Preston City Council is getting behind new organisation Preston Volunteers with £260,000 funding from the Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Funding.
At the height of the pandemic, so many people pulled together to help local people who may have been isolating or vulnerable. Others used their time volunteering with city organisations such as foodbanks or befriending charities. Following the additional national “Big Help Out” promoted by the Prince and Princess of Wales, it became apparent that so many people wanted to use their skills or spare time to help others.
The Council itself has a growing band of kind-hearted residents who support services by helping litter-pick, support work clubs, garden and run events in local parks or even act as eyes and ears for the dog wardens for example.
What was lacking is one cohesive group to bring together all this volunteering activity and volunteering requests and that’s where Preston Volunteers come in.
Councillor Mein, Cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing said: “Our volunteers are a great asset, and we are blessed in Preston with so many kind-hearted people who go above and beyond to help others.
‘’We know that for many volunteering can be a very fulfilling and even life-changing experience, but it’s not always clear where to look for opportunities. We wanted to help make it easier for people to make that difference in their community and Preston Volunteers can do just that – online and through its training courses and hub when that is launched. I’m in no doubt that Preston Volunteers will have a positive impact on the lives of many residents across Preston.”
The programme – part of the wider Community CVS organisation – is here to specifically support Preston charities and community groups to find and keep the volunteers they need, as well as encourage local people to consider volunteering for the first time. There’s a dedicate website in place where you can search for volunteering opportunities and sign up for roles and groups can register to get the volunteers they need.
It’s for the whole community and so easy to sign up. What is perhaps unexpected to the novice volunteer, is the sheer breadth and variety of roles available. People naturally think of caring or perhaps gardening or visiting the elderly, when it comes to volunteering, but there are lots of other ways you can use your skills to help others. Perhaps you are an amateur photographer or social media whizz who can help get a fledging charity off the ground or you play the piano and can spare an hour a week to brighten the lives of older people, or you have a passion for local history and would like to work as a greeter in a local historic hall?
If you would prefer to speak to someone face to face, the team will be at Preston Town Hall on Birley Street every Tuesday between 10 and 1pm – ask to speak to ‘Preston Volunteers’ when you come to reception. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll happily arrange another time to chat to you.
Additionally, the team will provide organisations with a three-day training course for volunteers every quarter. They will also be holding workshops on best practice, helping organisations and people who take on volunteers to develop policies and procedures to make their volunteer programme the best it can be. After the process you’ll get a digital ‘Valuing Volunteers’ Quality Mark to use on your website and publicity.
The Council is also helping refit a local building for the team to use for training and as a city-centre base at Unity Community Centre on Shepherd Street in the city centre. This will open to the public in Spring 2024.