Together we can do so much - Lorna Hemmings

This year Hitchin Volunteer Army will be 5 years old. From just a few locals mums setting up a Facebook Group to see if they could help other families who needed help at a difficult time; to a page with hundreds of followers and a Twitter account. 

We started off sourcing furniture for families who had under-furnished homes but we now also provide second hand clothing through our Community Wardrobe events and we are a proud part of the Christmas Community Team; an annual project where over a hundred families receive a Christmas Food Hamper. 

I took over the running of HVA a month after it launched. My son was just 20 months old then and I was looking for an opportunity to exercise my brain and make a useful contribution to society again. I had previously worked in the charity sector before kids so had good knowledge of how to promote, coordinate, and network within the voluntary sector. Unfortunately my employer lost vital funding whilst I was on maternity leave and they had to fold, which was the case for many charities at the time. 

But HVA came along and gave me that ability to utilise my previous skills and to above all make a difference to my local community. And that is the thing that drives me. My most favourite part of volunteering is when I hand over items to the families. Many times i’ve been hugged, had tears (of joy), been offered cups of tea and had thank you cards. 

We help people who are in need at a particularly vulnerable time in their life; some have lost a job, lost a home, lost a loved one or lost their health. Often later down the line the families we help give back when they are back on their feet. Which is the most humbling experience. 

So now 5 years down the line (and now a mother of 2), my days now involve receiving and sending emails/calls/messages from referral organisations, sourcing items that have been requested from either our storage unit or by asking our followers. Then I organise deliveries or collection for our vans rounds. I can spend up to a couple of hours a day tending to HVA jobs. Whilst juggling the other day day jobs of family life. But that what works so well with volunteering. Just giving a little bit of time out of your day/week/month can mean so much to that one person that receives your help. It gives you satisfaction and makes you realise sometimes how precious life is and how things can change so quickly. With public services so stretched and with their ever diminishing budgets, a lot of the time the voluntary sector is tasked with trying to provide help, advice and comfort for those people who could all too easily be forgotten. And they can’t do their important work without volunteers! 

We have a small group of regular volunteers for our Community Wardrobe and for our Christmas Hamper appeal but the general day to day, week to week running is just myself. I’m always looking for more people to help though! Maybe you’re a stay at home mum like me but you’re looking for a new venture. It only takes a couple of hours a week to help out and make a change to someone’s life. Whether its washing and sorting clothing, helping sort out our storage unit, I.T. help (I want to make a website), repair/upcycle furniture pieces we get donated or help with coordinating donation collections. As the saying goes “many hands make light work”. 

If you’re interested in finding out more please contact: hitchin_vol_army@hotmail.com

Or visit our page: https://www.facebook.com/HitchinVolunteerArmy/

Kerry Prest