brisk winter’s day. The two way exchange between giving as a volunteer and receiving as a charity is a special bond and one that rewards both parties. This year our own photo album of volunteer highlights will look a little different and we won’t be ble to host our usual thank you tea party. We will be writing to our volunteers thanking them, with the hope that proper celebrations can be realised at a later date. My goodness how we owe it to all of them. Cover image: shows volunteer Andy in Easter bunny mode organising this year's egg hunt for the children. ******* Are you interested in volunteering with us this year? We need all kinds of help from researchers, to online shop ambassadors, raffle prize collectors and events assistants. There are many ways you can help us on a flexible and ad-hoc basis. Visit our newly updated volunteers page today if you are interested in helping us out.