Team North Yorkshire

Our Team North Yorkshire campaign celebrates the difference that volunteers make in their communities.

In North Yorkshire we have a strong network of community and voluntary organisations involving thousands of volunteers, with more than 4,000 people directly supporting council services.

Community champions make a huge contribution to lives across the county and play a crucial role in helping to keep North Yorkshire cleaner, greener, thriving and more connected in ways that would not otherwise be possible.

Many of our services are also delivered with vital help from volunteers, including managing and maintaining public rights of way, promoting the council’s reduce, reuse and recycle waste reduction priorities and working with our teams to look after museum and archive collections. They are also critical in a vast range of roles such keeping North Yorkshire libraries open, helping run schools as governors and supporting the emergency response during major incidents.

Volunteers bring a variety of skills, knowledge and expertise to the projects and initiatives they’re involved with and we are extremely grateful for their commitment, energy and enthusiasm.

We're celebrating the difference that volunteers make by sharing stories from across the county as part of our Team North Yorkshire campaign.

How to get involved

As well as helping others, volunteering can be a great way to learn valuable skills and make new friends. It's also been shown to improve the wellbeing of people who volunteer too.

If you've been inspired to get involved and do something positive in your community, you'll find volunteering opportunities from a wide range of charities, groups and organisations on the Community First Yorkshire volunteering directory.

You'll also find information about volunteering roles with us on our volunteering page.

Read our latest Team North Yorkshire volunteer stories

Green-fingered Grace Coop loves nothing better than making sure Starbeck is looking its best

Green-fingered Grace Coop loves nothing better than making sure Starbeck is looking its best for local communities.

Having moved to the village 12 years ago, she is a member of the award-winning Starbeck in Bloom group and is passionate about improving community spaces.

Grace and 22 volunteers are involved in litter picking, planting, weeding and fundraising to keep Starbeck looking clean and tidy.

Their hard work paid off last year when they were awarded gold in Yorkshire in Bloom’s urban community category.

In the run-up to competitions and judging days, volunteers wash the street furniture such as the benches and rubbish bins along with working on any other areas that need a touch of care and attention.

Grace said: “Over the years, I have been involved in many litter picks. We often collect six to seven bags of rubbish, covering the whole of Starbeck, including the Northern Rail station and Starbeck Library’s garden.

“We plant bulbs and perennials where they are needed, plant the containers with annuals and keep them watered and deadheaded, prune the shrubs, and litter pick when necessary.

“I enjoy being out in the fresh air doing a worthwhile task, looking back and seeing an area we've cleared of weeds or rubbish or seeing the colourful flowering areas I have helped to make.

“We know that the people who live in Starbeck appreciate what we do - they often stop and tell us so. Most of all, I enjoy the friendship of the others in the group.”

Malton and Norton Tidy Group a small group of dedicated volunteers who spruce up the streets of the two towns

Armed with a litter picker and donning a high-visibility jacket, Nick Fletcher is passionate about helping to keep the parks, pathways, green spaces and neighbourhoods in Malton and Norton free from rubbish.

A founding member of the Malton and Norton Tidy Group, which was formed in 2009, Nick is among a small group of dedicated volunteers who spruce up the streets of the two towns by targeting litter hotspots. During the past decade, they have collected 4,300 bags of rubbish.

He said: “I have attended numerous community clean up events since the group was formed. In fact, too many to recollect!

“I have met some lovely people and made good friends during clean up events. I really enjoy the social element and company. I also feel that I am making a difference to the appearance of the towns and doing something positive for the community. It feels great to give something back.

“Not only is litter unsightly, but it also blights the countryside and affects the environment and wildlife. Litter picking keeps me active and gets me among other people.  Plus, when I help tidy up an area, it gives me a great sense of achievement.”

The Tidy Group meets on the first Sunday of every month and our street scene teams provide litter pickers, bags and gloves.

voluntary group GROW Scarborough cares for the garden at the Coast and Vale Community Action (CaVCA) headquarters.

Tucked away in Scarborough is a community garden which offers a tranquil space for green-fingered volunteers to tend to plants, grow food and help wildlife to thrive.

Darren Mancrief is the founder and the co-chairman of voluntary group GROW Scarborough, which cares for the garden at the Coast and Vale Community Action (CaVCA) headquarters.

As well as learning about the pleasure of gardening, The Street venue has held almost 90 sessions such as community picnics to enable people to socialise with like-minded nature lovers.

Darren said: “By getting involved in the community garden, volunteers can enjoy the outdoors and being close to nature, learn new skills, improve their health and wellbeing, and grow organic fruits, herbs and vegetables to share with the community.

“After the Covid-19 pandemic this seemed a great idea to get the community back together, as a place where we can look after each other as well as the plants we nurture.

“The project is all about sharing and for me it harps back to my childhood memories of tending to vegetable patches with my family. I wanted to recreate that feeling.”

Members of GROW Scarborough will work closely with the town’s library to launch a ‘Seed Hub’, where people can swap and share seeds. It started online, but the library offered an accessible base.

The group plans to increase access to free fruit by providing more than 20 trees in partnership with the council to be planted in public spaces tended to by local volunteer groups.

Even the most beautiful landscapes can be tarnished by the sight of litter that is thoughtlessly thrown out of car windows or left behind on days out.

The Wombles of Hambleton keeping Northallerton and Thirsk tidy

Those of us old enough to remember the Wombles will recall furry creatures in Wimbledon Common teaching the nation how to collect and recycle rubbish.

Fast forward to the present day, and North Yorkshire boasts several Womble groups, one created by Claire Hampson, a full-time teacher.

The Wombles of Hambleton launched in 2018 in Northallerton and expanded to Thirsk in 2021. The litter-picks usually attract about 30 people.

Claire said: “Since the Wombles was created, we have collected about 14,500 sacks of litter.

“Our main aim is to protect the environment and wildlife. It’s also great for physical and mental health as it gives us a purpose to get out of the house and walk more. I’ve made great friends. After each litter-pick we usually meet for a coffee or go to the pub.

“We work closely with council officers who take the litter and provide equipment if needed. We also report any fly-tipping. We have a common goal in the fight against litter.”

Claire is an ambassador for Keep Britain Tidy and has made friends with fellow volunteers from South Korea to America, where they encounter the same problems around litter.

In her spare time, Claire helps to educate other community groups such as the Scouts and the Women’s Institute. More details about the Wombles group are available on its Facebook page.

Hear from the volunteers helping people during emergencies

Major incident response team (MIRT) volunteer Janet Preston

Major incident response team (MIRT) volunteers are a team of trained volunteers who offer their time to help with emotional and practical support to people affected by a range of extraordinary situations. 

The situations could be road traffic accidents, bereavements by suicide, community evacuations, witnessing or being caught up in larger emergencies.

The Major incident response team volunteer team attended a training day with the suicide support group Suicide Bereavement UK, which helps gives volunteers the ideas to help people impacted by suicide. 

Janet Preston, 63, has been supporting individuals bereaved through suicide and visits families to listen to people and signposts to resources of support.

