It’s Volunteers’ Week! Our annual celebration of the fantastic contribution volunteers make each day throughout our communities.
(Caption: a golden banner reading “Volunteer Spotlights” highlighted by a blue-white spotlight.)
This year, we’re focusing on the volunteers themselves, the reasons why they volunteer and the impact it’s had on their lives. For today’s spotlight, we spoke with Marie, who’s been volunteering in her communities for 60 years.
Marie began volunteering with her local Brownies and girls groups, where she learned a range of different skills – including how to organise a concert! “We even had the band Nazareth play once,” she says.
As her family grew older, Marie got more involved with the local playgroups and summer play schemes, before helping set up the Dennyloanhead Gala, which she credits with teaching her about working with teams. “Nobody’s a volunteer on their own.”
It’s a sentiment she feels is present throughout all her volunteering, having looked back. “You’re always learning something new, no matter what you’re doing.”
(Caption: a historic picture of Denny Galad Day.)
Since then, Marie’s helped set up different groups and projects, some of which are still around today, like the Wider Access to Schools Project (WASP) and Home-Start Falkirk West (both based in Denny). “I’ve been learning all the time,” Marie reiterates.
One of her biggest commitments has been to what she initially describes as “the Dennyloanhead project”. “We always knew there was something missing, and when we asked what Dennyloanhead needed, people told us: a community centre.”
Like with so much of her volunteering, Marie was involved in the project from the very start, as a member of the committee who oversaw design and creation of the building that would become the Archibald Russell Centre. But for her, the biggest impact was the training she received, formal and informal, on how to apply for funding.
“Being part of the Centre’s committee taught me a lot about funding, about fundraising and how to balance the books, how to meet with OSCR and what they needed from us. I met a variety of professionals in different areas too, which was really interesting for me.”
Marie remained on the committee at the Archibald Russell Centre as their treasurer until 2 years ago, and she’s still involved in many of the activities that go on within the Centre. During her time with the committee, they received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service; she has also been awarded for her voluntary service by Falkirk Council.
Like many people, Marie volunteered on top of her regular job and raising her family. But when she retired, she decided she wouldn’t be taking it easy – she increased her volunteering, spending time with the Citizens Advice Bureau, Samaritans and with Falkirk Council on their numeracy and literacy courses.
“It was beautiful retiring,” she says. “It let me do the things I’d always wanted to do.” Like even more volunteering!
She then went on to help set up the Falkirk branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A), and while she’s no longer on the committee, she is still a member. “Looking back on it all, I’ve realised I’m a starter-upper,” she laughs. “I help set things up, groups and projects, and then when they’re strong and established, it’s time to move on to the next.”
And she can see the impact these projects and activities have had on her community; young people who were part of her play schemes years ago are now on the Archibald Russell Committee, because they saw the difference made by Marie and her fellow volunteers, and wanted to continue that.
Is this the kind of thing she set out to do as much as she did, why she started volunteering in the first place?
“I’ve thought about it, and I don’t think I could pin it down to any one reason. Volunteering has taught me a lot about myself, about what I’m good at. Like organising, like applying for funding.”
Now, she says, she says she gets pleasure from seeing people and projects set off on their own journeys, from helping them realise their potential. “Like I said, I’m a starter-upper.”
On top of that, she enjoys meeting the diverse ranges of people she gets to interact with, and keeping mentally active and engaged. “Volunteering helps me do that,” she agrees. From the gala all the way to the creation of an entirely new building.
When asked how she would describe the impact volunteering has had on her life, Marie laughs. Her daughter-in-law recently sent her a picture of their street, covered in bunting. “I made them help with so much bunting when they were young, it’s obviously left an impression!”
(Caption: a picture of multi-coloured bunting against blue sky with white clouds.)
It clearly has – one of her sons was a volunteer himself, and her husband was part of the Archibald Russell Centre committee with her.
But for Marie, it’s been something a lot simpler: “Volunteering’s allowed me to be part of the community in Dennyloanhead. I’m always meeting people who were part of something I’ve done before, and it’s always lovely.”
This Volunteers’ Week, why not find out how you can get involved with any of these groups, CVS Falkirk, or volunteering in Falkirk, by contacting our Volunteering Team by phone: 01324 692000, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org