Volunteer centre welcomes young people

Volunteer centre welcomes young people

Volunteer CentreWe've spent the last two weeks visiting and writing about local businesses, so we thought we'd take a look at a voluntary sector organisation. Where better than New Mills Volunteer Centre!


Upon arrival we were greeted by Cynthia and some of the other pleasant and enthusiastic staff and were offered a teacake and a cup of tea, before our interview took place. Located on Union Road, the Volunteer Centre is a bright and airy building where everyone is made to feel welcome.


We interviewed Dorothy Scapens, the Centre manager who has been working at the Volunteer Centre for 10 years. Dorothy has seen many changes since her arrival and at one time there was only herself and one other paid member of staff - currently there are 7. The Centre was previously located a few doors down from its current location (now 'Panache' Hairdressers) but as the Centre's reputation grew, along with the number of clients and volunteers, it became increasingly obvious that they needed to expand into larger premises. This was made possible by a grant from New Mills Town Council to purchase the building and various grants to refurbish it to meet their requirements. The largest of these was from the Lottery Community Fund.


Dorothy feels that the New Mills Volunteer Centre is extremely lucky to have such a fantastic space for the community of New Mills to use. Core funding for the Centre is received jointly from Derbyshire County Council and the Primary Care Trust, but other grants have to be sought to meet the shortfall. The Centre has experienced growth and success of its services which is a fantasic achievement, however, sometimes short term funding cannot be replaced and this situation can result in staff redundancies and a reduction in some of the activities offered. The Volunteer Centre is a Registered Charity and Charitable Company Limited by Guarentee, and is managed by a Board of Trustees.


The Centre raises extra income in various ways including the hiring out of desks and meeting rooms; a yearly flag day; coffee mornings and quizzes to name but a few. Each year they have a stand at the 'One World Festival' and this year they hit on the novel idea of having an 'Envelope Tombola' where for £2.50 a go, you pick an envelope and are guaranteed to win a prize. Prizes included a voucher to use at Blake's Hairdressers and a pair of tickets to see the forthcoming production of 'Scrooged' at the New Mills Arts Theatre (the latter was won by the wife of Simon Belt at Simply Better IT with whom we are doing our work placement!). This was a great success and along with other activities on the day raised £285.


Dorothy is always amazed and grateful for the generosity and help of the local community and businesses, especially in donating prizes. On the day of the interview, the Centre received a donation of £100 from the Rotary Club.


At the reception desk, the Volunteer Centre offer paperback books for sale at only 30p each or 4 for £1 (hardbacks are slightly more expensive), so please pop-in and have a browse for a bargain. If anyone has any books to spare, please donate them to the Centre, where they will be gratefully received and the money raised from their sale will go back into the community towards a good cause!


The Centre offers a range of services and activities, the biggest being the Community Car Scheme, where volunteers take clients to doctor/hospital and other important appointments and wait with the client. Last year the Car Scheme was extremely successful with over 3000 trips undertaken, which is an amazing achievement considering they don't get any specific funding for this service. The volunteer drivers receive payment to cover their expenses. In April 2010, the Centre received some new software to help operate the Car Scheme, which is extremely useful in helping with the logistics of the scheme.


Other services/activities include: Shopping, befriending, escorting, light gardening, trimming & weeding, D.I.Y, '60's not out'(social events, speakers and occasional outings for the over 60's), art group, stroke support group, handicraft sessions, weekly trip to neighbouring towns and the Alzheimer's Cafe.


Alzheimers CafeThe Alzheimer's Cafe meet once every two months (usually with referrals from doctors or social services) and is a brilliant opportunity for both Alzheimer sufferers and their carers to meet in a relaxed and friendly environment. This is especially helpful for the carers, who are able to take an hour or so out of their daily routine to talk about their experiences with others who are in the same position. A friend of ours told us that when her mother was caring for her father who suffered with Dementia, there was no such support group where she lived, which resulted in her feeling extremely isolated. She wished that something like the Alzeihmers Cafe had been available in her area at the time, and thinks this is a fabulous service for the local community to take advantage of. The Alzeimers Cafe is run in partnership with the Alzeihmer's Society, who also received a big donation from the New Mills Golf Club, from their Charity Day on Friday 9th July.


Currently, the Centre has 120 registered volunteers, the majority of whom are retired, are unemployed or work part-time. People in full-time employment are only able to offer their time to fit with their work committments which is usually evenings or weekends. 


Dorothy explained that the Centre's ethos is "Anyone Can Volunteer".  You don't need any specific qualifications, however you must produce two character references and complete an application form, where you can indicate which areas of work you are interested in.  Also if you are going to be working with vulnerable adults on a one-to-one basis, then you would need to have a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check undertaken. 


Depending on the type of work you volunteer for, there will be suitable training available.  For example, if working on reception or dealing with paperwork, you would receive desk training; if working in the kitchen you would be required to obtain a Food Hygiene Certificate; or if working with disabled clients you may have first aid training.


The Volunteer Centre has assisted young people in achieving their Duke of Edinburgh Awards and this has sometimes resulted in the person continuing with their volunteering work and involvement with the Centre.


Dorothy is very keen to involve young people in volunteering and we thought it would be a great idea if she and some of her volunteers could perhaps arrange to give a talk to the New Mills School (and perhaps other schools in the area) about their work and how young people could get involved.  Hopefully this would raise the profile of the Volunteer Centre and generate more interest and involvement from young volunteers.


The Centre are already involved with the New Mills School's Christmas Party for the elderley and will continue to liaise with the school to help identify future attendees.  Before the party, the school asks pupils to bring in a selection of tinned foods which are then packaged and given as a gift to the party-goers.  At the last party there were quite a few tins left over and so these were given to the Volunteer Centre who used them for their 'Tombola' stall at the New Mills Carnival, with monies raised going to help them provide services.


Touch ScreenWhen walking past the Centre you may have noticed that they now have a new 'Touch Screen Information Board' which lists a whole host of information in and around the High Peak.  High Peak Borough Council approached the Centre and asked if they would be willing to help house this new piece of equipment, which is usually located in Tourist Information Centres.  The original idea was to place it at the New Mills Heritage Centre, but because there are locked gates in front when the office is closed, it was decided to ask the Volunteer Centre instead.


This was the first time either of us had been inside the Volunteer Centre and we were surprised at just how many different activities and groups were available.


The Volunteer Centre and all the services on offer are here for the local community to access; they are dependant on people like Dorothy, Cynthia and the rest of the staff and volunteers to keep the Centre going through sheer hard work and commitment.  If you fancy helping in any way, either by volunteering, donating books or funds, or taking advantage of any of their activities, we are sure you will receive a very warm welcome, just as we did.  Why not have a look at their website for more details at http://www.nmvc.org/.

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