Value of volunteers

Royal Voluntary Service runs a home delivery service for Enfield libraries

Frances Button meets some of the people who have helped Enfield charities keep going in a difficult year

Meandering around Enfield Town nowadays, it becomes apparent how events since early March have impacted on businesses. It isn’t unusual to see empty shops.

One sector that has been really hit hard is the charity and voluntary sector; many of those closed businesses are charity shops.

Some have managed to keep going, however, and during lockdown one could see an industrious volunteer working hard at Life in the Town, a shop raising funds for The Learning for Life Charity in partnership with West Lea, a local special school. The shop is now open again and the window display shows a tempting array of goods and furniture.

Klasp, a parent-run charity that provides advocacy support, speaking on behalf of those with learning disabilities when parents are no longer able to, has two shops in Church Street. While lockdown stopped renovations in one shop (mainly furniture), the other one kept going and footfall has increased, despite the challenge of having fewer volunteers able to come in.

When I visited, an elegant Danish nest of tables by designer Kai Kristiansen took centre stage in the window display. Klasp’s assistant manager, Emmanuel, told me that donations can bring some valuable surprises and, to honour their contributors, staff are careful to value donations appropriately.

Given that shop volunteers are often people aged in their 60s and above, recruiting volunteers has been a challenge, because many in this age group have been shielding. The Royal Voluntary Service runs a home delivery service from Enfield borough libraries, for those who are housebound, and demand escalated in lockdown. But a lack of available volunteers meant alternative ways had to be found to facilitate these requests.

Enfield Home Library Service is currently looking to hire ten contingency book delivery drivers for autumn/winter to assist in the event of a lockdown scenario that requires over-70s volunteers to go back into isolation. The role would require the delivery of bags of books to up to ten different residences, every four weeks.

You may not be aware of the lengths volunteers have gone to at Royal Free Radio to continue broadcasting to Chase Farm Hospital patients during the pandemic. John Smeeton and his fellow presenters have kept going through a mixture of recording from home, Skype, and eventually going back into the studio on their own to present. John is hoping to be able to get back into the studio soon to continue making his programme, Sundowners, which is particularly popular with Alzheimer’s patients and their carers. It features a compilation of music related to national events from the 1950s and 1960s.

It is clear that the giving and compassionate nature of volunteers, and their ability to think laterally and find a way around the challenges of the last few months, has greatly helped communities in Enfield during the pandemic. It seems that the cliché is true; where there is will, there’s a way.

If you are interested in volunteering with Enfield Home Library Service:
Email [email protected]