Volunteering begins at home for Somerset Council with councillors and staff giving up their free time to support communities.
From stepping up as school governors, to putting up Christmas lights, they are finding ways to support local people – and wildlife – in a variety of ways. And they hope that sharing their stories will inspire more people to come forward during National Volunteers Week (1-7 June).
Martin Cooper, the Volunteer Co-ordinator with the Central Volunteer Team, volunteers with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) as a bird ringer. Anyone following the peregrines of St Mary’s Church in Taunton might have seen some of his work.
“I have been volunteering with the BTO since 2019 supporting the monitoring of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), originally in Devon but now in Somerset too. Last week I successfully ringed all the chicks at St Mary’s church so we can monitor where they go and how they get on in life. It is a very rewarding project to be involved with and it is really enjoyable to see how many people in Somerset, and further afield, follow this project online.”
All councillors are volunteers already in their elected roles, but many also have other causes they support through volunteering.
Cllr Jason Baker (Chard South) volunteers regularly. He has helped deliver Covid vaccinations in local GP surgeries, something he plans to do again this autumn, is part of the Chard Town team who put up and repair the town’s Christmas lights and organise other seasonal events such as the Christmas Fayre, and has been volunteering with Chard Carnival for more than 30 years, now chairing the carnival committee.
“I really enjoy contributing to my local community and I love to see the impact on my local community. I have been volunteering for most of my working life and I really enjoy seeing the impact this has on my local community. I get to meet some amazing people and give back to the area I live in which has given me so much and has entrusted me to represent their concerns by being a councillor,” he said.
Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, Lead Member for Communities, is a school governor and founded the charity RAFT, Refugee Aid From Taunton.
She said: “The range of volunteering opportunities is immense and I am so grateful for all those who give up their time so freely to help others. RAFT, for example, would not exist without the support of volunteers. So many staff and councillors are involved in local groups, schools, charities and find it rewarding to give something back – a huge shout-out to everyone who volunteers.”
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