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Volunteering - our member stories

Tuesday 9th December

Volunteering can have a positive impact on your health and wellbeing and if you are thinking about what activities you can get involved in, why not take inspiration from some of our members?

Take a look at these great examples of ways to incorporate charity fundraising and volunteering into your life.

Get baking for charity:

Cristina O’Halloran, who has been a benenden member since 1998, volunteers for Free Cakes for Kids UK, an initiative which makes free children's birthday cakes for families who are in crisis.

Cristina started a group in Bromley last year which now has a dozen bakers who bake in their own homes. Since starting, they've made 33 cakes in response to requests from the Food Bank, Bromley Mencap, Social Services, Women's Aid and Bromley Carers.

Cristina said, “Some families just haven't got the money to provide the cake, or have recently been rehoused due to domestic violence, and birthday cake is the least of their priorities. Every one of us is delighted that something we enjoy doing can make such a difference to the lives of our neighbours. Recently we even made a giant patchwork quilt cake to celebrate the 5th birthday of Demelza children's hospice. We change the world - one cake at a time!”

Turn your hobby into a way of helping others:

If baking isn’t your thing, why not get crafty to help fundraise for charity. One member, Wendie Morley, uses her card making hobby to help raise money for Cancer Care, a charity which supports cancer patients and those around them.

Wendie says, “I really enjoy card making and usually make about 100 general cards a year. At Christmas, I make a further 100 cards for Cancer Care to sell to support their funds in my local branch in Purley, Surrey. It’s great to be able to help make a difference through my card making and I’d encourage anyone thinking about getting involved with something similar to give it a go!”

Volunteer for local community initiatives:

Ron Goddard, who has been a benenden member for 17 years, has been helping out with driving his local community bus for the past three years.

Ron said, “When the local bus company cancelled some services in the area, a community bus scheme initiative was set up to replace them. Volunteers go through the same training as regular bus drivers and then take school buses out during the day to replace the missing services.”

“Volunteering helps to keep me fit and active and then I feel entitled to five days off for all the other things I want to do. I would definitely recommend others to volunteer and get some balance back in your life, its great fun!”

Give up some time to make a difference in the lives of others:

Dorothy Stickler, a long-time member of benenden, has been a volunteer reader for the blind for three years, helping to bring accessible versions of local news to blind and partially sighted people in South Wales.

Dorothy explained, “Once a month myself and four other volunteers meet in a recording studio in Cardiff to record the weekly events reported in the local newspaper. We create around 600 copies of the recordings which are then sent out to blind and partially sighted people throughout South Wales, helping them to keep up with all their local news. The whole process takes approximately 3-4 hours and is carried out by four different volunteers each week – it’s a great project to be part of and knowing you are helping others is a fantastic feeling.”

Support organisations in your local area which you feel passionate about:

One of our members, John Jennings, is Chairman of the Derby War Memorial Village organisation, which provides homes for Service-Disabled ex-service personnel.

John explained, “There are 50 properties, all built to a high degree of access for our service-disabled - all of these homes have been built by public subscription, either by local firms or small organisations and of course the general public.”

“Today, with our small but very strong committee of Trustees, these homes are maintained to a very high standard, fiercely protected by the Trustees, all who are unpaid volunteers. We are proud to serve those that gave so much that we may live in peace today.”

Turn your love of animals into a way of helping others:

Di Breed, one of our members based in Tonbridge, volunteers as a puppy walker for Guide Dogs for the Blind, taking in puppies for a year at a time to prepare them for being a Guide Dog.

Di said, “The puppy arrives aged 7-8 weeks and stays for a year. During that time we attend weekly puppy classes, fundraising events and socialising the puppy in shops restaurants etc. we also take them on buses and trains.”

“It is very sad when you have to say goodbye to your puppy after 12 months hard work but it is also very rewarding to know that your pup is going on to change someone's life.

If you are a benenden member who would like to share your volunteering story with the rest of the benenden community, please contact us on media@benenden.co.uk

Look out for more stories coming soon!