Janet said: “I had no idea just how many people took their own lives – it really shocked me actually. People want to tell their stories and we are happy to sit and listen if that’s what they need. The volunteers help people to feel connected with support groups in the area and reassure people that they aren’t alone. There are so many unanswered questions following a suicide and it’s my role to let people know that suicide isn’t caused by a single reason alone and that it’s ok to feel so many different emotions and to feel confused as to why it’s happened.

“Visits will be rarely longer than 90 minutes. I think people enjoy talking to a stranger and the fact we don’t take any notes – I think that reassures people. Two volunteers will visit together – which is good because we can support all the family members. People are so grateful to have spoken to us. These are conversations that people aren’t able to have with their family, I think they see it as a burden on other family members so talking to a stranger is really beneficial. The good thing about visiting a family in pairs is that if a family member gets distressed, you can take that person out of the room and support them while still continuing to deliver care for the other person.”

Janet spent her career working as a midwife before retiring and felt compelled to use her skills to help people navigate the devastation of suicide. 

“When I was a midwife, I had an interest in bereavement support and I’ve been able to use my skills positively in my volunteer role. It’s lovely to receive messages from families thanking us for our work. I have also completed mental health training courses to develop my skills further – I love the role and I think the MIRT volunteering scheme is such a smart idea.”

Find out more about becoming a major incident response team volunteer.

Major Incident Response Team (MIRT) volunteer Caren Horsfield

Although major incidents are thankfully few and far between, it is important to recognise the dedicated volunteers who help their communities to respond when they do happen.

Since 1998, Caren Horsfield has volunteered with our Major Incident Response Team (MIRT) – the only one of its kind among local authorities across the country. 

Caren, who lives in Eggborough and works as a counsellor, said: “The role involves providing emotional and practical support to people, from those suffering from a bereavement or a major incident such as flooding. 

“It can include attending the scene, talking to witnesses and going to court cases or inquests.

“I have met many amazing, caring people who volunteer for the Major Incident Response Team over the years, making friends through lived situations. I’m one of the longest servers.”

Not long after joining the Major Incident Response Team, Caren spent two years helping the communities affected by the Selby train crash in 2001, the UK’s worst rail disaster of the 21st century. She spent two years supporting bereaved families, survivors and nearby residents.

She has also been involved in the efforts against flooding in Tadcaster, having set up a rest centre at Tadcaster Grammar School, and was on standby during heavy rainfall over the last few months. 

Caren was inspired by her parents who defended their country, with her father fighting during World War Two in Burma and her mother serving in the Women’s Land Army. 

Having previously volunteered with St John’s Ambulance and Cruse Bereavement, Caren has cemented herself as an experienced volunteer who is at the forefront of providing support during emergencies.

Ready For Anything volunteers Shirley and Malcolm Maude

Ready For Anything is an emergency volunteer scheme run by the emergency agencies of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum. It was set up after the devastation caused by the 2015 Boxing Day floods and covers the whole of North Yorkshire and York.

Malcolm, aged 69, and 66-year-old Shirley Maude have lived in Northallerton for 40 years and have proudly served their communities in that time. Shirley is a retired pharmacist and Malcolm is a retired Police Officer and when they approached retirement, they both felt that they wanted to offer more to the community they live in.

The couple have attended a number of valuable training sessions have supported vulnerable people in the community.

Malcolm said: “It’s only when you meet isolated vulnerable people that you know how they really feel. Shirley and I were tasked to carry out welfare checks on vulnerable people during the pandemic and we shared support information, dropped of prescriptions and let them know they aren’t alone. The training has certainly given us the confidence to carry out support tasks in the community.”

Shirley and Malcolm

There are currently hundreds of volunteers across York and North Yorkshire who provide practical support to people. There is no obligation to offer a regular commitment, but people will be notified when there is an incident and if they are able to help. With regular team meet ups, there is a strong community of volunteers.

Shirley said: “We were affected by flooding in 2000, so it feels like we are giving something back to people who helped us. I feel proud that we are part of the volunteer team – it also makes us realise how much work goes on behind the scenes at North Yorkshire Council.”

Find out more about Ready For Anything.

Ready for Anything volunteers Tony Dyer

Tony Dyer has spent his working life helping others, be it as a firefighter, ambulance service community first responder or coastguard rescue officer.

So when the opportunity to become a Ready for Anything volunteer came in 2016, Tony, aged 65 and from Scarborough, thought he could help.

What he could not have known was just how much in demand he and his colleagues would be.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the role of volunteers into sharp focus and Tony, who is facing serious health challenges of his own, was among those called on to help deliver food and medicines to those isolated or in need.

“It is nice to help people when they need it the most,” he said. “I went through a period of time when I needed help because five years ago I was diagnosed with cancer.

“When people are probably at the worst time in their life it is nice to be able support and do what we can for them.”

Tony plays down the impact of the work he did during the height of the outbreak.

“I played a little part in the big scheme of things, but for the people who were receiving the help it was significant,” he said. “My mobility isn’t what it used to be, but I was able to get in the car, go to the chemist and then deliver what was needed.

“I was concerned about catching Covid. But I was taking lots of precautions, such as wearing masks, aprons, gloves and getting washed as soon as I got back in. My wife is a nurse so she made sure I followed all the recommendations.

“The way I look at it, you can curl up in a ball and not do anything or you can do what you can to help.”

Tony says people should not be put off volunteering by thinking they do not have the required experience.

“Quite often there are no specialist skills required. It can be just popping leaflets through a letter box, like some of us did during Covid, or making cups of tea at an emergency rest centre,” he said.

“Ready for Anything volunteers are not called out that often, but it’s nice when you are able to do something for somebody because if the tables were turned would you like help from someone else? Quite often the answer is yes.” 

Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team volunteer Roger Hartley

Come rain, hail or shine, dedicated members of Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team are always on standby for search and rescue operations on the North York Moors, Dalby Forest, Yorkshire Wolds or anywhere else in the area where needed.

The team is made up of about 50 unpaid volunteers and among them is incident controller Roger Hartley. A former RAF ground equipment mechanic and mountain rescuer, Roger has been involved with the SRMRT for more than 20 years. 

On call 365 days a year, Roger responds to calls from the police or ambulance services. Last year saw the teams being called out to 65 emergency incidents.

He said: “Our teams conduct search and rescue operations in mountainous environments that cannot be reached by the police or ambulance crews. We all bring lots of experience and expertise to the role especially as geographically we are covering a huge, rural area.”

Since 1996, the team base has been located just off the A170, Scarborough to Pickering Road, in the village of Snainton. With four vehicles, including two Land Rovers, they are ready at all times to respond to emergency incidents,  

Roger, aged 66, who lives in Whitby, said: “August seems to be our busiest month with the nice weather, and busy holiday period. The most common incidents tend to be from falls due to the wet grounds. Most people are now very well equipped when venturing out, so we don’t tend to get as many missing persons call outs as we used to.

“Volunteering with SRMRT is extremely satisfying. Everybody does their bit and works together. “What we can achieve is amazing and it’s a great feeling to make a difference. I would say there is also a sense of relief at a job completed and well done.”

Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team is not funded and relies on donations. Anyone wishing to contribute to the work they do is asked to visit the Scarborough and Ryedale Mountain Rescue team website.

Hear from the volunteers helping people stay connected

Alex Callaghan, library volunteer

For 16-year-old Alex Callaghan, what began as work experience has grown into something that might well become a lifelong commitment to volunteering. Alex, from Scarborough, has been a regular volunteer at the town’s library for about 10 months, switching to Filey library to carry on his good work during the recent major refurbishment of the Scarborough branch. Looking to the library for work experience was a natural choice for Alex, as his father, Fred, works for our library service. Alex’s role sees him supporting customers and staff in everything from shelving books to providing IT support and helping to organise events.

“Obviously, it looks good on my CV,” he joked. “But I get personal fulfilment out of helping people and getting involved with the community. I have learned a lot about customer service and working as part of a team in a kind of retail environment. A personal highlight was helping two elderly gentlemen who were computer-illiterate. I helped them through the process of printing their plane tickets to Singapore. That was very rewarding, because they had no idea of what they were doing. I like libraries. I have always used them, throughout my life. I think it’s crucial that they stay open and that people keep going into them.”

Alex fits his volunteering around studies at Scarborough Sixth Form College, where he is working towards A Levels in maths, further maths, physics and history with a view to a university degree in aeronautical engineering. His volunteering has gone beyond work experience and he intends to carry on until next Easter, after which he will need to switch his focus full-time to his exams. But this is unlikely to be the end of volunteering for Alex.

“It is definitely a thing that I’ll continue doing if there is somewhere that I think needs it or where I would like to help out,” he said. “It is important, because money is always tight for many organisations, so any help is appreciated.”

North Yorkshire Council’s libraries interim general manager, Hazel Smith, said: “Library volunteering is a rewarding and sociable way to get involved in your local community. We have volunteers of all ages fulfilling roles such as general assistant, IT buddy, home library volunteer, local studies volunteer and various opportunities to help with children’s events and activities."

"For some, volunteering is a great way to stay connected with their communities or stay active and engaged after retirement and for others, particularly young people like Alex, it is an opportunity to gain valuable work experience and learn new skills.”

Alistair Wilson, Carers Plus Stepping Out volunteer

Getting out and about might seem easy, but for those who have lost a loved one or suffer from mental health issues it can be anything but. That is why people like Alistair Wilson have such an important role to play. 

Alistair, 68 and from Scarborough, is a volunteer for Carers Plus Yorkshire and is involved with the Stepping Out initiative, which organises walks for people who might not otherwise get out and meet people.

Since retirement, Alistair has made volunteering a key part of his life, helping Wetwheels Yorkshire by taking people with disabilities and those with additional needs out on the sea and becoming a telephone befriender. Now he is helping Stepping Out to become a success. 

"Everyone who wants to come is welcome, whether they are lonely or have a disability for example," he said. "We have people in their twenties to their eighties. We started with about four people and now we regularly get around 15 to 16. We do different walks all the time - North Bay, Peasholm Park, the esplanade or we might go round one of the local meres. It is so good to see a smile on someone's face who might not have spoken to someone for three or four days. I get so much out of seeing these people come out of their shells."

Alyson Davies, Nidderdale Plus digital champion

For Alyson Davies, volunteering gives her a chance to help people learn a little more about life in the twenty-first century with the advent of the digital age. 

A retired further education teacher, she volunteers as a digital champion, sharing her skills and experience at weekly coffee, click and connect events which are staged by the Nidderdale Plus Community Hub. 

Alyson, who lives in Hampsthwaite, near Harrogate, said: "A lot of learners are nervous with technology at the start, but it is a very relaxed atmosphere. Occasionally people just drop in to solve a particular problem but, for others it is a social thing as well. Some come with a notebook of questions and others might want to just listen in and chat about they have been trying out."

Digital champions help people with anything from getting to grips with WhatsApp and email to placing orders online and sharing photographs. 

Alyson added: "A number of people we have worked with have relatives abroad, so learning how to make a free video call has been good for people to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. Last week we had a lady who had not been able to access the online surgery system to sort out her prescription, but she came in and we sorted it out. She was just so pleased because now she can do it without having to ring up. Helping people overcome challenges is something I find very rewarding. It is a nice way to get out, meet people and hear their stories."

A volunteer smiling and helping a man use his smartphone.

Bev Lawrence, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) teaching support volunteer

Bev Lawrence, who lives in Richmond, has employed her vast experience as a teacher to help refugees from countries including Syria, Iraq, the Sudan and Afghanistan.

Bev, who retired from her 38-year teaching career in 2015, is a teaching support volunteer for the English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses which are held in her hometown. She has been supporting the English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) classes for the past six years and volunteers for up to four hours every Monday, working alongside a teacher, Cath McNeil, at Richmond Town Hall.

Bev said: “It has been a great experience and it has been inspirational working with these people who have come to a new country to make their home here. The lessons not only teach them a new language, but they give a structure and a value for how they can understand British society. Coming to North Yorkshire has given them the chance to integrate into communities that have been so welcoming, and it is a totally different experience to one that they would have perhaps had if they had arrived in a big city or town. I have loved the opportunities that volunteering has given me, as it makes me feel that I am able to give something back to society after all the experience I gathered during my career as a teacher.”

Maureen Wood, Eggborough Methodist Church volunteer

Eggborough Methodist Church is a true hive of activity. It is so much more than simply a place of worship. For the local community, it has become a vital hub at a time when the pace of modern life can leave some people feeling isolated. 

After the building on Selby Road was renovated in 2015, a conscious effort was made to reach out to villagers, in particular the elderly. Their coffee buildings, film clubs, line dancing and tea and tunes events have proved a huge success, with hundreds of people having attended over the years. In colder months, the church has also operated a warm space, enabling people to reduce their heating bills a little during the cost of living crisis. 

Volunteer Maureen Wood has lived in Eggborough all her life and knows the value of the services the church offers. 

"The people who come to these events love them," she said. "A lot of them live on their own. They come to our events and they may not know anyone, but we make them feel very welcome. They might not know everyone's name the next time they come, but everyone knows theirs."

Maureen, 73, added: "If I see someone looking at the noticeboard outside, I will say 'have you been to our coffee morning?' and if they say 'no', I will say 'well come, you will not be sat on your own'. I do enjoy it and I would miss it if it were not there."

Paula Waggoner, Nidderdale Plus digital champion

Despite being a long way from her native Colorado, once 56-year-old Paula Waggoner had settled into rural North Yorkshire she wanted to give something to the local community.

She moved to the county with her husband, Dave, and son, Dennis, two years ago due to Dennis’ work commitments and when an opportunity to volunteer as a digital buddy came up, she jumped at the chance to join the Nidderdale Plus team.

“A digital buddy was not something I had ever thought I would be doing with my limited technical ability,” she said. “But I decided I could use my own experience of using devices to pass on some skills to those that are struggling.

“And it is one of the most rewarding roles I have ever had – people come for a cuppa and a natter armed with their mobile phones and tablets and a ‘to do’ list. Many of them have been given their phones by family and are hesitant to ask them for help – often they have had one explanation and won’t ask for a second! But they can come to our sessions and get what they need – building up their confidence and opening up a new world.”

