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Volunteers making a difference

Volunteers are making amazing contributions to communities in Staffordshire and Shropshire.

We wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to these unsung heroes and to meet some of those making a difference every day.

Toni and Louis volunteer together as dog walkers, visiting much-loved pets belonging to older people in some of our retirement living communities. The Shropshire-based friends making the most of a gap year, walk guide dog Skye and retired greyhound Bayley. They were delighted to meet Mason, whose owner Gerald says: “He laps up all the fuss and wears his happy face.”

Caius is studying photography at Wolverhampton College. He volunteers to photograph some of the activities in retirement living communities in South Staffordshire, celebrating the friendship and laughter in these schemes. “It’s great experience for me and helps me build a portfolio. I enjoy experimenting with close-ups because it feels as though you get to know people through that kind of picture.”

Shirley and Janice share their love of craft by volunteering to lead creative mornings in School Green, Pontesbury, where residents have already made handmade cards and bright bunting for their summer garden party. Shirley, a former nurse, says: “I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people and we enjoy getting together.” Underlining the importance of these sessions, one of those taking part is Jacqueline who doesn’t live in the scheme but never misses the activities: “I like coming here and making new friends. I’ve got health problems and this is a chance to put them to one side and have some time for me.”

Imogen recently trained as a nail technician and is building up her confidence and experience through volunteering. She makes regular visits to a retirement living community where residents are delighted to get their nails professionally painted. “Volunteering does you good. It’s more than offering a service, you’re becoming a friend,” she says.

In Stafford, one woman determined to make a positive difference to the lives of older people has been shortlisted for a national award. SARH customer Dawn has been shortlisted for a national Tenant of the Year title, recognising the difference she makes as a volunteer: “Dawn is someone who always looks on the bright side of life and is happiest when she’s helping people. She has overcome challenges in her own life and as a new wheelchair user; she is quickly becoming an advocate for others in her situation. I know that a great number of her friends and neighbours will be delighted to hear that she is in line for a top award,” said Housing Plus Group chief executive Sarah Boden.

Dawn represents the views of almost 700 tenants in independent living schemes owned and managed by the housing association. She is also the social coordinator for her own scheme, where she is famous for the trips and social activities she organises for residents. From cooking meals and running weekly bingo sessions to booking accommodation and even driving the minibus on lively holiday trips, she has inspired a fun-filled community.

She was nominated by Gavin, community engagement advisor at SARH, who explains: “Dawn has been committed to helping people throughout her life and is known as someone who puts others first. When she moved into an independent living scheme she was determined to do what she could to make life better for her neighbours.”

Another customer making a difference is Shrewsbury’s Peter, who has been ‘digging for victory’ creating a new garden to be enjoyed by neighbours in his retirement living community. Peter has been hard at work transforming an area of land owned by the housing association with the help of a smart shed kindly donated by a local family.

“I used to have an allotment and I enjoy gardening. I’ve done a lot of digging and planted leeks, broad beans, spinach and potatoes. There will be pathways so that people can get around, feeders to attract some birds and space for cut flowers to brighten-up our homes,” says Peter.