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Volunteers celebrated for the contribution they make for free

PUBLISHED: 08:24 01 June 2017 | UPDATED: 08:24 01 June 2017

From left to right, Ellie Wright, Jean Huish, Benji Grapes, Gladys Dyke and Karolyn Warrant. Photo: Norfolk County Council

From left to right, Ellie Wright, Jean Huish, Benji Grapes, Gladys Dyke and Karolyn Warrant. Photo: Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council

Volunteers who give up their precious time to help out with services provided by Norfolk County Council are being celebrated for their hard work.

Ellie Wright. Photo: Norfolk County CouncilEllie Wright. Photo: Norfolk County Council

To tie in with Volunteers’ Week, which runs from today to June 7, more than 700 volunteers involved with Norfolk libraries are being publicly thanked at a special event at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library on June 6, at 10.30am.

One of these volunteers is 15-year-old Ellie Wright.

Miss Wright, who has cerebral palsy, has been a volunteer at Norwich’s Millennium Library for a year.

She first helped at craft activities on Sundays as part of the libraries Summer Reading Challenge and then stayed on to volunteer for other events and activities and is ready for the summer challenge again this year. She has just completed a week’s work experience, split between the Millennium library and Hellesdon library.

Jean Huish.. Photo: Norfolk County CouncilJean Huish.. Photo: Norfolk County Council

And on the back of her volunteering, Miss Wright was awarded a coveted Blue Peter badge.

Her mother, Jutta, said: “The libraries have been brilliant and Ellie is beaming with confidence which she didn’t have before volunteering. She has really started believing in herself and everyone has commented on how happy she is.”

Thousands of people volunteer across the county, with hundreds giving their time to other county council services including museums, road safety, community transport, Trading Standards, Norfolk Trails, the Youth Offending Team and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.

And even more helpers give up their time in key roles which support other areas of Norfolk County Council’s work, including thousands of unpaid carers and around 5,500 school governors.

Benji Grapes.. Photo: Norfolk County CouncilBenji Grapes.. Photo: Norfolk County Council

Jean Huish, from Easton, has lived in Norfolk for 40 years and after her husband passed away 12 years ago a friend told her to do something to get out of the house.

Mrs Huish heard information on the radio about local volunteering opportunities and decided to get in touch.

She has now been a volunteer driver with Transport Plus for 11 years, using her own car to drive people with mobility problems who can’t use or don’t have access to public transport to GP, hospital and dentist appointments and, where possible, to go shopping and other activities.

Mrs Huish has become friends with some of the people she drives, even getting invited to birthday parties.

Karolyn Warrant and Gladys Dyke. Photo: Norfolk County CouncilKarolyn Warrant and Gladys Dyke. Photo: Norfolk County Council

Currently, many more men than women volunteer to be drivers, but Mrs Huish only has praise for the role and would encourage more people to consider it. “I’ve always driven, I enjoy it, it gives me freedom. And I enjoy meeting people. If you’re like me and you can talk for England, get on and do it,” she said.

For Benji Grapes, volunteering with the Norfolk Trails after being made redundant got him out and about and improved both his physical and mental health. Mr Grapes, who has been helping with construction work to improve disabled access to the North Norfolk coast at Holme, said: “Volunteering on the Norfolk Coastal Path has given me a much needed breath of fresh air in my current situation – literally and figuratively.

“Learning new skills, exercising old ones and seeing your efforts materialise in front of you is very rewarding. I get to meet regular trail users too; explain the work being carried out and see the appreciation.

“I regret I missed the work done at Burgh Castle, I would have loved working on that project as I grew up in the area.

“Volunteering with Norfolk Trails is keeping my spirits high at a time when I could just have easily been tearing my hair out.”

For some - like Mr Grapes - volunteering provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge.

For others, it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them.

Karolyn Warrant, a befriender with Age UK, has been visiting 82 year-old Gladys Dyke since June 2016.

She visits Mrs Dyke every week and spends several hours either chatting or doing some activity. Every other week, they visit the library at the Forum to take part in the history project - Time Travellers - history.

Age UK Norwich try to match befrienders with people who live close by and make every effort to partner people with the same interests.

• For more information, visit bit.ly/2qDm0Tl

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