Her successes have included hooking people up to the NHS app; opening up the world of online shopping; registering meter readings on an app; synching phones to cars; and using google maps as sat nav systems.

“I love that light bulb moment when I see someone realise they have the power to use their devices – they get very excited. The intrinsic pay-off I get from this work is much more rewarding than a pay cheque.”

Peter Chandler, Stokesley Globe Community Library IT buddy

When it comes to helping residents to stay abreast of digital developments, Stokesley’s Globe Community Library is in the vanguard.

The library became community-led in 2017 and founder trustee Peter Chandler, who spent the last 10 years of his working life in IT, found himself the IT specialist.

“I can build my own computers and understand them inside out,” he said. First up was Code Club, which attracted about 20 children aged nine to 11 and taught the basics of coding. Later, older children asked for something for them. The result was a major project to build a 3D printer.

This required funding, and £500 was secured from an organisation called Meet and Code. Sixteen young people worked on the printer over two years, with their efforts winning a further £1,500 in funding through Meet and Code competitions.

Peter, 73, also ran a robotics club for young people last year, and Code Club continues, but he has noticed lower take-up from young people as their coding knowledge is fed elsewhere.

However, he also runs an iPad for seniors group called Silver Surfers and demand there remains high, with a dozen people with an average age of around 70 attending.

“This group caters for total beginners, from how to switch it on to how to operate it and what you can do with it,” he said. “A couple of women who come along also belong to a University of the Third Age iPad group and now help other people with the iPad.”

Peter is also the library’s IT buddy, on hand to support residents in learning how to use their phones, tablets and computers.

Peter Dickinson, Scarborough and Newby and Scalby library IT buddy

Demand for help to get online is keeping Peter Dickinson and the other volunteer IT buddies at Scarborough library busy. IT buddies, who can be found at most North Yorkshire libraries, support people in learning how to use a computer. Peter, 67, is one of half a dozen at Scarborough library. He began volunteering there seven years ago and quickly fell into the IT buddy role, where his background in banking software helped.

“I do a full day, Wednesday,” he said. “Last week, I had 15 appointments back-to-back. It is a pleasure, I enjoy helping people. It is nice when someone goes out with a smile.”

He also spends a day at Newby and Scalby library every three weeks and has a similar role with mental health charity Scarborough Survivors.

Of the library work, he said: “A lot of it is one-off things, like blue badges and bus passes and in the last few weeks we have had hundreds of people asking for help with Household Support Fund vouchers.

“We also get more complicated things. For instance, I’m helping a couple who want to go to Thailand to sort out their visa. A lot of people who come in for help have been given tablets by their children or grandchildren and don’t know how to use them.

“The first thing, if you are unsure, is to come in and see somebody at the library,” he said. “I have had people in their 90s who are really competent now. I have a 91-year-old who came in six years ago scared to death of using a computer. She is now doing a degree in creative writing online.”

Even small benefits of getting online are good for mental health, he said, whether that’s putting people in touch to play games together or showing them how to talk to relatives.

Siobhan Moore, Community Works respite sitting service volunteer

When it comes to volunteering, Siobhan Moore has a simple message.

"If you have kindness, compassion and common sense, go for it. Do not think about it, do it."

Siobhan, 69 and a children and families social worked in Middlesborough for 30 years, is a carers respite sitting service volunteer with Community Works, a service for people in need in and around the Thirsk area. 

"I met the first couple that I was hoping to be able to support the day after I retired. It is unknown in their culture to consider and trust having support from a stranger. The expectation is that families will look after one another. Their daughter said to me, 'for mum to go out and trust you to look after dad is huge'. It was a privilege to keep the husband company while his wife went out and had a bit of free time. I did that twice a week until he died."

Siobhan said she loves meeting people, all of whom enrich her life as much as she does theirs. 

"Volunteering is not entirely altruistic. It is for the feeling that it gives you as a human being - that you are contributing something useful to their lives. Everybody has skills and they can be brought into volunteering. All you need is kindness, patience and time."

Siobhan Moore sitting outside with a dog.

Tony Mclelland Selby library IT buddy

Since retired Army Major Tony Mclelland took on his volunteer IT support role at Selby library 18 months ago, he has made it his own – and local people are reaping the benefits. After 42 years in the military, Tony, 67, was looking to keep busy.

“I wanted something that would exercise my brain,” he said. “The library was the ideal place, a good environment, good staff.”

After taking on the IT support role – one that can be found in most of the county’s libraries, where IT buddies help people to use a computer – he realised there was scope to develop it.

“I ascertained very quickly that this is quite an important role. The people coming in wanted different things, like blue badges and bus passes, then it evolved into TV licenses, pensions, insurance, benefits, train tickets, CVs, job applications.

“I started to organise it, set up a diary and an appointments schedule. I work Monday and Wednesday afternoons, you have to have an appointment, but I do five appointments per afternoon. They are all quite different.”

Among the many people he has helped is the widow of a member of the Royal Navy. She was unsure of whether she was entitled to her husband’s pension. Tony supported her to check the website and helped her to secure the pension.

He also helped a couple claim their Premium Bonds winnings. A visit to the website secured their

£5,000 winnings. “This shows the diversity of the role,” he said. “It is extremely satisfying. I absolutely love it.”

When it comes to getting less confident people online, he believes email is the key. Familiarising people with email and opening up the connections that offers is a big achievement, he said.

“Getting people online is a daunting task,” he said. “I think that is where the library steps in to help.”

Adam Watson, home library service volunteer Malton library

Adam Watson, 58, retired to Malton from London four years ago and immediately volunteered to deliver books for the home library service.

“Because we moved to an area I didn’t know, it was a great way of finding out about the area,” he said. “It meant I got to discover the area and it brought me into contact with local people, which was really good, because every one of my customers has a great story to tell about their life.”

Adam’s route covers the town area. “Most of it is about the interaction,” he said. “It’s the conversations, catching up on what’s happening in Malton or with their families and things like that, because a lot of the people don’t leave their homes.”

He says the service can deliver more than standard books – large print books, audio books, jigsaws, DVDs. “It is a fantastic service, but perhaps people are not aware of it. The capacity to grow is huge. I want more customers!”

Ann Busfield, home library service volunteer Skipton library

Retired teacher Ann Busfield, 79, has been delivering books as a home library service volunteer for 10 years or more. She works out of Skipton library, where she has been a customer her whole life.

“It is not a huge commitment, but I really enjoy it,” she said, “mainly because we have such wonderful chats. All the customers I visit definitely value it very highly. I get to talk to interesting people and get different viewpoints.

“One of the things I get out of it is reading recommendations, so I have developed a broader reading base than I used to have. It is very much a two-way thing.”

Among Ann’s customers is Jo Holland, 84, who said: “There are probably a lot of people who, especially in the winter, don’t go out. They don’t have to be a pensioner like me, they can be young and have a disability. If you love reading, it is a wonderful service.”

