National Volunteers Week ran from June 1-7 across the UK – and figures pulled together by 16 local organisations show what an amazing difference volunteers make here on the Fylde Coast.
The snapshot figures, compiled by the Blackpool 3rd Sector Leaders group and including Trinity Hospice, show that in the year ended March 31 2017, those 16 groups were given a staggering 301,986 hours of volunteer help.
If those were paid hours, it would equate to millions of pounds, and for most of the organisations in the survey, it is volunteers who keep vital services running.
Here at Trinity, for example, we received a massive 180,000 volunteer hours. We estimate that our volunteer team hours equate to over a million pounds every year. Volunteers at Trinity do all sorts of roles – not just in the hospice, but in our high street shops, at our events and supporting many activities across the community.
Streetlife in Blackpool had 16,000 volunteer hours, Together Lancashire 23,920 hours and The Grand Theatre 13,174 hours. Most of the charities in the survey say that without the help of volunteers, some of their services simply could not operate because there is no additional funding to cover those costs.
It means that Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre’s third sector volunteer economy is huge – and it’s a demonstration of how generous people are when it comes to giving their time and talents to help others.
Deborah Terras, Director of URPotential in Blackpool, chaired the Blackpool 3rd Sector Leaders group and commented: “Volunteers are the life blood of local third sector organisations, and their contribution to the wellbeing of others is simply huge.
“Volunteers across the district help in so many ways: it might be a face to face meeting with someone in need of urgent housing or family help; it could be providing after- school support for parents; sports activities for young people or even a theatre tour. Whatever they do, their contribution is outstanding.”
Trinity’s Chief Executive David Houston is part of the 3rd Sector Leaders group.
National Volunteers Week celebrates the contribution volunteers make, but also stresses that volunteers themselves can benefit from getting involved with a good cause. Volunteers can use existing skills or develop new ones; they can meet new people and make some lasting friendships in roles very different from the one they had before.
And it would be wrong to assume that all volunteers are retired or between jobs – busy mums and dads with work and family commitments still find time to volunteer, as do those in full time education.
Deborah said: “One thing that is clear from talking to colleagues across the area is that there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ volunteer. People are motivated by different things, and they are at different stages of their lives, but the one thing they all have in common is their determination to give their time to help others.
“In a world which seems so often to focus on ‘self’ these figures underline just how many people there still are who are willing to put the needs of others first.”
Taking part in the survey were: Grand Theatre, CAB, Social Enterprise Solutions, Fylde Coast Women’s Aid, Revoelution, Mulberry Community Project, First Step Community Centre, N-Vision, Trinity Hospice, Home Start, Blackpool Carers, Together Lancashire, Streetlife, Aspired Futures, URPotential, Blackpool FC Community Trust