Week-long celebration of volunteering kicks off in Norwich tomorrow

Tomorrow is the start of National Volunteers' Week. Reporter DAVID BALE spoke to some of those in Norwich who give up their free time to help others.

The priceless benefits of voluntary work – not only to society, but also to those generous individuals taking part – will be celebrated in Norwich during Volunteers' Week, which runs from tomorrow until Tuesday, June 7.

Volunteering is a selfless act through which millions of people devote their time to help charities and community groups to survive.

Volunteers also benefit from new skills, new friends, higher self-esteem and a socially-conscious CV to help boost their future job prospects.

One of the volunteers who will be encouraging others to get involved this week is Donald Timson, who is a volunteer manager for FoodCycle Norwich, which has been providing up to 100 people a week with wholesome, healthy free food and caring company since January as part of a community cafe.

Since the pilot was launched at the start of the year food shops in the city donate end of life, but not out of date, food to a team of volunteers at the end of the week.

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The assorted groceries are then collected and taken to a team of volunteer chefs who, like on the hit BBC show Ready, Steady Cook, have a short amount of time to prepare a meal from the contents to be served to between 80 and 100 vulnerable people. The project, which operates between 7pm and 9pm every Friday, has proved so successful it was formally launched at the Friends Meeting House in the city's Upper Goat Lane last month.

The scheme requires between 20 and 30 volunteers every week to collect the food, cook the food, welcome guests, serve food and drinks and clear up.

Mr Timson, who will be at the Forum in Norwich all day on Friday recruiting more volunteers, said: 'Being a volunteer has made me a happier person and has done wonders for me. It gets me out of the house, gives me contact with other human beings, and has also given me a sense of purpose, to actually do something worthy.'

Another man whose volunteering work has made a difference in the city is Dick Tayler, from Thorpe St Andrew.

The 93-year-old, who suffers from macular disease, an eye condition that causes loss of central vision, has been a tireless volunteer across three decades and has been volunteering at the Macular Disease Society's support group in Norwich for eight years. As the Evening News reported on Saturday, he has been put forward for its annual chairman's award. Mr Tayler also helped to produce the Norwich Talking Newspapers for 25 years, and said that, being forced to give up volunteering there, when his eyesight deteriorated, was harder for him than giving up driving, golf or anything else.

Meanwhile, some well-known Norfolk people have rolled up their sleeves for charity to help launch national Volunteers' Week.

Anglia Tonight presenter Becky Jago volunteered at Cats Protection's Dereham adoption centre and joined the charity's 'I'm a Celebrity, Let Me Volunteer' campaign to get a taste of the work carried out by some of the centre's 50 volunteers.

Around 7,000 people volunteer with Cats Protection nationally, saving the charity the equivalent of �40m a year in man hours.

Volunteers' Week is co-ordinated by Volunteering England, an independent charity and membership organisation, which estimates that volunteer time worth �18bn was donated to the UK economy by about 22m people in 2010. It has also published a report saying 87pc of employers think volunteering can help career progression.

Chief executive Dr Justin Davis Smith said: 'The contribution that volunteers make to our society is hard to overstate. From the most local neighbourhood project to our essential public services, volunteers play a critical role – championing, cajoling, campaigning, collaborating – and improving and enriching the lives of individuals and communities.'

For more information, visit www.volunteering.org.uk.

Do you know a Norwich volunteer who is up for a national award? Call David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.