Be inspired to help
TODAY the Evening Gazette launches Year Of The Volunteer - a major initiative aimed at highlighting and strengthening the local voluntary sector across Teesside.
A new strand of our Tees Pride campaign for 2009, we’re looking to put the work of local unsung heroes in the spotlight - and encourage more people to lend a hand to make our region a better place.
We want to hear from local voluntary groups, charity champions and fundraising organisations to showcase the enormous amount of work under way in our region.
By going on line at www.gazettelive.co.uk/teespride people can tell us all about their volunteering activities.
And we hope their inspiring stories will encourage others to follow suit.
In the weeks and months ahead, we hope to bring people together and really make a difference.
Year Of The Volunteer has already received Government backing.
Kevin Brennan, Minister for the Third Sector - which is responsible for charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises - today praised the Evening Gazette initiative and said it could be an example to the rest of the country.
“Volunteering is at the heart of every strong and happy community,” he said. “Making the effort to help someone out is a great thing. It helps make us all feel that we live somewhere where people care about each other.
“Volunteers get a lot out of the experience too, like learning new skills and making new friends.
“So I am really pleased that Tees Pride is campaigning for volunteering in 2009.”
Volunteering is high on the Government agenda. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Council for Social Action, set up within months of him taking office in 2007, ploughed an unexpected £3m of additional money into the voluntary sector at the end of 2008, topping up the £117m it had already pledged to nurture a next generation of volunteers by creating more than a million opportunities for young people to contribute to their communities.
The UK is already the best in Europe when it comes to putting up our hands to help.
And the North-east has a higher than average enthusiasm for volunteering.
Mr Brennan said a recent Government survey found more than 51% in the North-east became volunteers simply because it was fun - the highest level in the UK.
“I really hope that Tees Pride can build on this enthusiasm and be an example to the rest of the country,” he added.
Super-volunteer Jean Oliver holds positions within many of Stockton’s community groups.
She received an MBE for services to Stockton in May 2007 and is the treasurer of the Stockton town centre resident community forum, a street rep, and the vice-chair of the neighbourhood management pathfinder team.
The 78-year-old, from Petch Street, Stockton, who now requires a wheelchair, explained why she enjoys volunteering: “I have empowered myself and done a lot of things THAT I wouldn’t usually do.”
Jean says she would encourage anyone thinking about becoming a volunteer to get involved, saying: “I retired when I was 60 and did nothing for 10 years. In 2000 I got into the residents’ group that was it, I got drawn in.”
See today’s Tees Pride supplement for more details on Year Of The Volunteer. And log on to our website at www.gazettelive.co.uk/teespride and tell us your volunteering story.