It is important to us that we share the stories that inspire us, shine a light on the work that we do, and celebrate our amazing community.
Here are just a few of the stories we would like to share…
Geraldine & Jon
Retired teachers Geraldine and Jon have been volunteering for Newark and Sherwood CVS since the start of the pandemic. Since retiring they both have dedicated much of their time to voluntary activity both oversees and in the UK. They found out about the opportunity through the Pastor at their local church, where Jon volunteers during the winter, through the Salvation Army’s homelessness scheme. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the scheme had been suspended and the Pastor told Jon about the call for local volunteers in Newark.
Since signing up, Geraldine and Jon now volunteer on a weekly basis for the shopping scheme – helping provide shopping essentials to vulnerable people living in Newark and Sherwood. At present, they have shopped for three different people and families and Geraldine talks fondly of the people she is helping. When asked if she is enjoying the experience, says ‘yes’ and says it has been lovely ‘to get out of the house a bit more’ to go and do something. She says she likes to give the clients a choice of which supermarket they would like their shopping from. She feels this makes them feel a little ‘more in control’ and more empowered. She says she takes the time to have a brief chat when she drops the shopping off and tells a lovely story of how she takes one lady a chocolate eclair. She says she does this as a treat, as the shopping is essentials only, but she knows how much the lady appreciates the gesture. Although the couple shop separately, they did for a while work together to support a larger family, where a single person shopping would have been too much. She did say she ‘felt self-conscious’ shopping together and they were asked by supermarket staff.
Geraldine frequently talks of how privileged they are to have a good life, a healthy family and in her words ‘they are time rich’. She says volunteering has been an important bridge, between a busy working life and being newly retired. Previously Geraldine has volunteered for a museum charity and has supported young people and refugees. Her and Jon also volunteer each year in Poland, teaching English to people. Clearly volunteering and being able to give their time to help people is extremely important to the couple. Geraldine actually said ‘why wouldn’t we’. She also talks of how through volunteering she has learnt new things and gained new skills, which otherwise she wouldn’t have had the opportunity. She particularly thinks it is important to maintain contact with younger people, so she doesn’t lose that connection to younger generations and mindsets.
When asked specifically about the pandemic and community, she says she isn’t really aware of what has been happening locally. But, she says this is more to do with their current circumstances, of being fairly new to the area and being in temporary accommodation whilst their house is renovated. She did say she has gained a sense of ‘tension’ among people locally, particularly around lockdown rules. She feels those that are isolating fear the situation will go on much longer if people do not obey the rules. In terms of her experience, Geraldine says it has helped her to feel more positive. She says we all consume a lot of negativity, particularly through the media, and by volunteering she is still able to get out and ‘be involved’ with people. This has helped her feel more positive about the situation.
When asked about the future, Geraldine says she would like to continue supporting people who may need ongoing help. She said she thought the shopping role ‘wasn’t really Jon’s thing’, but she mentioned he likes Driving and would like to continue in a role that’s ‘more him’. The overwhelming feeling gained from the couple is one of gratitude for their life and circumstances and finding positivity in challenging circumstances and by helping people.
Local business owner Jason first approached Newark and Sherwood CVS about volunteering at the start of the Coronavirus outbreak. He had taken the decision to close his business, out of what he describes as his ‘moral duty’. Jason believed strongly that he had an obligation to do his part and keep his customers safe. After taking the decision that he wanted to help out during the pandemic, Jason initially signed up to the NHS volunteer scheme. A short time passed and after no response, he discovered Newark and Sherwood CVS via the district council’s website. After one phone call, he was quickly processed and was actively volunteering within a week. He also informed staff member Darren, who also signed up as a volunteer. The pair work together at Jason’s garage in Balderton and affectionately became known as ‘Batman and Robin’.
When asked about why he wanted to volunteer, Jason said that he lives on his own, was bored sat at home and because he’s ‘that type of person’. Jason supported the organisation’s shopping scheme, as a volunteer shopper- helping provide shopping essentials to vulnerable people living in Newark and Sherwood. Jason personally shopped for around nine different individuals and also shopped with Darren for larger orders – observing social distancing at all times. After seeing how much the service had benefitted and made a difference to local vulnerable people, Jason decided to send a message to his own customers who were shielding, and offered the same service to them. When asked how he found the task of shopping for so many people, he simply stated ‘fine’. He said he felt safe and that the supermarkets soon got to know him, and he experienced no problems in being able to access the stores at convenient times.
When recalling his experience of volunteering, Jason describes (with glee) how he bought clients flowers. He modestly says that they only cost him £2 a bunch and the smile on their faces ‘was worth every penny’. He says he can’t imagine what it must be like to have no one to help you. Jason recalls being able to spend a little time talking to the people he supported and said the experience gave him a sense of worth. When asked if he would continue volunteering, Jason said unfortunately now he was back at work full time he was unable to. However, he did continue to shop outside of work for a short time and would also consider ad hoc volunteering in the future.
He said he enjoyed being able to help his own customers and stated that there hadn’t been much help available for people in his local community. He did feel that the pandemic had brought people closer together. When asked if he had personally been impacted by the pandemic, he didn’t feel he had. He stated his business was well established and said ‘you can’t worry, you just have to get on with it’. The overwhelming feeling was one of genuine altruism and humbleness. An unlikely volunteer on first impressions – but a real local hero.