Morna McLennan, home library service volunteer Derwent Valley Bridge community library

Morna McLennan, 74, was among about 40 volunteers who took on management of the library now known as Derwent Valley Bridge in West Ayton in 2012. Since then, she has supported the home library service selecting books for customers. Over the years, she has built up a picture of readers’ likes and dislikes.

“We do our best to order in books if people want something specific,” she said. “Every now and again you might include something they haven’t asked for, just as a trial. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

“One lady we deliver to now used to be a picker when we started. She’ll tell me exactly what she likes and doesn’t like. People like that are great, they really help the job along.”

Customers’ choices have broadened Morna’s own reading horizons, not least with Jojo Moyes’ The Giver of Stars, inspired by the Pack Horse Librarians, women who ran a scheme a bit like an early home library service in the Appalachian Mountains last century.

Naomi Wilson, home library service volunteer Selby library

Naomi Wilson has seen the home library service from both sides – and having been a customer was keen to give back by volunteering. Naomi, 35, started using the service at Selby library during treatment for a brain tumour.

“I was isolated because of my treatment, I didn’t really have a social aspect to my life, so having somebody from outside coming and giving me books brought a bit of normality to the situation,” she said. Following her recovery, she began volunteering with the service, mainly selecting books, but joining delivery runs, too.

“Before I got ill, I wanted to work with children, but my brain tumour left me with balance issues, so looking after children is not suitable now. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I am a caring kind of person, so I wanted to do something that was to do with caring, so the library and giving back what I have had from the library and home library service was a good option.”

Steph Crossley, home library service volunteer Northallerton library

<>Retired teacher Steph Crossley, 70, has been a home library service volunteer in Northallerton since 2012, both choosing and delivering books. “It gives people a chance to carry on reading if they want to,” she said. “If you have been a reader all your life it is nice to have library books there if you want them. I would hate not to have books available.”

Steph says she gets to know people from visiting regularly. “Some people are fairly business-like, and we don’t want to keep them standing on a doorstep in the cold,” she said. “Others say come on in and we take our shoes off and go in for a chat. It is entirely up to the reader.” There is capacity for more people to sign up to the service, as well as opportunities to volunteer. “It is a really nice job to do,” she said. “Even if you are volunteering, it has to suit you. You don’t need to know a lot about books, just to like the thought of delivering books to people.”

Read about the volunteers keeping North Yorkshire clean and green

Paul Freestone and Shirley Smith, North Yorkshire Rotters

Partners Paul Freestone and Shirley Smith have decades of experience as keen gardeners to make them ideally placed to advise people eager to do their bit for the environment.

Paul, 65, became a North Yorkshire Rotter five years ago, after retiring as a teacher. Shirley, 67, joined him when she retired from her job as a medical secretary. 

Our Rotters are volunteers from across North Yorkshire who highlight practical ways to reduce, reuse and recycle waste, offering advice on topics including home composting and food waste. The couple are passionate about gardening and have a third of an acre at their home in Whitby.

“We have poured 25 years into the garden, so it’s just about getting how we want it,” said Ms Smith. Mr Freestone added: “Just another 25 to go.”

He continued: “The Rotters’ ethos is something I believe in strongly. I am a keen environmentalist, so I thought this is something I really want to do.”

His partner added: “It is something close to our hearts. We feel we want to give something back. So many people at shows will come along and say they’ve got a compost bin, but it’s too wet or too dry, so we can give them advice to make a better job of it. We find it very rewarding.”

“We can use our personal experience,” said Mr Freestone. “We have been gardening for many years and we feel that part of the volunteering role is educating those who need that extra little help. It’s very rewarding, as well, because you do meet people from all walks of life. They, too, would like to do their bit, so it is rewarding to know we are pointing people in the right direction.”

The couple have done shows, talks and workshops with everyone from Scouts and schools to Women’s Institute groups. And they travel to other parts of the county, too, including Harrogate Flower Show recently.

“We go anywhere they want us,” said Mr Freestone.

Rotters can give as much or as little time as they are able, and the group is keen to welcome new volunteers on the coast. Anyone interested can find out more from our Rotters volunteering page.

Clare Messer, North Yorkshire Council Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty volunteer

Swapping the bright lights of the capital for a rural idyll is a decision not to be taken lightly. However, for Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) volunteer Clare Messer, it was the perfect fresh start.

Clare moved to North Yorkshire in March 2021, having spent 30 years as a police officer in London. She adapted easily to the countryside lifestyle and when in April last year an opportunity arose to support nature conservation in the Howardian Hills AONB, she decided to put her outdoor skills to good use.

She said: “A friend of mine was volunteering and I was so excited about it. I felt it was a great opportunity to give back to the picturesque area.”

She receives tasks from the North Yorkshire Council co-ordinator via email, with details of the issue and the location. She then visits and carries out the task. “Some jobs are just to look, measure and photograph and report back, for example a stile that’s broken, while others I can tackle with my secateurs, like hedges encroaching on a sign,” she said.

Since starting, she has had a few tasks a month and can take a few weeks to report on them, so there is no pressure. She said: “There are two main positives for me. The first is that I get out and about in the local countryside and it has helped me explore the area, the second is that I can fit in these tasks into my week when it suits me.

“I feel very privileged to live here and ride my electric bike through the Wolds and the surrounding villages. I would recommend people to sign up and help. You can work alone or join in with the AONB group tasks that are sent out to all volunteers every month.”

Richard Laidler, Yorkshire Dales National Park volunteer

With 24 years behind him as a volunteer with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Richard Laidler is developing a volunteering career to rival his 30 years in the police and military service before that. And skills learned as a volunteer have put Richard, 76, in a select group – as one of only a handful of master dry stone wallers in Yorkshire.

He began to learn the ancient skill through National Park rangers, then a friend introduced him to the Yorkshire Dry Stone Walling Guild. His studies have seen him rise to master waller and he is now teaching others.

“It is something to be proud of,” he said. “It is important to keep the skill alive for conservation. We tell students about the history of the walls, the types of stone and the wildlife for which the walls can provide a habitat – such as birds, mice, adders.”

At the moment, he is rebuilding a wall at a playing field at Hawes. Richard coordinates the northern team of about 40 volunteers for the National Park. He makes the drive to Reeth each week from his home in Washington, Tyne and Wear. His long association with the park began after he saw a notice appealing for volunteers during a visit to Aysgarth Falls.

“I could never work in an office,” he said. “I like to be outside in the fresh air. And this is giving something back.”

Members of his team, which works mainly in Swaledale, can turn their hands to many tasks, from coppicing and tree planting to repairing and resurfacing paths, building and installing gates to building bridges.

A total of 320 National Park volunteers provided 7,000 days last year. “Without the volunteers, National Park Authority staff would be hard pushed to do this work.”

Keith Lister, Barlow Common Nature Reserve volunteer

Helping to keep Barlow Common Nature Reserve near Selby tidy and accessible so that visitors can easily enjoy the flourishing wildlife is a win all the way for Keith Lister. When Keith, 64, from Brayton, retired in 2020 after a varied career – most recently as a delivery driver across Europe – he wanted to give something back to his community.

