The ‘unsung volunteer army’ in North East Lincolnshire…

RETIRED health service manager Lesley Brown is one member of an ‘unsung volunteer army’ in North East Lincolnshire, which offers vital support to hundreds of charity and volunteer organisations

Next week events are taking place as part of National Trustees’ Week – an awareness campaign focusing on the support of these valuable people, without which the UK’s 185,000 charities would not exist.

Lesley is one such person. Sitting on the trustee boards of the Gardiner Hill Foundation and VANEL (Voluntary Action North East Lincolnshire), she was keen to use her vast array of skills gained in the care sector to volunteer both whilst she was working and to continue on retirement.

“Of course, different people will have very different reasons for wanting to become a trustee and join a board. For some, like me, it will be because they have retired and still have something to offer. While others will have seen someone close to them, or even themselves, helped by a charity,” said Lesley.

Lesley’s vast experience in health and mental wellbeing services in North East Lincolnshire is a perfect fit for the Gardiner Hill Foundation. Working under the NAVIGO umbrella, the Foundation is a local charity established to enrich the lives of people with mental health problems and promote good mental health.

“Before my retirement I had been heavily involved with the mental health service and for me, it was about what I could bring to, not only this charity, but others by forging links and seeing how organisations could work together more,” explained Lesley, who is also the trustee treasurer on VANEL’s board.

She went on to say that many people she knows lose confidence in their own skills and knowledge when they retire and by choosing to volunteer it keeps you in touch, shows that you do have a valued role and can continue to make positive differences.

Lesley’s work with VANEL, which as a charity itself acts as a development service for other non-profit-making groups, allows her to see what other organisations are doing and how they can work with the Gardiner Foundation.

Meanwhile a fellow trustee of Lesley’s at VANEL has very different reasons for being on a charitable board. Still very much in full-time work, Mandy Johnson has a paid role as Chief Executive of the Lincoln and Lindsey Blind Society.

The Blind Society, which offers services in North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, north Lincoln and East and West Lindsey, is a charity and as such has its own board of trustees, to which Mandy is answerable.

“Therefore, my own trustees’ role with VANEL allows me to see things very much from both sides,” she said.

“From my own organisation’s point of view, we do often see trustees join us because the Society has helped them or a relative. Our board numbers are between three and 18 and we are running with about nine at present, with 75 per cent over the age of 65 so it would be nice to see some younger people join us.

“For a younger person, sight loss is not something that they will normally think about – they may have the attitude that it will never happen to them, but it may do as they get older and that is why our Society is so vital,” added Mandy.

AS part of its voluntary support role in North East Lincolnshire, VANEL offers advice and training to trustees, charities or people who are interested in giving their time to help non-profit-making organisations.

Development Manager Karl Elliott said: “Like Mandy and Lesley have demonstrated, there are many different reasons why people will become a trustee. While such a position brings certain responsibility, what you are ultimately doing is giving back to your community and whether that is a village hall committee, or a larger charitable organisation, the contributions of trustees are vital.”

Karl urged companies in North East Lincolnshire to look at encouraging employees to take an active role in charity boards, as part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policies.

“Trustees are vital to the success and existence of charities across North East Lincolnshire. There is so much expertise and skill out there and by giving just a small amount of that to a particular charity, a company would be helping so much,” he added.

For more information, please contact Karl: karl@vanel.org.uk