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“It’s time to say thank you to volunteers”

7th September 2020

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by Mark Lever, CEO at Helpforce

As chief executive of Helpforce, a charity on a mission to accelerate and grow the impact of volunteering to improve the lives of healthcare staff, patients and communities of volunteering, I have had the privilege of witnessing the impact volunteering has in our healthcare system, before and during the pandemic.

For me, volunteers are unsung heroes. They spring into action as soon as their community needs help. They are not as visible on the frontline as doctors or nurses, but they are there doing all they can in the background to support the system. They are the ones who continually replenish food and drinks supplies so that hospital staff can quickly recharge, getting ready for their next shifts. They are the ones who take time with patients in the hospital, helping them use tablets so that they can communicate with their loved ones as visitors are not yet allowed to come in. Michael Garner, a volunteer at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, explained why he volunteered: “Firstly I am supporting my local community in Seaton Sluice, shopping on a weekly basis for people who are unable to do so themselves. I also provide support to a local GP practice and finally I am helping to pack and deliver welfare boxes to all frontline personnel within the NHS as well as other out post environments that require aid during these hard times. I enjoy supporting and meeting people, knowing I am helping to make a difference to people and their lives.”

The fact that three quarters of a million people in the UK stepped up to be NHS volunteer responders really showed that the spirit of volunteerism is very much alive in our society today. We need to continue to nurture that spirit by recognising the support of volunteers, like Michael, in one way or another.

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Since Helpforce launched the Big Thank You campaign in July, which aims to acknowledge all the brave volunteers who have given, and still give, so much to help staff, patients and our communities, we have received many inspiring and emotional stories of how volunteers having gone the extra mile to support patients and staff and of those people who stepped up to do whatever they can during the peak of the outbreak. They will surely be featured on the Wall of Fame on the Helpforce website from 2nd November 2020, so that more people can be inspired by their stories. I’m so delighted that, with the support from Boden, we will be able to give out free goodie bags to twelve lucky volunteers, who will be randomly selected.

But I know there are thousands more individuals and volunteering teams who have touched so many lives this year and I hope that you will agree with me, they too deserve a big thank you. So if you know a volunteer, a volunteering team or project, or staff who champion volunteers, and you want to show them how much you appreciate their support, please send their stories to .

By taking your time to share their stories, you are showing to them that their kindness and compassion won’t go unnoticed, that what they do makes a difference, as Gary Thomas, our winner of Volunteer of the Year 2019, said: “I am humbled to have received national recognition for the work that I do. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my life. I really hope that this year, more people are recognised for their dedication to our healthcare. The NHS is full of remarkable people; I know there are many volunteers and teams that deserve to be recognised for their tremendous contribution to patients’ health and wellbeing and I know being nominated would mean the world to them because it does to me.”

Anyone can nominate for the Big Thank You. The categories are:

  • Outstanding innovation and responding to Covid19
  • Encouraging Inclusion & Diversity
  • Going the extra mile
  • Teamwork and bringing people together

To learn more about the categories and tips to write up the submissions, please visit .

Deadline for submission is 15th September 2020.