As a teenager in the 1970s, he helped his mother do conservation work with the RSPB, so offering his services to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which manages Barlow Common, seemed a good option. He is now a volunteer warden for the 90-acre reserve, which was created on a former rubbish tip and is now a rich wildlife site, with lakes, grasslands and meadows providing a habitat for a diverse array of wildlife.

“First of all, it is giving something back to the community,” he said. “On top of that, it is nice being out in the countryside doing physical labour, some of it quite hard. Also, you meet new people and socialise. There are a lot of benefits – you’re benefiting wildlife, you’re benefiting the community and you’re benefiting yourself, so it is a win, win, win.”

At least once a week, Keith carries out a litter-pick at the reserve. “It keeps it tidy and means that there are eyes on the reserve,” he said. “For example, we had a tree fall last winter across a path, so I could inspect that and report it to the reserve manager.”

Fortnightly, he joins a group of volunteers from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to undertake tasks all year round, from coppicing to cutting verges back, cutting and raking the three wildlife meadows and ousting invasive Himalayan balsam. “We don’t want it to look like a garden,” he said, “but you do have to manage it so that people can enjoy the walks and wildlife.”

Barbara Neill, Open Country volunteer

Breaking free from her office desk to work in the outdoors has brought new skills and knowledge to Barbara Neill. When the Harrogate based PA’s son started school, she decided to take on new challenges while helping others. Barbara signed up as a volunteer with charity Open Country, which helps people with disabilities access and enjoy the countryside.

In her first year she has not only learned how to plant trees, put up fences, use machinery and lay paths but has made new friends and found a new love for gardening and conservation.

“Volunteering has overlapped into my home life, too – I use many of my new-found skills in my own garden,” she said. “I had a basic knowledge of gardening when I started, but now I know what plants are best to encourage biodiversity, attracting bees and butterflies as well as giving shelter to other animals.

“Working with Open Country is great fun – we are able to give people with disabilities a real sense of purpose while also protecting all our futures. “My love of conservation has grown so much since doing this work and I have been lucky enough to work in some amazing places.”

Barbara spends every Friday with the Nature Force group carrying out conservation work. Recently that has involved completing the ‘yellow brick road’, a path through Rossett Nature Reserve in Harrogate with Friends of Rossett Nature Reserve Group.

“I would recommend volunteering to anyone – don’t put barriers up, you can give as little or as much time as you like. But I can guarantee you will find it rewarding.”

Barbara is one of more than 130 Open Country volunteers who give thousands of hours of their time in both Harrogate and Wakefield every year.

Audrey McGhie, Yorkshire Seals volunteer

Our coast is rich in marine life, which is a big draw for residents and visitors from further afield. But our beaches are home to amazing marine life, particularly seals, and if we are inconsiderate our presence can be damaging.

Audrey McGhie, 61, a nurse at Scarborough Hospital, is one of many Yorkshire Seal Group volunteers working to teach visitors to love and respect the seals that live along North Yorkshire’s coastline.

“I am very interested in anything to do with conservation and wildlife,” said Audrey. “I worked in the Falklands as a travelling teacher for a long time and saw the wildlife there, including a number of different species of seal. I also saw the effect people are having on the marine environment.

“If I can get more people interested and aware of the environment and the impact we have on marine life, I am helping in some small way.”

Audrey and members of the 30-strong volunteer group visit seal sites on the North and East Yorkshire coasts to talk to the public. They provide telescopes and binoculars, so people can watch seals unobtrusively. While the seal population in the UK is relatively stable, globally there is an issue, so any threat here could lead to a worldwide decline.

“We explain what the seals are doing, what stage of their life they are at, engage with people and give them the opportunity to see the seals without having to get too close,” said Audrey.

“The more that people see the seals and like them and can understand the effects that we are having on them, the more we can protect the seals. We get families coming along and we can connect a scope to a mobile phone so they can see the seals on the screen. It makes it more immediate and the kids go away amazed. That is really rewarding.”

Volunteers helping to keep North Yorkshire thriving share their stories

Alexandra Kynman, Scarborough Disabled Swimming Group volunteer

Alexandra Kynman is a special educational needs primary school teacher by day, but every other weekend you will find her in the pool helping people to find joy in the water.

The 25-year-old is a volunteer swimming teacher with one of the largest swimming groups in the UK – Scarborough Disabled Swimming Group.

Based at Scarborough Sports Village, the group offers fortnightly sessions on Saturdays for people of all ages with a disability. Twenty-nine volunteers help to provide a safe, pleasant environment. Their roles include assisting and encouraging swimmers and helping to organise galas, social and fundraising events.

Alexandra, who joined almost 12 months ago and enjoys delivering specialist sessions and activities, said: “It has been a fulfilling and rewarding experience to provide support to people to manage their condition and strength. We encourage swimmers of all ages and disabilities to gain confidence in the water, learn to swim and develop their skills.

“Every person is unique, and it is this diversity that matters during every session. However, it’s not just swimmers who benefit, it’s volunteers as well who like to get involved and experience working with people with specialist needs and gain important qualifications.

“There’s an amazing sense of achievement to know that I have helped people achieve the simplest of things, which sometimes can be a huge milestone.”

Diane Clarke, Selby Abbey volunteer

When Diane Clarke approached Selby Abbey to offer her City and Guilds standard flower-arranging skills, she found herself being offered a role in the café instead. That was more than three years ago, and while Diane occasionally helps out with the flower displays, she has found a niche which allows her to use some of the skills she acquired in her professional career as a financial analyst.

She was promoted to manage the café and gift shop, a voluntary role which frequently sees her working onsite during busy weekend periods, while doing more back-room work at home to make sure the operation runs smoothly, with shelves stocked, ingredients ordered for the kitchen and staff rotas drawn up.

“I enjoy myself, because this job brings back a lot of what I did. I enjoyed it then and I still do,” she said.

She is responsible for a team of around a dozen volunteers who keep the café and gift shop running. They have responsibilities for crucial areas like hygiene, reflecting the trust placed on those who give up their time to help out. Work has now started to expand beyond the ‘traditional’ volunteering roles, often taken up by those in retirement. So in future, it is hoped that people with special educational needs will be among those taking up volunteer roles at Selby Abbey, to help to provide them with experience in the community.

Work experience opportunities are also expected to be offered, through colleges in the area, to help students spend time in a working environment, which could make an important contribution to their CVs.

“Volunteering is a great way to meet people. You can do good for them and it is rewarding,” Mrs Clarke said.

The vicar of Selby Abbey, Canon John Weetman, said there were around 100 volunteers – in an age-range from nine to 90s – providing a huge range of support.

“Our volunteers are absolutely essential. We would not be able to operate without them,” he said.

They range from greeters and tour guides, to bell-ringers, choir members and clergy who take some services. While some volunteer their time because of their faith, others do to help support the wider community reflecting the wide-ranging welcome and variety of opportunities and activities that Selby Abbey provides.

Gabby Parsons, Ready for Anything volunteer

Gabby Parsons is among the team of Ready for Anything volunteers who provide invaluable help with the emergency response during major incidents and practical support to people whose lives have been affected. 

