Voluntary Norfolk's civic year

As Voluntary Norfolk's year as the civic charity draws to a close, KATE SCOTTER takes a look back at the last 12 months.

As Voluntary Norfolk's year as the civic charity draws to a close, KATE SCOTTER takes a look back at the last 12 months.

A year in the public eye has boosted the profile of the 40-year-old charity which supports volunteers across the county.

Eve Collishaw, the Lord Mayor of Norwich, and Tim O'Riordan, the Sheriff, chose Voluntary Norfolk as their civic charity because of the work it does to assist other charities.

The civic year coincided with the organisation's 40th birthday and fundraising efforts helped raise �22,000 for the cause.

More importantly, the civic appointment has helped raise the profile of the Pottergate-based charity and those it supports.

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Brian Horner, chief executive, said: 'When we first approached the city council and asked to be considered as the civic charity for 2009-10, we explained that as well as increasing our own profile, we wanted to get recognition for the hundreds of voluntary organisations and the thousands of volunteers that make such a difference in our city.

'And thanks to the remarkable efforts of the Lord Mayor and Sheriff, and to the invaluable support of the Evening News, I think that we have done that.

'Now we must make sure that what Voluntary Norfolk stays in the public eye, because with central government and local authorities looking to make substantial savings, what we can offer is likely to become increasingly important to our communities.'

Over the course of the year, there have been a number of events including a Chinese New Year dinner, a charity auction and quiz.

The money raised over the past year will go towards the Norwich Volunteer Fund which has been specially designated to help volunteers in the city.

It will be used to create a volunteering community, set up a long service award, run new courses for volunteers, including first aid and an introduction to sign language, and to promote volunteering within the city. It is also hoped to provide practical help for city based volunteers.

Over the course of the year, the Lord Mayor and Sheriff have also taken the time to visit volunteers in the community and have found out more about how Voluntary Norfolk gives the voluntary sector a voice.

Volunteers they met over the past 12 months include those who give up their free time as part of the Mental Health Befriending Service, which provides an individual support service for adults with enduring mental health problems, and young people who are involved in the vinvolved scheme which exists to make it easier for the younger generation to volunteer.

Prof O'Riordan said: 'During my most enjoyable year as Sheriff, I have been privileged to see firsthand just what a wonderful group of volunteers are associated with Voluntary Norfolk.

'It has been such a pleasure to raise the public profile of this important charity, and to have played my part in helping to raise the funds so generously donated by the citizens of Norwich, which will help to continue all the good work that Voluntary Norfolk does for the city.'

The incoming Lord Mayor and Sheriff of Norwich, Tom Dylan and Derek James, will be sworn in this week. It is not yet known what the 2010-11 civic charity will be.

History of Voluntary Norfolk

1969: A group of young church-goers in Norwich formed a committee to encourage people in the city to volunteer and support older people, disabled people and anyone else who needed assistance. It was called Norwich Organisation for Active Help (NOAH)

1973: The organisation achieved charitable status. Operating budget of about �1,000 a year.

1978: The organisation moved to the Charing Cross Centre, where it stayed for almost 30 years.

1981: NOAH became Norwich Volunteer Bureau.

1992: Norwich Volunteer Bureau and the Voluntary Organisations Forum merged, becoming Norwich and District Voluntary Services (NDVS).

1995: Another name change for the organisation - this time it became the Norwich and Norfolk Voluntary Services (NVS).

2008: In March, the Pottergate offices in Norwich formally opened and the organisation's new brand name, Voluntary Norfolk, was revealed to the public.