It’s Volunteers' Week and this year we’d like to focus not only on the amazing work our volunteers do but also on what volunteering does for people’s self-esteem and personal development.

In 2018, our volunteers dedicated an astounding 10,400 hours of their time to helping us out, the equivalent of six extra full-time members of staff. That kind of support makes an immense difference to us and the communities we serve.

Read about Clara's experience at St Albans 

Read about Sandra's work in the charity shop 

Find out what Ally does in our creche 

Read about Jackie's time in our children's charity shop

Find out about Lynne's responsibilities on reception

Discover the reasons David volunteers 


What do our volunteers mean to us?

Adrienne, Chief Executive:

“Volunteers are the unsung heroes of any charity and The Living Room’s are some of the hardest-working, kindest people I know. Our volunteers make a massive contribution to so many areas of our work from running our charity shops, looking after the children in our crèches, ensuring there’s a friendly face on reception or supporting the back-office staff to keep the centres running smoothly.

Mark, Fundraising and Marketing Manager:

“Without our volunteers, many of The Living Room’s fundraising events simply wouldn’t happen. We rely on them for everything from sourcing raffle ticket prizes, through selling refreshments at our events, to managing whole fundraising projects. As well as helping us to raise thousands of pounds, our volunteers put on events that help to unite our community - their contribution is priceless.”

Katie, Happy Days Crèche Manager:

“We cannot speak highly enough about the volunteers who help us out in the crèche. Our volunteers are a massive asset to the work we do with our children and we are eternally grateful to them for their hard work and the dedication they have. Our volunteers are a pleasure to work with, always arriving with a warm smile on their face and oozing with enthusiasm. Some of the many jobs our volunteers do include helping to put display work up, being a play partner to our children, tidying the cupboards out, helping out on trips to the park, reading stories and singing with the children. We are so thankful to our volunteers who help us out during the school holidays when we are especially busy in crèche. The staff, children and parents all appreciate our volunteers so much and we always look forward to seeing them every holiday. Volunteers are awesome, volunteers are wonderful, volunteers are special but most of all volunteers are our amazing support network.”

Ann, St Albans Centre Manager:

“Our volunteers are always reliable and supportive, give great comfort to our clients and take some of the pressure off our team. They bring us fresh ideas every day and are always keen to learn new things. We wouldn't survive without them. Thank you all!”

Debbie, Lead Counsellor at St Albans:

“Our Peer Mentors offer moral support to clients and encourage them to go to meetings. We couldn’t keep the service running without our volunteers.”


What does volunteering mean to them?

Clara*, Administrator at St Albans:

“About 3 years ago I found myself unemployed and feeling a bit low about life, my daughter suggested that I find some volunteering work, so I went to the Council offices where they have a volunteer desk, I was handed two possible suggestions one of them being The Living Room, after an interview with Ann Green the Centre Manager and subsequent checks done I was invited to join them.

The Centre helps people with Drug, Alcohol, Eating Disorders, Sex and Love addiction and also helps families of the people affected by this, my role is on Reception and Administration, I have found volunteering to be very rewarding in learning new things and understanding how life can change in the click of finger not always for the good, volunteering has helped me with my confidence and the staff are so lovely and caring.

I now realise how vulnerable we can all be at certain times in our lives, I am working now and I am a Beauty Therapist which is completely different to The Living Room, I find the contrast of the two things keeps my feet firmly on the ground.

Volunteering at The Living Room has been great, lots of lovely kind caring staff who are fantastic at their jobs, many of the counsellors are past addicts who have overcome their addictions to build a meaningful life in helping other people with their addictions, which gives clients hope knowing that addiction can be overcome, it is so gratifying to see so many people being helped at their lowest time. I always look forward to going to The Living Room every week.

I would recommend volunteering to everyone, just give it a try. I did and I can’t ever imagine not doing it!”

