Resident volunteering – a great way to give back
“Volunteering has helped me with my confidence and made me feel useful again.”
Abbeyfield is an organisation built on the goodwill of thousands of volunteers, dating right back to our founder and first volunteer, Richard Carr-Gomm.
As well as being a great place for people to learn new skills, forge new relationships and give back to one’s community, Abbeyfield houses and homes also benefit from a number of resident volunteers who take the opportunity to make a difference to their home.
Two Abbeyfield houses – Poplar Lodge, a sheltered housing scheme in Bembridge, and Burnham Court, an independent living complex in Malmesbury – share great examples of the work of their resident volunteers.
Poplar Lodge recently held a special event to thank their volunteers, attended by residents, staff, family and friends.
The house dedicated its annual barbeque to the people who give their time to maintain the high standard of activities and entertainment that enhance the lives of its residents.
Phil Hanafin, a resident who also volunteers, organised the barbeque and quiz and sourced the prizes from local businesses. With the help of staff, other residents and their families, Phil’s event was greatly enjoyed by the 34 guests.
Phil was surprised that his fellow residents had organised a small gift for him, to thank him for all his volunteering at Poplar Lodge since February 2022.
Phil says, “I worked for the NHS for 35 years, so I think caring about people is in my blood.
“Volunteering is a fantastic way of giving back. It has also helped me with my confidence and self-esteem, and has made me feel useful again.”
Phil was assisted at the event by a resident’s brother-in-law, Martyn, who ran the barbeque, and the house staff, who prepared and served the food and drinks.
“The staff were fantastic – as usual!”, Phil continued. “I think it’s about working together. Staff, volunteers, residents and their family and friends are what makes these events work so well, and guests often ask me when our next affair is!”
Lesley Dunkley, one of his fellow residents said, “Phil has always been willing to help here. He offered to be a volunteer and I know thoroughly enjoys doing it. One of my guests couldn’t thank us enough for another fabulous afternoon.”
Lesley herself also had a large hand in the event. A keen gardener, she ensured that the garden looked its best, and has been planting and tending to the vegetables that were barbequed.
Phil said “Lesley has been a great help with all her hard work in the garden, which looked fabulous for the barbeque.”
Lois Rogers, Sheltered Housing Manager, said, “Phil has been with us for five-and-a-half years and volunteering for around 18 months. His 'can-do' attitude has seen him go from strength to strength, and his outgoing personality and sense of humour makes him popular with staff and residents. It's great to see how much he enjoys volunteering.”
Ena and Sheila, both in their 90’s and residents of Burnham Court for five years, organise the Sunday bingo sessions for their fellow residents, which has been a weekly feature of the activities schedule since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ena says, “One Sunday, a group of residents sat in the lounge at a loose end during the pandemic. My granddaughter had given me a bingo set, so I decided to get it out and run a game. It took off from then and it is now a regular fixture. It keeps me out of mischief for an hour!”
Sheila assists Ena with the bingo event, making sure that people who are less able and have hearing impairments are able to fully participate and join in the fun. Both Sheila and Ena also assist regularly with other events and activities around the house, and especially enjoy helping with the summer garden parties and barbeques.
Jen, 83, runs a weekly coffee morning on Thursdays, as well as lending a hand with other activities and occasionally on the reception desk.
Jen says, “Volunteering gives me something to do. Burnham Court is independent living and the staff can’t always do things for us. It is good to have a few people who like helping out and it is far better for your mental health than staying in your flat.
“I particularly enjoy the coffee mornings – we have a good laugh and everyone seems to enjoy it.”
Hazel, 95, makes sure her fellow residents and visitors can enjoy the house’s garden at its best. You can regularly find her planting new seeds and watering the plants.
“The courtyard is a lovely little space,” says Hazel, “full of colour and a nice place to sit and enjoy the sunshine. I like to see other people sitting out there and enjoying it.”
Gil Anies, Operations Manager at Burnham Court, greatly appreciates the amazing contribution of her resident volunteers.
She says, “For the volunteers, age is no a barrier to doing things they love and that they can still help others. It’s really nice to see their happy faces every time we have a successful event and I think that sense of achievement matters a lot to them.
Are you an Abbeyfield resident who wants to find out more?
If you are a resident who would like to give back to your house or home, speak to a member of staff about becoming a volunteer. There are plenty of goings-on that would benefit from an extra pair of hands, or feel free to suggest your own ideas for how you could bring something extra to your fellow residents.