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This blog is part of a series that celebrates the stories of the amazing Community Care Volunteers that have been supporting vulnerable people across Leeds during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read their stories and find out more about the people who have been uplifting their communities.
Ann Baker decided to become a Community Care Volunteer at Leeds Mencap, so she could help her community in which she is well known and also to stay busy during lockdown.
Ann discusses how COVID-19 has impacted her life and what volunteering means to her within her local area of Richmond Hill and Burmantofts.
What are your current circumstances and how has your work and home situation changed?
I live on site at the working men’s club, so on the Friday night when the working men’s club shut its doors for the last time because of lockdown, I realised straight away that I needed to be doing something.
I’m quite well known in the area and have lots of connections to other voluntary sector organisations. For example I would often let local charities such as Richmond Hill Elderly Action use our facilities and meeting rooms etc. I first met Maureen from Richmond Hill Elderly Action when she came in to the club and asked to leave some leaflets on the bar, it all went from there.
I offer free use of the room to the charity, and have also hosted other charity events such as Touchstone’s Christmas party. There was discussion between us about the importance of having good connections to local community where trust is already established.
Why did you decide to become a Community Care Volunteer?
I applied for the NHS volunteer scheme, and then I saw this one, so I thought I would apply for that as well - it all started really quickly after that.
What volunteer role are you doing? And what does this entail?
I help to coordinate the deliveries. I spend a lot of time just chatting to people as well - lots of our referrals are from people who are isolating and loneliness is a real problem.
What does a normal day as a Community Care Volunteer entail?
Adele prints the referrals then I help to ring people to ascertain their need, some referrals are referred to our partners that can specialise in some of the situations that people present. Mencap have good links with charities such as Richmond Hill Elderly Action, Learning Partnerships, ZARAC, St. Vincent’s, Touchstone and Hope Project.
How has volunteering during the COVID-19 crisis made you feel?
It’s in my nature to help. I have always known there was a lot of poverty in this ward and I was quite well prepared for it. Being part of the scheme has made me feel proud. A few weeks ago I was stood in the queue to do shopping for somebody and an older person called out to me - at first I was alarmed and I thought they were saying that I shouldn’t be in the queue or I was stood too close to someone! The person had recognised me as someone that was doing volunteer shopping and they said “you should go to the front of the queue”.
Have you had any previous experience as a volunteer?
No this is my first time.
What’s your message for anyone thinking about volunteering?
Definitely do it. When I go home and I know someone is in contact with another agency and has food and support, I think, I’ve done something today to make someone’s life a bit better.
Any other comments you’d like to make or add that you think would be interesting in relation to your story?
I have really enjoyed working at The Vinery Centre, I have really enjoyed working with Bernie, Adele, Caroline and Lynn.
I just want to make another comment about mental health. When you’re chatting to people on the phone they really do divulge quite a lot of personal information. It made me realise that people’s needs are complex, it’s not just about food, mental health issues, illness or children in poverty. I have learnt a lot from the job and it’s important that you prioritise the immediate needs but always ask if there’s anything else on top of that we can do to help people’s well-being.