Volunteers at OPAL Services have helped the organisation adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing an opportunity for older people and their carers to continue connecting with their community.
The Year of Volunteering campaign, which is run jointly by Cheshire West Voluntary Action (CWVA) and Cheshire West and Chester Council, celebrates the role volunteers play in their communities. October marks Older Volunteering Month, looking at how older people across west Cheshire are making a real difference through volunteering.
Many of the volunteers at OPAL are retired themselves and provide such invaluable support to members.
While OPAL has run all-day activity clubs, one-to-one respite care, cooking and craft sessions and IT support programmes since 2011, it has had to adapt during the pandemic, putting in place a regular telephone befriending service, Zoom meetings and OPAL Reach, a weekly newsletter. Activity packs are also provided for members and an OPAL GoOnLine service is helping them navigate the internet.
OPAL was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service during the lockdown period, highlighting the significant difference it makes to people in rural areas.
Denise, who is in her 90s and normally volunteers at OPAL’s club in Tarporley, said: “I enjoy talking to members, hearing their memories and giving friendship.
“OPAL is doing a wonderful job and, as volunteers, we have been keeping in touch with members through befriending calls and Zoom during lockdown.”
Geoff, an 80-year-old volunteer from Malpas, said: “Through befriending during COVID-19, I have learnt a lot more about the members I ring.
“I’ve found out things about the local area I didn’t know and it’s a real delight to phone them.
“Getting a mine of incredible information from members, learning about them and just having that dialogue with them is one of the best things about volunteering.”
Jane Colville, Chair of the OPAL Board, added: “Our volunteers are the heart of OPAL and their dedication and commitment to helping keep members from isolation during lockdown has been heart warming.”
If you have a volunteering story you’d like to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. November is Business Volunteering and Trustee Month.
As part of the Year of Volunteering campaign, nominations are also open for Volunteers Awards Month in December. There are several different awards, such as Younger Volunteer of the Year, Older Volunteer of the Year, Inspirational Volunteer of the Year, Special Contribution to COVID-19 Response and more.
The deadline for all nominations is 30 October. From 1 December, the Council and CWVA will be announcing the different winners daily and putting together stories to highlight all the great work they’ve been doing.