Last Thursday (June 1) marked the beginning of National Volunteers’ Week, with plenty on offer to residents in West Dunbartonshire keen to do more with their time.
West Dunbartonshire Community and Volunteering Services (WDCVS) coordinate an army of volunteers each week - from befrienders to bike mechanics, and almost everything in between.
And Kathleen McCulloch, volunteer coordinator at WDCVS, hopes that others will follow in her footsteps - and discover the benefits to voluntary work.
She told the Lennox: “I used to volunteer and it’s a great way of getting back out, learning new skills and building your confidence if you’re looking for employment.
“I had a gap in my CV and volunteering was great for getting my confidence back.
“Even if you aren’t looking for employment it can be a great way for someone feeling lonely and isolated to meet new people.
“Personally, volunteering was great for me. I had always been working, took a break and didn’t know where to go.
“I needed to build up my confidence, skills and meet new people.
“I found the benefits of volunteering fantastic.
“It helped with employment because I had a reference for a future employer as well.
“Since then I’ve found out that, without volunteers, a lot of clubs and groups wouldn’t be able to run.
“So everyone involved deserves a massive thank you for making West Dunbartonshire a better place.
“Volunteering is a big thing for me. I love seeing all different people coming in to volunteer.
“You meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet.
“You could pick an opportunity that you haven’t thought about.
“It allows you to try something different that your skills are necessarily in.”
A range of roles are on offer, with WDCVS working to make sure anyone keen to make a difference can find their ideal opportunity.
“We have things like health walks and charity shops. We have admin work, bike mechanics which is a relatively new one we’re looking for,” Kathleen said.
“We’re looking for people in customer service and victim support, which is a really rewarding one supporting people when they are attending court.
“We have opportunities for people wanting to volunteer online rather than face-to-face.
“We’re always looking for befrienders which can be a really good opportunity either face-to-face or on the telephone.
“We want to break out from the mindset that volunteering is solely things like charity shops.
“We want to let people know that there are so many opportunities out there.
“We will never send someone away because we don’t have an opportunity, we’ll always try to find something that they’ll enjoy that fits in with their hobbies and interests.”
Voluntary work is vital, but the numbers of those involved have dropped since the pandemic - with key services and clubs risking closure without people giving their time for free.
Kathleen explained: “Throughout Covid volunteers were brilliant and really stepped up.
“But as we’ve moved back to a more ‘normal’ life it’s harder for people to make the time.
“Time is limited for people. And that’s not just locally, that’s all over Scotland.
“Which is why we’re looking to use volunteers week to reach out and help more people to get involved.
“Last year around a third of adults in West Dunbartonshire were volunteers in some shape or form.
“That could be informal and just going along and helping at a litter pick.
“Or it could be giving an organisation regular hours each week. Every single role makes a difference.”
Margaret Miller – Volunteer Walk Leader
I was a member of a ladies’ group when local Health Walk coordinator Daren Borzynski came to do a presentation on the benefits of walking.
It got me thinking and I decided to become a volunteer walk leader.
I took part in the Paths for All walk leader training and helped set up a walk near to where I live.
It’s important that walks are close to where people live so that they don’t need to travel far to get involved.
It wasn’t long before walkers came along and it’s great to see the number of walkers who have been with us from the start.
I’ve enjoyed meeting lots of new people and having a blether while keeping active on the walk.
Getting people out is important after the last few years we’ve all been through, when some people have been more isolated than before.
It’s great to have a walking group that people can come along to and feel part of.
Volunteering isn’t new to me. Years back, I volunteered with an out of school care group for many years.
I got involved because my daughter went along to the group but it was something I was interested in too.
I see that as one of my best achievements in volunteering.
Helping set up an out of school care group helped a number of local families, particularly single parent families.
I feel that it set something in motion for other out of school care groups across the authority.
I’ve been doing the health and social walks for seven years now, and I’d like to say a big thanks to the walkers that join us every week in all weathers.
It really is a two-way street.
Seeing everyone out walking is my motivation for being there every Monday morning, too. Everyone should give volunteering a try.
Shirley Reilly - Befriending and Office Admin Volunteer
I was working in the Vale of Leven Hospital, and noticed an advert for befriending, and I thought it was something that I would really like to do.
I contacted West Dunbartonshire CVS to find out more and became part of the team and I’ve been there for seven years now.
It was a very easy process to get involved.
My meeting with the befriending coordinator was relaxed and we chatted about what I wanted to get from volunteering and what my interests were.
This is important as befrienders and befriendees are matched around the things we have in common and our similar interests.
It wasn’t long until I was matched up and got started.
I really enjoy time with my befriendee, knowing that they benefit from my calls and that we both enjoy our time together.
I also give some time to volunteer in the office, helping out with some admin tasks.
This has helped me build my IT skills, and the staff at WDCVS have been really supportive.
Volunteering has given me confidence to go out more and overcome my shyness.
It’s been an amazing journey for me.
I am happy to try new things now where I wouldn’t have been in the past.
I was recently talking to someone who said they didn’t have much to fill her time.
I was happy to tell her about my volunteering, and I hope she will take the step to get involved too.