This is not a normal year though, and my thoughts are with you all as together you fight this dreadful virus. I know the fear of infection is always with you and loneliness and isolation, financial hardship and boredom are symptoms of the lockdown. I wish you all God speed and good health in the months ahead.
Bernie Quinn, our first Chairperson and Cherry Dickson our first Co-ordinator are sadly no longer with us, but we remember them often.
Both were born conversationalists and shared a wonderful sense of humour, but equally they shared a single-minded seriousness of the job of work to be done to address the deprivation, loneliness and isolation in the community and the great need for volunteers to deliver through organised volunteering with built-in safeguards for volunteers.
I remember during the first few years I would be asked frequently, “I saw you come out of that volunteer place, what is a volunteer?” I would usually reply, “You are” and invariably they were.
Volunteering to many was something you were nominated for and would often say, ‘never volunteer for anything’ and the irony was many of those who made such comments were actually volunteers and didn’t know it.
Those first ten years were partly about creating awareness throughout communities and society in general that volunteering actually was as defined in the dictionary:
The choice to offer oneself for a particular task, of one’s own free will.
In many ways the last six to seven years saw the most expansion of volunteering and personally the construction of InVOLve House was most gratifying allowing the volunteer centre to move from Rainey Street to spacious new premises in Queen Street Magherafelt. We now had the scope and rooms to rent for our in-house projects such as ‘Carefully Yours’ which I enjoyed creating.
We also renovated a two thousand square foot building in Cookstown, at 2b Coagh Crescent. In both of these buildings we partner extensively with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust Day Opportunities Programme.
Finally, I know you are all missing volunteering, but when the virus is gone, we’ll meet again some sunny day.