The army of North Yorkshire residents who have helped keep the county’s communities safe through the coronavirus pandemic are being thanked by North Yorkshire County Council ahead of national Volunteers’ Week, which runs from 1-7 June.
Volunteers have always been part of the bedrock which gives the county its distinctive identity, but since last Spring increasing numbers of people have put themselves forward to help others get through the biggest health crisis in recent history.
Now their efforts are being applauded as the county looks to a bright volunteering future, invigorated by the surge of people who have found pleasure and satisfaction in helping others.
For over a year, the county council has been working alongside partners with 23 community support organisations and the voluntary sector to provide a safety net of support for people without family, friends or neighbours to lean on during the pandemic.
Thousands of volunteers have helped with shopping, collecting medication, walking pets, taking people to medical appointments and being there for a friendly chat.
Last month the council deployed Ready for Anything volunteers who helped at the Covid test site which was set up in response to the rising infection rates in the Selby area.
Volunteers have also played a crucial part in the roll out of NHS vaccinations.
Since last March, community support organisation (CSO) volunteers have given an incredible 125,000 hours of their time, providing a service which would have been impossible without them.
As restrictions have eased, CSOs are now shifting their focus to gradually building people’s confidence as well as continuing to offer support to people who are self-isolating or limiting their social contact.
County Council chief executive Richard Flinton said: “The last 12 months have been really challenging for many people in lots of different ways, but in North Yorkshire we can thank our incredible volunteers for helping to minimise the impact of coronavirus. Team North Yorkshire at its finest.
“Many existing volunteers have changed the way they work to help in different ways but many new volunteers, and especially younger people, have put themselves forwards to help.
“Furlough may have given some people the time they needed to get involved and help their neighbours and wider communities, which has been tremendous to see.
“All our volunteers deserve recognition and Volunteers’ Week is there to do just that.
“We hope that in future many who have experienced the satisfaction of volunteering for the first time will continue, and encourage others to come forwards too. “The more people who contribute, the stronger our communities will be,” he said.
Volunteers who have helped during the pandemic include Jill Burdis, a mini bus driver with Reeth and District Community Transport who agreed to take on shopping runs and office duties when the first lockdown started, expecting the change to last two or three weeks.
Even after 14 months, Jill has no expectation of stepping back anytime soon. She said: “We have got to know people so well they have become friends and you care for them as you would your own family.”
Over a year since Skipton Step into Action was set up to support local residents during the coronavirus pandemic, volunteer Sue Leach has found helping others extremely rewarding.
Sue said: “It has gone beyond just dropping shopping off. I feel a strong bond and I get so much out of it. It puts things into perspective; lets you know how lucky you are.”
Volunteer driver Harry Trotter joined the team at Stokesley and District Community Care after retiring, and more than 11 years later is still involved. During the pandemic Harry helped to make sure people were still able to get to medical appointments, and is looking forward to a return to more familiar duties. “I miss the people. Pre-Covid, I tended to do every Friday to drive the bus around the villages to bring people into Stokesley for the market. People and communities are at the very heart of our organisation.”
Volunteers also help to deliver other vital council services, including helping to manage and maintain public rights of way, promoting the council’s reduce, reuse and recycle waste reduction priorities and working with our archives team. Volunteers are also critical in keeping North Yorkshire libraries open and thriving.
County Council leader Carl Les said: “Volunteering is part of the way of life in North Yorkshire but that does not mean we take it for granted.”
“Covid-19 demonstrated just how important it is to have resilient communities which help and support each other.
“Volunteers bring a variety of skills, knowledge and expertise to the projects and initiatives they’re involved with, we can’t thank them enough for their commitment, energy and enthusiasm.” he said.