Gabby lives in Whitwell-on-the-Hill between York and Malton and has been a Ready for Anything volunteer for about five years, and her role has seen her helping support communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said: “I used to work in the care sector, so I like to keep an eye out for people and make sure they’re OK. I’ve had one call out to go check on somebody in Covid because a relative was worried about them and they weren’t answering the phone. When I got to the door, he was just fed up of them ringing all the time and had unplugged it! So I just reported back that he was absolutely fine. One of the things I really enjoy is helping with training sessions for the emergency services. We all evaluate what could have been done better so you learn a lot about how you can help people. How would the emergency services train if they didn’t have volunteers like us?”

Initially established in York following the Boxing Day floods of 2015, the Ready for Anything project has since been extended into North Yorkshire. There are now more than 300 volunteers involved in the initiative in York and North Yorkshire.


On the camaraderie between Ready for Anything volunteers, Mrs Parsons, who is a mother to three grown-up sons, said: “It’s nice to do something when you’re with lots of other people and the atmosphere is always brilliant. I like being part of something and everybody is so friendly.”

Her message to anyone thinking of volunteering is to simply give it a go. 

Mrs Parsons said: “I’d say just try it. I do other things as well, like cleaning the signposts in the village. If I’ve got lots of eggs, I’ll do a baking day and make buns for everyone. We had a wonderful Jubilee celebration last year. I just like doing stuff and feel very passionate about the area. When they ask for your nationality on a form, I always put Yorkshire!"

“When I was 16 and left home, I went to work on a pig farm. A local family took me under their wing and I used to go down for a couple of meals every week and I’d call in after work so I could have a bath. When it was teatime the other three children and I used to get sent out with meals for the older people round the village. They taught me about community and how it should be. People looking out for each other. It would be lovely if we can get more people doing that and talking to each other again. My motto has always been to just be kind.”

Gerry Broadbent, Georgian Theatre Royal volunteer

If all the world's a stage, then Gerry Broadbent's roles on it as a volunteer are many and varied. Gerry, 79,  and his wife Janet, retired to Richmondshire from the Hull area nine years ago after they fell in love with the town - and its Georgian Theatre Royal - after regular visits over many years. The couple are lifelong theatre lovers and Mr Broadbent offered his services to the Georgian theatre almost immediately. 

"Within a week of moving here I had gone to the theatre to say I can volunteer, filled in a form and started out," he said. "I started ushering, but before long the front of house manager said to me 'I've noticed you can stand up and smile at the same time, so I would like you to be front of house'. So I became front of house too, then moved into the box office as well, then guided tours, then some of the technical stuff backstage and in the control booth, then running the Friends of the Theatre. So things escalate fast when you are enjoying yourself. Every time I go into the Georgian Theatre Royal, I get a real buzz."

Gerry, a former secondary school teacher in Hull and Beverley, is one of about 100 volunteers, including Janet, who support the theatre. The theatre is the oldest working theatre in the country still in its original form. It boasts King Charles III and Queen Camilla as patrons and Dame Judi Dench as president.

"It is a very important part of the cultural heritage of the country," said Gerry. "To lose that would be criminal, but it will only be kept going by volunteers."

James Tilburn, Community Fit volunteer

Getting healthy and volunteering often feature in our New Year resolutions but we perhaps do not find the time to realise them. But one group in Harrogate had found a way to combine both.

Community Fit has been around for 12 months and sees people spend one evening a week running, cycling or walking up to three miles to a charity or community group to spend an hour helping them.

“A lot of what we do is outside, so we recently dug out a pond next to a church for example,” says James Tilburn, 45, one of the group’s founders.

“It is a really big social activity. There are people from different backgrounds, fitness levels and age groups, we are very inclusive when it comes to accessibility and that is also taken into account when we are picking what task to do to make sure everyone can take part.”

The team takes suggestions from local groups and charities before deciding where to head for that week’s good deed. It can be anything from sorting donations to moving furniture, painting, tree planting or litter picking. The group has grown from four or five regulars to almost 50 people.

James said: “We want to do more to help Harrogate’s elderly population, so that is definitely what we are looking at next.”

Jennifer Aspden, Bedale Junior Football Club coach

The importance of volunteering is ingrained in Jennifer Aspden’s family, who are heavily involved in the running of Bedale Junior Football Club. The mother-of-two has been a coach for over five years and has been hailed for championing women’s football as this summer’s World Cup gets under way.

Jennifer husband, Brett, is the head groundsman, and their daughter, Natasha, 23, volunteers in the café. Their 15-year-old son, Oliver, who plays for the under-16s, also helps to coach the younger teams.

“The football club is close to the heart of our family,” said Mrs Aspden, from Catterick. “Like many clubs, they were short of coaches, so I started volunteering and our involvement has grown from there.”

Jennifer has coached the under-sixes up to the under-nines and has recently introduced 24 girls to the sport.

“The success of grassroots football in rural areas such as Bedale can’t be downplayed,” she said.

“The club is an important social space for young people, many of whom don’t go to the same school but have made friends here. We aim to boost confidence, promote fitness and above all have great fun. We are an inclusive club, welcoming people of all abilities. The club relies on a team of dedicated volunteers, and we are always on the look-out for more.”

Margaret Stainburn, North York Moors Railway volunteer

More than 600 dedicated volunteers are helping the North Yorkshire Moors Railway to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The not-for profit organisation relies on volunteers to operate the route from Pickering to Whitby, one of the earliest and most historic lines in northern England.

Among them is Margaret Stainburn, who for the last 20 years has volunteered as a ticket inspector on a weekly basis. Her interest in the heritage railway stems from her father, who was a steam locomotive fireman and engine driver.

She said: “I love being part of the railway, we are a big family. I can recommend things to do in the local area and making a small difference to travellers gives me such a buzz. I never get fed up with seeing the beautiful scenery.

“The heritage railway is great for the local area, bringing in tourists from far and wide. It provides a real boost for businesses at places along the route. I am really proud to have it on my doorstep.”

Volunteer Margaret Stainburn standing and smiling on the train station platform.

Since introducing annual tickets, the railway has seen a surge in return visitors, with the shop and tearoom reaping huge benefits.

Michelle Baggaley, community engagement manager at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, said: “The dedication of our volunteers has played a vital role in the preservation and operation of our esteemed heritage railway and living museum. Their enthusiasm, passion, dedication and commitment has been and is instrumental in creating unforgettable visitor experiences. Sharing and imparting knowledge, resources and skills, together they preserve the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and inspire future generations.”

Robin Davies, Fountains Abbey volunteer

When 78 year old Robin Davies jumps into his car to make his weekly journey to Ripon, he knows he is in for a day full of surprises. The retired policeman is a volunteer at Fountains Abbey and says every day is different - with new people from around the world to meet, all with their own tales to tell.

Robin said: "Being a volunteer is one of the most fulfilling jobs I have ever done. You never know who you are going to meet that day - they could be from the other side of the world or the other side of Ripon, but everyone is there to see the wonders that Fountains Abbey offers."

