Its National Volunteering Week and with volunteering offering a great way to connect with others and also help support those in need of connection, PiTH’s ‘Join Inn – Last Orders for Loneliness’ campaign team talk to volunteers about the benefits of helping support essential services provided by their local pub
From serving customers, processing orders for delivery and restocking shelves in village stores located at pubs, making coffees and clearing tables at community cafes, assisting with refurbishments, repairs and gardening at community-owned pubs, to supporting locals through lockdowns by delivering food essentials and meals, volunteers play a key role in the success of the essential community services many pubs provide, with many helping ensure the success of projects that Pub is The Hub has helped establish with publicans.
But as well as the huge benefits to the local people and pubs that people volunteer in, many volunteers also speak of the significant benefits to themselves of joining in as volunteers.
Here are some of the reasons pub volunteers enjoy joining in……
Making new connections
Kathy Wells, a volunteer at Upton Community Shop at The White Horse in Upton, Norfolk, which is staffed 80% of the time by volunteers, became a volunteer to help connect with more people in her village. She says: “I love working in the shop and get so much out of it myself by joining in, as you get to know customers and other volunteers and I have made new friends. Helping in the shop really uplifts me. It has taken me out of my comfort zone and makes me think. I have learnt new skills, such as using a coffee machine, and I can make a great cappuccino now.”
She adds: “I would really miss it if I couldn’t do it. If you are feeling lonely it is a great way to meet new people. It is so fulfilling. It gives you a focus to your day. When my sons ring me, they always ask if I have been working in the shop and it makes them feel better knowing that I am getting out and meeting people.”
Jenni Cresswell, a meals on wheels driver for The Bevy in Brighton, East Sussex, enjoys the wide spectrum of people volunteering helps you to meet. She says: “It offers you the opportunity to do something you have not tried before and connects you with a wide mix of people. I really enjoy meeting the people I deliver meals to as well as co-volunteers.”
She adds: “Volunteering is good for the soul. It helps gives you a sense of purpose and is good for your wellbeing.”
Julie Jenner, a shop and bar volunteer at The Ploughshare at Beeston, Norfolk, and a former publican, found after moving to a new area that volunteering has provided a great way of meeting people. She says: “I’m retired, live on my own, my partner works lots and I moved to a new area, so volunteering at the pub has been a great way to meet others. I started last October and after the first lockdown volunteering gave me a positive focus to get out and about. I really enjoy meeting and interacting with lots of different people through the pub.”
Diane Fallon, a volunteer at The Dog Inn at Belthorn, Lancashire, who is retired, says: “Working in the coffee shop gives me an interest and gets me out of the house. I enjoy the interaction with people of all ages, including young children, that working in the shop provides. You get to build up a lovely rapport with regulars and there is a lovely friendly atmosphere at the shop. I’m a widow and getting involved has helped me connect with more people in the village.”
Diane also enjoys the opportunity to learn new skills that working in the shop gives her.
She says: “Volunteers are given training and lots of support to learn new things. It gives you a lovely sense of achievement to learn something new.”
Hilary Hanbury, a shop volunteer at The White Horse in Upton, also relishes the chance to learn something new that volunteering delivers. She says: “I hadn’t worked in a shop since I was school age and it is great learning new skills. I really enjoy delivering goods to locals and seeing people come into the shop and walking out with a smile on their face.”
Volunteer Jenni Cresswell from The Bevy Meals on Wheels (BMW) adds: “Volunteering gives you the opportunity to try something out you haven’t tried before and do something you love that you couldn’t do as a job.”
Not just for retirees
Rebecca Grimshaw, who has been a volunteer at the community café and shop at The Dog Inn at Belthorn for over four years, says: “I am unable to work due to the amount of time I need off for medical reasons, so helping at The Dog Inn makes me feel like I’m doing something positive with my time and gets me out of the house.”
She adds: “It is a great way to meet people and help you feel part of your local community. I love being on the till and chatting with different customers and other volunteers. I have made a few friends of different ages through working in the cafe/shop. I would definitely recommend it to younger people who are unable to work.”
From school run to meal delivery run
Rachel, who is also part of the meals on wheels team at The Bevy, says: “I got involved as I wanted to do something to help with the Covid-19 support effort in my local area. I didn’t go into it thinking I would get anything out of it, but I love it and really enjoy meeting different people and building up a rapport with both the people I deliver meals to and other volunteers.”
She adds: “I’m a mum of six children and everything revolves around my children, so it is really nice to do something different and get out and see different people. Being a volunteer has helped boost my confidence and there have been so many positive spinoffs from getting involved, including helping me feel part of the wider community.”
Something different to the day job
Chris Bootes, a volunteer at The Dog Inn at Belthorn’s community café and shop, who works full-time in engineering, started volunteering at the shop a year ago to help support people in the village during the pandemic lockdowns and continues to helps out on Saturdays for a few hours.
He says: “Working in the shop/café is a very different atmosphere and pace to my day job, which I really enjoy and it has given me new skills, like making a great cappuccino. I would recommend volunteering to those working. It helps you appreciate your community more and I have got to know lots of different people.”
Making a difference
Candy Goswell, another meal deliverer for The Bevy, says: “What I enjoy the most is seeing how much dropping off a meal or running an errand helps people and they are so grateful. You see how a five-minute chat can make a difference to somebody’s day and it is satisfying to know that you have helped someone.”
Russell Harkin, also part of The Bevy’s volunteer team in Brighton, adds: “Volunteering offers a great way to get involved in your local community. I have lived in my area for 20 years but was always commuting to London so wasn’t around before and this has helped me get involved after I retired last summer. It gives a positive focus, is not a huge demand on time and is rewarding as you are helping with a service that is clearly needed.”