Thousands of volunteers are being recognised for the massive contribution they make across County Durham.
During Volunteers’ Week, which runs from Monday 1 to Sunday 7 June, Durham County Council will be showing its gratitude for the work done by dedicated volunteers.
In more normal times, volunteers play an essential role in supporting the council’s cultural and sporting events, and environmental projects, from the Lumiere light festival to storytelling in libraries, and from litter picking to leading walking, running and wellbeing groups.
The current coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the essential support volunteers provide, helping those isolating to get food, medication and other essential supplies to help keep them safe.
Hundreds of people in County Durham are receiving help from volunteers every day, with thousands of people coming forward to support the NHS and help local charities and community groups.
The council’s 14 area action partnerships have been awarded £1.4 million to support projects across County Durham, whose selfless volunteers are helping their communities to cope with coronavirus. To date, they have received 188 funding applications.
In Crook, Willington, Tow Law and surrounding villages, Jack Drum Arts received a grant to enable volunteers to deliver activity packs to keep children and young people busy over the May half term.
PACT House in Stanley received a grant to support its Fresh Foodbank, ensuring those in need can access and receive free food parcels and hygiene essentials. The group saw an increase to between 25 to 30 contacts a day, six days a week as a result of coronavirus, and its volunteers have been crucial in helping them to maintain the service.
Another organisation, The Lanchester Partnership and Churches Together COVID19 Support Group, was formed by strangers Michelle Atkinson and Laura Bell, to help their community though lockdown. In the month following its creation, 123 volunteers signed up to deliver the group’s services, seven days a week, including making essential food and shopping deliveries, as well as offering a listening ear for anyone experiencing loneliness.
East Durham Trust in Shotton has also received funding to distribute hundreds of meals to people in isolation and has recruited 20 new volunteers to meet the 400 per cent increase in demand for food parcels since the lockdown began.
Every day, during Volunteer Week, the council will be publishing videos on its social media channels thanking people who have volunteered on different projects over the last year. It will also be highlighting examples of volunteers in different areas of the county every day and asking people to share stories of their volunteering experiences.
Gordon Elliott, the council’s head of partnerships and community engagement, including area action partnerships, said: “Volunteers’ Week is our chance to celebrate and say thank you to the thousands of volunteers across the county for their amazing hard work.
“It’s estimated that the value of volunteers to UK charities alone is £22.6bn. Our volunteers have always been essential in helping us to run our events and keep the county a clean and safe place to live, work and visit. However, their willingness to give up their time to support vulnerable and at-risk people has never been more vital or more gratefully received than in the current circumstances.
“New initiatives have been created specifically to cope with these challenging times, whilst existing projects have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for their services. It’s important that we recognise the fantastic contribution of everyone who has stepped up to meet the needs of our communities.”