"It's a two way exchange. If you're feeling down it's great to have company. "
Volunteer Yvonne Eve Osborne
The writing on the wall said it all at N-Vision’s celebratory afternoon tea for more than 100 volunteers at the charity’s Squires Gate base at Bosworth Place.
“We couldn’t do it without you.”
N-Vision, the Blackpool Fylde and Wyre Blind Society, supports 2.5k people living with sight loss severe enough to significantly impact upon their lives across all three boroughs.
The charity currently has 249 registered volunteers working across all elements of the operation, from Talking News to café clubs, charity shops to admin and finance.
Last year the volunteers worked a total of 15,755 hours – for free. At national minimum wage of £8.21 per hour, that would equate to a wage bill of £129,348.
In the Talking Newspaper studios alone teams of volunteers have recorded 572 hours of local news from the local Blackpool Gazette and allied weeklies, Which? Magazine, sports reports and more, all distributed via digital audio plug to hundreds of listeners and downloaded by more online.
In the last financial year N-Vision’s charity shops, at Highfield Road, South Shore, and Victoria Road West, Cleveleys, managers backed by volunteers, took £124,500 through the tills.
All volunteers insist they get far more out of it than they give.
Many have made friends through volunteering – such as Yvonne Osborne and Karen Hudson, both visually impaired, and Julie Pilgrim, whose husband Brian is partially sighted. All three volunteer at the Cleveleys charity shop. Julie recommends volunteering for weight loss – “thanks to all the running around!”
South Shore charity shop stalwarts include Jackie Snowden, Liz Strathan-Hall, Yvonne Vitty and Dorothy Langshaw - pictured above. The shop celebrated its 21st anniversary earlier this year. It was also shortlisted for a local MP's Community Heroes awards in November.
Yvonne, a volunteer for 14 years, says: “It’s a two-way exchange. If you’re feeling down, it’s great to have company but you also know you’re doing good.”
Trustees are also volunteers – with Pat Lord, Barbara Whalley (acting chair) and Joy Killip all members of a board guiding N-Vision towards a bright future complete with new new logo to highlight the sight loss support message. Veteran Talking News founder and reader Joy Killip - one of the 125 local heroes nominated past and pressent via the local press to celebrate Blackpool's Tower big 125 celebration tonight in the resort - reckons the 40 years long service badges sells her a bit short short by about 18 additional years for voluntary service.
Father and son John and Martin Rogers are volunteers - John at the Cleveleys charity shop (and Santa every Christmas) and Martin working with Susie Nicholas and others as part of the Beaverbrooks Gems team helping record the Talking Newspaper. They record Which? magazine, a valuable consumer resource for those who might otherwise miss out.
Touching tributes to the volunteers were paid by Mrs Whalley and by volunteer coordinator Trish Hothersall who organised the afternoon tea and other treats served by staff.. “We appreciate all the time that you give to us – and you make every minute count,” said Trish.
The next big event coming up is the Three Piers sponsored fundraiser on Sunday September 22 ahead of National Eye Health (Sept 23-29) events – which include an awareness day at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on Monday Sept 23 and an assistive technology day at the charity’s Sharples Hall and Low Vision Centre on Friday September 27. Ad there's even a visit in October by a Royal committed to helping eradicate avoidable sight loss - HRH Sophie, The Countess of Wessex.
Icing on that cake, anyone?