John Durkin - Volunteer Coordinator for Abbeyfield The Dales

John Durkin joined our Abbeyfield family as a volunteer.  After his mother moved into a care home in her local area, John found that he wanted to do more for her but was unable to due to distance.  Consequently, he sought out a volunteering role in his local area and started volunteering at The Beeches, which is run by Abbeyfield The Dales.

He quickly moved into a Volunteer Co-ordinator role and became a member of staff. John has relished his new role and with 35 years of working in a bank he brought with him his management and people skills which easily transferred.

“Working here is a pleasure and the support I have received from staff, residents and volunteers has been excellent.”

Since starting the role, his initial focus has been on managing and maintaining the high level of volunteers that already existed across the society. Specifically at the The Beeches and Grove House, two of The Dales largest sites, regular contact is made with existing volunteers either by email, letter or face to face when they are visiting the properties. Volunteer numbers stand at an extremely healthy level of about forty for each sites.

volunteering at abbeyfield the dales thank you message board

“It is all about making sure the volunteer feels valued. The volunteers we have are extremely generous people who make a real difference and to recruit and retain them we need to open up that two-way conversation so their ideas are heard and they feel part of our community.”

During this year’s Volunteers’ Week, numerous events were held to celebrate existing volunteers, to introduce new people to Abbeyfield and to provide potential volunteers with information and first hand accounts from our volunteers about what they do.

There were volunteer celebrations in each house. Notice boards were filled with pictures of the volunteers in action alongside ‘Thank You’ messages from the management, staff and residents. Get-togethers were organised so that all the volunteers had a chance to meet up as they often come to the properties on different days and don’t get the chance to see each other. At these events, each volunteer was given the opportunity to bring a friend who might be interested in volunteering.

volunteering bring a friend sessions at abbeyfieldThis ‘bring a friend’ idea was deliberately approached on a low level and no pressure was put on the visitors to do anything. They were offered the Abbeyfield printed resources aimed at recruiting volunteers including the ‘Little Book of Making Time’ and details of how to get in touch in case they wished to progress.

“The seed was planted in our existing volunteers minds to find new volunteers themselves. It was more successful than we expected and we had about seven potential volunteers who wanted to proceed and arrange interviews.”

Abbeyfield The Dales have recently brought two existing sites in Skipton and Halifax into the society and neither had any volunteers. Having initially concentrated on reaching a healthy volunteering environment in its other homes, John has moved his attention to these.

“It is important to think innovatively and make community connections when starting at the beginning. Networking and raising our local profile is key.”

John spent time speaking with staff, residents and family members to find out what volunteer roles would be beneficial. From this, he has approached the volunteer centre, the local NHS trust, the Soroptimist group and other community groups in the area. A stand was also taken at the local Tesco for a couple of days where numerous volunteering resources and a ‘Volunteer With Us’ banner were displayed. This was a prime spot to engage members of the public and to talk with them about Abbeyfield, what we offer and how they can help make a difference.

“I recognise that volunteering is finding the right individual for the individual role and that no one size fits all. The houses are different and the areas are different.”

It is John’s no pressure and ‘seed planting’ approach that seems to seek out people who are truly committed to making a difference and come forward. With numerous people expressing an interest, it will not take long for there to be a healthy volunteering atmosphere across all the sites within Abbeyfield The Dales.

This good practice approach to volunteering that we can see at Abbeyfield The Dales is key to the Abbeyfield ethos. Volunteers help to alleviate loneliness and can enhance the lives of all our residents in many different ways and this is why they are so important to us.



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