Launch of Kent Coast Volunteering – and a bags on tour exhibition

Kent Coast Volunteering

A new, combined service was launched today (February 13) bringing together volunteer centres with more than 100 years experience across three Kent districts.

The arrival of Kent Coast Volunteering (KCV) was celebrated with Deputy Lord Lieutenant Paul Auston, representing the Lieutenancy of Kent, dignitaries, councillors and volunteer centre staff and volunteers from Thanet, Folkestone and Hythe and Dover District.

The new service is made up of Thanet Volunteer Bureau, Shepway Volunteer Centre and Dover District Volunteering Centre. The three centres have been renamed the Thanet, Folkestone and Hythe and Dover District Hubs.

KCV offers a befriending scheme, which matches isolated older people with volunteers for activities including social visits, shopping and dog walking, a volunteer transport scheme, which takes people to essential medical appointments, shopping and to visit relatives, and volunteer brokerage, which matches people looking for volunteer opportunities with charities looking for volunteers.

It also runs projects as varied as sewing clubs, DBS checks, training courses, a gardening service and a men’s shed.

CEO Kerry Smith said: “This is about playing to our strengths and building on them to raise our profile and better position ourselves in a competitive funding environment. We want to maintain our role as the go to place for all things volunteering and we are committed to maintaining a local presence, so it’s business as usual at each of our hubs.”

The launch included an exhibition called Bags on Tour, a collection of bags decorated by Thanet clients and volunteers to be auctioned in support of the charity’s befriending service.

Across KCV more than 140 volunteer befrienders help to prevent loneliness, 130 volunteer drivers make 17000 journeys covering more than 400,000 miles each year and more than 700 charities have registered their volunteer opportunities.

And KCV has a range of projects including Thanet Community Support Partnership, which provides weekly social clubs, an over 50s forum and a referrals service.

The new KCV online volunteer brokerage system launched today was funded by Kent County Councillors from Thanet and Dover District – Pauline Beresford, Rosalind Binks, Trevor Bond, Sue Chandler, Nigel Collor, Emma Dawson, Liz Hurst and Derek Murphy.

Find out more at the new website sponsored by Transform.

Meet a volunteer

Family bereavement led to early retirement for one Ramsgate resident, who says volunteering keeps her young at heart.

Jackie Collins worked with the elderly in hospital but left when a death in the family made the job emotionally too difficult.

She started volunteering with befriending scheme, the Thanet Good Neighbours Service, and keeps the spreadsheets up to date, supports new volunteers and phones clients to check they are OK.

The 69-year-old said: “I’m a bit of a chatterbox and I also love listening to what people say. I recently had one lady tell me about being bombed out of her home twice with two young babies in the Blitz. I’ve also spoken to Spitfire pilots. They are a wonderful generation, they’re so stoic.

“This role is almost like being back at work, but less responsibility and less pressure but I feel I am contributing because of my skills. I enjoy the IT, it’s a great team and I’ve always loved company.

“When I worked in the hospital, I got to know the patients and got to see how hard life can be and I also saw how lonely life was for some of them, particularly when a partner had died.

“People can ring with anything from dementia to bereavement, to being physically immobile but their minds still sharp.

“People are living longer, and I feel our befriending service allows people to keep their dignity, but we are there if anything starts to go wrong or they don’t seem to be coping. This generation can be so independent, they don’t always ask for help and while that is very admirable, sometimes they do need help.”

Bags on Tour

Tackling loneliness and isolation is the aim of a new exhibition called Give A Bag Some Life, which is touring Thanet galleries before being auctioned in March.

More than 70 blank canvas bags have been decorated by volunteers, supporters and beneficiaries of the Thanet Good Neighbours Service, which matches isolated older people with volunteers who visit once a week for tea and a chat, to go shopping or for dog walking.

The befriending servicehas made more than 100 successful matches and is always looking for ways to raise funds.

Service manager, Rebecca Bullivant said: “We started handing out blank canvas bags to our volunteers to decorate and the project became so popular that we quickly had to find more. They were snapped up by all ages and abilities eager to get creative on behalf of the Good Neighbours Service. We hope people will come to the galleries and then bid for them at auction.”

The project was kickstarted by Thanet Rotary Club and bags have been covered by everything from painted birds and seascapes to crochet poppies and patchwork beach huts. People can make sealed bids at the galleries before the auction, planned in time for Mothers’ day.

The exhibition opened today at the relaunch of Thanet Volunteer Bureau as Kent Coast Volunteering and moves on to McGillan & Woodell in Ramsgate and New Kent Art Gallery & Studio in Broadstairs before being auctioned at The Comfort Inn, Ramsgate, on Friday, March 8.

All funds raised will go towards the Good Neighbours Service and the aim is to keep the ‘Give A Bag Some Life’ project running as long as possible.

Tour dates

McGillan & Woodell, Ramsgate, February 14-22, with a wine and nibbles reception on February 16, 3pm-6pm.

New Kent Art Gallery & Studio, Broadstairs, February 25-March 3, with a viewing party on Saturday, March 2 (tbc).

Some bags on show in Nice Things, in Harbour Street, Ramsgate; and the Ramsgate Visitor Information Centre, Custom House, Ramsgate, from March 4 until closer to the auction!

Auction: 7pm, Friday, March 8, Comfort Inn, Ramsgate.

Report Emma Cooney

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