This week (1st to 7th June) is Volunteers’ Week, which celebrates the huge contribution made to society by volunteers across the UK.
Here in County Durham, the council has taken this opportunity to say a massive ‘thank you’ to all the volunteers who work so hard to improve the physical, social and mental wellbeing of the county’s residents.
A series of council-organised events have been put on to show appreciation to all those who have given up their time to help their communities.
Those who organise the Couch to 5K running courses and lead 11 running clubs across the county were the first to be recognised, in a celebratory get-together after a regular Park Run in Hardwick Park.
Next to be thanked were the volunteers who organise walking and cycling events. The council put on group walks and bike rides for them around Hamsterley Forest, led by council staff.
These volunteers have put on a free weekly programme of 28 different walks and 15 different bike rides across the county.
Pete Sixsmith, 68, from Shildon, has been a volunteer walk leader for three years.
Pete said, ““I really enjoy the exercise and now that I’m retired it gives me a focus for the week.”
“I first started walking when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and was overweight – it has given me a new lease of life. I feel fitter and have lost four-and-a-half stone.”
“I enjoy leading walks as it gives me a chance to get out and about and some of the scenery is wonderful.”
“I have really enjoyed today’s celebration event. It’s lovely to be recognised for the work that we do and to meet fellow walk leaders. I would also like to say thank you to the council staff for always being helpful and supportive.”
Other events throughout the week have been celebrating volunteers from Killhope Lead Mining Museum and the Durham Light Infantry Collection, as well as festival volunteers and volunteers connected with countryside, leisure and library services.
Durham County Council’s volunteer and skills manager, Julie Lavery, said, “Volunteers are hugely important to us.”
“From our exciting one-off festivals to craft sessions and storytelling in libraries, we just couldn’t run the fantastic range of events and activities we offer without the generous people who give their time to help.”
“We have over 2,000 volunteers helping in all sorts of roles, leading our running, walking and cycling groups, volunteering in our museums and leisure centres, delivering library books to people with mobility problems, keeping our parks and countryside looking their best and much, much more.”
“Events like these are an opportunity for us to let volunteers know how much their hard work means and what a vital contribution they make.”
If you are interested in joining your local running, walking or cycling group, please visit https://www.durham.gov.uk/leisure or telephone 03000 266 55.
For more information about volunteering – which can be a great way to meet people, have fun and gain new skills – please go to https://www.durham.gov.uk/volunteering.
There will also be a Volunteers’ Week event in Durham City Market Place today (Friday 7th June) from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm.
In addition, Durham County Council are looking for volunteers to help with the running of the spectacular Lumiere light festival this autumn. You can learn more about this opportunity at https://www.durham.gov.uk/festivalmaker.
(This article’s main image shows cycling volunteers at an event in Hamsterley Forest.)