Volunteers thanked for making real difference in Southwick

published on 5 Jun 2024

Volunteers in Southwick

Volunteers at a Salvation Army community centre who are encouraged to ‘make a difference’ have been thanked for their support to mark Volunteers’ Week. 

Austin House Family Centre, which is at the heart of Southwick in Sunderland, runs a number of activities including after school groups, lunch clubs, fitness classes, CAMEO (come and meet each other), an Employment Plus service to help people find and stay in work, cookery classes and much more. Each Friday, it also hosts The Bread and Butter Thing, which provides discounted food items. 

People who come to activities or access support are encouraged to volunteer, not only to give something back to the community but to help improve their own confidence and skills. 

Graham Wharton, Community Manager at the Shakespeare Street centre, said: “We find that people come here each day of the week for a bit of company, some food or they might bring their kids to the after school activities, so we try to encourage them to help out where they can. It’s not only about giving back to the community and helping us keep activities running but volunteering has so many benefits for physical and mental health. 

Brian from Southwick
Volunteer Brian

“Our attitude here is you have to be ‘mad’ and ‘make a difference’. It does ‘make a difference’ not only because having volunteers allows us to offer more classes or more activities, but it also makes a difference to people’s lives in that it gives them a sense of purpose, builds confidence and improves self-esteem. 

“This Volunteers’ Week we do want to say thank you to all that the people who come and give their time and help out, please keep doing what you are doing as you are what makes our community so special.” 

Volunteer Brian, 75, has been helping out since 2017, first of all with the Christmas Present Appeal and he now drives a van to pick up and deliver food donations. He also picks up elderly and disabled people to bring them to the lunch club and CAMEO groups, which helps tackle isolation.

Brian said: “I’m here three days a week, mostly in the van but I also cover reception, help in the food bank or do the washing up. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty! 

I enjoy it, I meet people and I’m able to, in small way, help them.
Volunteer Brian

“On a Thursday I drive the van to pick people up and bring them to the lunch club. I know for at least two of the ladies, before we did this they only went out once a week, but now they come here three days. 

“I enjoy it, I meet people and I’m able to, in small way, help them. I lost my wife, so it gets me out of the house and gives me something to do instead of sitting and vegetating. It’s a routine for me. I most definitely get the sense I’m helping people, we have good conversations and share things, I try and make them laugh and bring a smile to people’s faces.” 

Alvin, Margaret and Norman, met in the café and now volunteer at The Bread and Butter Thing each Friday helping to sort and pack food parcels. 

Alvin said: “It’s fun. We have our roles, there’s usually three on one side packing the fruit and veg, and three on the other packing the cupboard stuff. We do it for the enjoyment and for the chance to mix with people.” 

Graham Wharton Southwick
Community manager Graham

Margaret said: “I come in four days a week, Tuesday lunch club, CAMEO on a Wednesday then on a Thursday I help serve lunches in the café. On Friday I help with bag packing. I’m on my own so I like coming up here because there’s loads of people I can get on with. On a Friday I speak to people when they are queuing for their bags, everyone talks to us now, and knows my name, it’s great. Without it I would be on my own in my house.” 

Norman added: “It gets you out the house, so you’re not sitting looking at four walls all day. You meet new people and you are giving something back to the community.” 

Bethany has been coming to Austin House for years and now brings her daughter to the after school club, which she also helps out at, as well as at The Bread and Butter Thing. 

She said: “We help run activities, arts and crafts, football. I like it because it’s something to do and I enjoy it. I feel like I’m giving back. We do it twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays and in school holidays we take them out on trips to soft play or to a farm and we host a community day outside. We do lots of different things. It helps with giving kids something to do in the holidays and gives parents a bit of a break too.” 

For more information on Austin House visit their website or search for them on Facebook. 

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