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This year Leeds City Council signed up for a Month of Volunteering, which ran from Monday 11 May until Sunday 7 June.
In my role I was involved in organising the month’s activities. Through the events and volunteering days in the month over 70 LCC employees volunteered over 400 hours of staff time, and over 40 third sector organisations benefited. And this is just what we know of, as many staff regularly volunteer outside of work. The aims for the Month of Volunteering were to increase awareness of the benefits of volunteering for LCC employees, while at the same time providing a valuable resource to third sector organisations across the city.
The Corporate Leadership Team (CLT) volunteering challenges led the way, with Directors of each Council Directorate and a group of their staff volunteering at separate locations. The hope is that this message will be spread to the middle managers across LCC as a result.
Some of the Stories
The first team to kick off the volunteering activities was a team from Welfare and Benefits, who spent a day at FareShare in Cross Green. FareShare save good food destined for waste and send it to charities and community groups who transform it into nutritious meals for vulnerable people.
Staff dutifully unpacked and sorted four massive crates of delivered food. The hard work and conscientiousness of the volunteers was great to see and was a good omen for the month ahead. Equally remarkable was how popular out of date Wotsits and chocolate advent calendars were among the council employees! It’s really encouraging to see that a strong relationship has been built up between FareShare and the Council and three more teams of staff will be volunteering there over the next two months.
The physical gardening, maintenance and painting activities were popular with council volunteers. There were gardening and maintenance team activities at Post Hill in Pudsey, at Stank Hall Barn in Beeston and at Meanwood Valley Urban Farm. These sites are an important historical part of the landscape in Leeds that ought to be given the attention they deserve.
On Wednesday 13 May, a team of staff, including Director of City Development, Martin Farrington, volunteered their time at the historic Stank Hall with the Friends of Stank Hall Barn charity. The Barn is one of the oldest secular buildings in Leeds and one of the highlights of the day was LCC employee, Cluny MacPherson, coming across an archaeological find while doing the gardening.
The day Legal Services, including Director Catherine Witham, spent at Meanwood Valley Urban Farm was the most physically active day. The team spent the day clearing a large patch of land to make it suitable for planting purposes. The team also came up with the ingenious idea of bringing a radio with them, something that other teams commented that they should have done, helped to make light of their hard graft.
Meanwhile at Post Hill Park in Pudsey, the public and private sector came together with a team from Asda (coordinated by VAL’s Sonja) and the Council’s Public Health Directorate, including Director Ian Cameron, volunteering together to do a few hours of Himalayan balsam bashing. The teams also installed a bench that was donated as a memorial to all those who lost their lives in WWI.
The Benefits to Local Organisations
All the charities involved in hosting staff were extremely grateful to volunteers for the time taken to carry out tasks, and were impressed with their positive attitude and work ethic. Painting and decorating was done by teams with Canopy Housing Project at a derelict property in Beeston and with Royal Voluntary Service at Meanwood Community Centre. The house in Beeston was being decorated so a client could move into it just a couple of weeks later. Meanwhile Meanwood Community Centre is used by countless community groups, such as Meanwood Elderly Neighbourhood Action, who had been crying out for a facelift for the building.
A Unique Volunteering Opportunity
One of the more unique volunteering days took place at the newly opened Google Digital Garage at Clarence Dock. The event brought together students from Little London Primary School and elderly people from AGE UK’s Silver Surfers programme to learn how to create games and animations under the guidance of Code Club volunteers from Leeds-based company the Test People, LCC Apprentices and Chief Executive himself, Tom Riordan. One of the aims of the event was to pass on skills to the Silver Surfers so they would have a better understanding of what their grandchildren are studying in school.
Elected Members Volunteered too!
It wasn’t just council staff who volunteered during the month, as Councillor Asghar Khan flew the flag in his Ward. Cllr Khan donned an apron and hairnet and volunteered at two social clubs for the elderly, Burmantofts Senior Action and Richmond Hill Elderly Action. The regulars at the social clubs really appreciated seeing the Councillor getting stuck in (and he brought them some decent prizes for the raffle!)
Employer Support Volunteering is Catching On!
It seems that the benefits of employee volunteering are catching on and LCC staff are continuing to volunteer in charities and community groups across the city.
Recently, a team from Adult Social Care had a great time helping out at the Leeds Irish Health and Homes Tea Dance for the elderly, while other teams will be volunteering at Lineham Farm, The Real Junk Food Project and FareShare over the summer months. Long may this employee volunteering continue!