He joined the 300 strong volunteer team at the National Trust property ten years ago. After retiring from North Yorkshire Police, he spent time as a taxi driver before joining the Harrogate Community Safety Partnership. However, when he left there, he realised how much many areas of the workplace rely on volunteers. 

Robin said: "Working for Paperworks opened my eyes to the importance of volunteers. I knew I had to help in some small way. Ten years on I am still at Fountains Abbey. If you love history and the natural world, this is the place to be."

Some days he can be found greeting visitors in reception. On others he will be driving people with mobility issues around the abbey.

"I love meeting people from all walks of life and helping wherever I can. I would recommend volunteering to everyone, whatever their age. It gives me a buzz every time I am at Fountains Abbey," he added.

Andrew Moss, senior volunteering and community officer at Fountains Abbey, said: "Put simply, we wouldn't be able to look after our World Heritage Site if it were not for our amazing volunteers."

Tim and Jonny Mottram, Conyngham Hall Kiosk volunteers

For 25-year-old Jonny Mottram volunteering allows him to meet new people.
For the people he serves coffee and cakes he brings chatter and laughter... and sometimes music! And for the managers of the Kiosk at Conyngham Hall he is one of a vital band of people that keep the Knaresborough facility open for refreshments, tennis and crazy golf.

Jonny, who has Down’s syndrome, had been a regular at Community Stars in Harrogate – a venture which encourages people with learning difficulties into work. When they asked if he and his father, Tim, would work at the Kiosk every Friday, they jumped at the idea.

“Jonny loves variety – he doesn’t like to do the same thing every day and at the kiosk he enjoys handing out golf clubs and tennis rackets and meeting and talking with the customers. He sorts out the crazy golf and pitch and putt course and sees people on to the tennis courts. He is very good at cheering people up – he loves to talk to them and if they are lucky he will do some rapping, another of his passions!”

Jonny, who lives with Tim and mum Heidi in Easingwold, says the kiosk is “an amazing place to go to and work at.”

“We have always wanted to give Jonny the opportunity to have a go at everything – and he is always keen to help other people too. We are very proud of him in everything he does – it would be so easy for him to sit at home on a PlayStation, but that’s not for him,” said Tim, who does his share of volunteering, too.

Clare Robinson, co-founder of Community Stars, which is run in partnership with Chain Lane Community Hub, said: “Volunteers like Jonny and Tim are vital – we couldn’t operate the kiosk without them. Jonny and Tim are a great team – they bring joy, warmth and laughter to Fridays. Jonny loves working on the sports side as he can do that independently. In the volunteer world we are all friends – and at Community Stars we want to give everyone an opportunity to work together and give something back to the local community.”

Tim Phillips, Yorkshire Arboretum volunteer

When he retired, Tim Phillips, decided that was the time to scratch the itch that had been with him since his earliest years. The 79-year-old was put in touch with the Yorkshire Arboretum, a 120-acre garden at the Castle Howard Estate, near Pickering, by a neighbour in 2020 and became one of their Wednesday Tree Care team.

Tim said: “I had an interest in trees all my life, but I am a child of the fifties and sixties and back then there was no money in environmentalism, as we would call it today. So, I got a job with an oil company and spent my working life in airconditioned offices around the world."

“Tree care is about planting trees, tending them, keeping them safe and helping them grow. It is what you might call large scale gardening. Also, when big trees die, we have to fell them. With big trees comes big equipment. I did not imagine I would be using so many power tools,” he added.

A highlight has been constructing a red squirrel enclosure and re-introducing the species to that part of North Yorkshire.

Tim said: “That was extremely satisfying and was done by the volunteers under the guidance of the head arborist. Three reds were introduced last autumn, one male and two females, and they have had three babies and we are now hearing that one of the females is pregnant again.”

Tim would recommend volunteering. 

He said: “If you are doing something that interests you and that activity has a social benefit as well, then that is a win-win.”

Tom Tyson, Malton and Old Malton Cricket Club coach

Few people pack more into their week than barrister Tom Tyson. Alongside his demanding day job, Tom has volunteered for almost 10 years at his beloved Malton Cricket Club as a coach, championing women’s involvement in the sport.

He has fond memories of playing cricket from an early age, and his sons are now a key part of the junior team.

“Balancing my work and personal life is extremely difficult as the nature of my job can bring long hours,” said Tom. “However, coaching gives me the opportunity to switch off and means I can give something back to a club which welcomed me in.”

The club has a renewed focus on developing female participation in cricket, with numbers increasing for their Saturday sessions.

“I do it for the love of the club and to ensure it has a bright future by training the next generation,” added Tom. “The club is a place where young people can gain confidence, forge friendships and improve their physical and mental health. We aim to ensure we offer a safe and welcoming environment for all.”

Tom's  humility shines through as he thanks the four full-time qualified coaches and others behind the scenes who give their time to ensure the club’s long-term success.

Val Stewart, Craven museum volunteer

Few people will understand the responsibilities and rewards of volunteering better than Val Stewart. Not only has Val, who lives in Skipton, undertaken a wide variety of volunteering roles during her life, but spent 14 years as volunteer co-ordinator for Carers’ Resource in the area, managing the needs of volunteers and the people they supported. She recruited, trained, supported and placed volunteers and made sure they were happy.

“Volunteers did everything from helping run a huge Edwardian garden fete at Broughton Hall to every month turning out to run lunch groups and coffee mornings around the area for the unpaid carers,” she said.

“Carers Resource supported family carers, so the husband looking after the wife who was ill, the daughter looking after mum, etcetera. It was a very wide-ranging charity. We dealt with child carers right through to an 80-year-old lady who was looking after her mother. “For a volunteer, the pay is getting what they need out of it, whether that is gaining work experience, building up friendships or getting confidence. It’s a volunteer co-ordinator’s job to try to ensure that they get what they need, otherwise they leave.”

Val’s own volunteering roles have ranged from four years with Samaritans to a classroom assistant to helping at a stroke unit and the RSPB peregrine falcon watch at Malham Cove. Since retiring in 2022, Val, 65, volunteers at Craven Museum, Skipton, as well as front of house at The Folly in Settle.

“I have moved around a lot,” she said. “So it is a way of meeting people, but it is also a way of learning about things that I wouldn’t overwise have much contact with and using skills that maybe your job doesn’t use.”

At the museum, she is part of a team cataloguing the collections, currently working on social history objects – everything from police shackles to medical equipment to jewellery.

“I have always been interested in history, but always thought I was useless at it because in my day you were taught history as dates and battles,” she said. “That never really grabbed me, but I have now discovered social history, so I am thoroughly enjoying it.”

Jenny Hill, museum and collections lead at Craven Museum, said: “The work that volunteers like Val do really helps us to be able to keep sharing stories from the museum collection and to make it accessible for visitors and researchers. It also helps us to conserve and protect the collection for the future. We are incredibly grateful for all the help and support from volunteers.” 

Val believes anyone who wants to volunteer should be able to find something to suit them.

“If somebody has the time, they will probably find something that interests them, whether it is working with steam railways or sitting on the end of the phone listening to someone in real despair, as I have done,” she said. “It is whatever you find fulfilling.”