Sandra*, Charity Shop Volunteer:

“I volunteer in the charity shops. I tag clothes, sort charity stuff out, check that the clothes have no damage and are clean, make sure crockery is not damaged and is suitable for selling and sometimes I use the till and get to meet the customers. I find this great for me as I find it hard to speak to people I don’t know. I find this job fun and also I’ve learnt a lot – the people I work with are very welcoming and I look forward to coming in. I used to be a client at The Living Room and think it’s nice that I can give back in some way.“

Ally, Creche volunteer:

"I decided to volunteer here when I had just started my A levels to help me gain valuable experience working with vulnerable adults and children as part of the journey to starting my degree in midwifery. The crèche is absolutely fantastic in supporting me through the long journey and I love every minute of volunteering as part of the team. The crèche has taught me to use sensitivity and kindness in everything we do, which has proved invaluable in my current degree and in life towards others. I would recommend volunteering here to anyone wishing to develop skills towards childcare/ health and social care. Even just to volunteer here as part of developing yourself, knowing that you will be supported all the way by the fantastic members of staff. I just want to say thank you to all of the crèche team who have looked after me so well and the rest of the team at Stevenage who are always up for a nice catch up and really care about their volunteers. I’ve loved every minute and look forward to coming back when I can to help out.”

Jackie, Childrens Charity Shop:

I first came to volunteer in the children’s charity shop when I worked part-time and wanted to give some time to a local cause. I chose The Living Room as I had heard about them through fund raising efforts at the school where I worked, I also wanted to support a local charity as opposed to a national one.

Seven years on am I am still there, also now in the capacity of relief manager for both Stevenage shops. It has been uplifting to see the charity grow in strength and popularity. I enjoy volunteering and have made many friends. I’ve got to know members of the public and also clients and ex-clients of The Living Room. I have had an insight as to how addiction can affect families and friends and appreciate the great work they offer in way of support for families and recovery of clients. I also help run social media for the charity by promoting the shops, fundraisers and stories, this is a great way of spreading the good work they do.“

Lynne, Admin and Receptionist:

Retiring a couple of years ago with time on my hands, and wanting to be of some use in the community to a local charity/organisation, I volunteered at a Women’s Centre that sadly closed 18 months later. Looking around for another charity, I applied for the role as Administrator/ Receptionist at The Living Room and have been working here for six months. 

I sit at the reception desk so I am the first person visitors see, which I’m very aware of. I answer the phone, book appointments over the phone for clients who are new or returning, scan documents and enter the scanned copy against the client records, manually record counsellor visits for appropriate clients, carry out ad hoc typing and any other odd jobs that help bring client’s records up to date.  

Volunteering at The Living Room has made me re-evaluate my approach to many things, particularly addiction. It has also given me a timestamp for my week (something to look forward to), continuing stimulation and interaction with others. I believe I make a contribution – in a small way – which in turn gives me satisfaction that my time is well spent.  

I’d recommend volunteering at The Living Room whatever an individual’s goal is. Where it might be a pre-cursor to taking full time employment, volunteering here gives a good indication of how a job should be structured as the organisation is run in a very efficient way. Training is constantly offered and progress checked. Volunteering at The Living Room on an altruistic basis brings rewards of a different kind – the hope that you can make a difference to someone’s life. 

Although my role here at The Living Room is ostensibly the same as it was in my first position at the Women’s Centre, the two organisations could not be further apart in the way they are run. Where the previous role was very informal and relied on self-discipline, my role here at The Living Room has a much more ‘serious’ feel about it. I feel I have responsibilities and that in turn makes me want to do my best to take some of the workload of the permanent members of staff – who are always so appreciative of any help or task I do.“

David*, Charity Shop Volunteer:

“As an ex-Living Room client I have had the fortune of the charity saving my life. Through 8 months of free therapy they allowed me to begin my life drug-free. I volunteer at The Living Room charity shop to give back to the charity. Volunteering gives me self-worth and structure. I would recommend volunteering there because you are supporting a local charity that saves lives.“

 

*name changed to protect person’s identity