Let’s celebrate and recognise amazing local volunteers across Dudley borough.

It’s that time of year again, when volunteer-involving organisations’ thoughts turn to how to celebrate their wonderful volunteers.  However, a volunteer is for life and not just Volunteers Week, so I thought I would share a series of posts around ensuring your volunteers have the best possible experience.

So lots of articles out there around managing volunteers and good practice tend to focus on the volunteer-involving organisation’s view of the volunteering journey and I’ve decided it’s time to see things from the volunteer’s perspective.

Running a volunteer centre means that I am often contacted by volunteers who feel they have not had the best experience, been treated unfairly or are quite simply disillusioned with the whole thing and have decided it’s not worth the effort!  I’m often called on to do mediation or advocacy to try to repair the volunteer/organisation relationship too, so I’m encouraging you lovely volunteer managers out there to walk in your volunteers’ shoes and see the other side of the relationship.

These posts are not a criticism in any way of how you do things, they are just aimed to help you understand a volunteer’s perspective and enhance your volunteer/organisation relationships.   Managing volunteers is challenging as all volunteers are totally unique and often you are constrained by systems and procedures you don’t really have control over: however, you can certainly personalise parts of your volunteer management systems to make them more volunteer-friendly I’m sure.

Hopefully this series of posts will help you see things from the volunteer’s perspective and improve the way you interact with them, after all a happy, valued volunteer is more productive and a great advertisement for your organisation.

There are eight elements to this series and although there may some sections that appear to repeat what is in other posts, I felt it would be easier if I themed each one, so please do bear with them.

  1. Recruitment
  2. Selection and interviews
  3. Induction
  4. Support
  5. Motivation
  6. Development and training
  7. Recognition

Capturing the character of amazing local volunteers

At the start of 2018 DCVS was invited to assist Midland Film And Art, a collection of artists, craft workers, writers, performers and film producers, who were applying to the Arts Council (England) for funding towards a Character Portraits Project. The idea for the project was to create 24 real-life portraits of volunteers from across Dudley and Sandwell in recognition of what volunteers do to help their local communities.

DCVS agreed to support the project and put forward the names of 12 Dudley volunteers, including our Chairman, Mike Abrahams.  The artists taking part included writers and actors, and all went through an application and selection process.

The project application was approved by Arts Council (England) and this wonderful project commenced.

The Dudley borough volunteers who had been nominated were celebrated in variety of creative formats including the written word, sculpture, portraits in oils, felt and graphite, and even a mutoscope!  MFAA recorded films to record the process for each piece of art and these are available on our YouTube Channel if you would like to watch them.

On 12th April we will be holding a celebration event where family and friends of the subjects, plus the artists and supporters involved from MFAA will have a final opportunity to see the original pieces. The Mayor of Dudley, Cllr Alan Taylor, will be presenting the originals to the subjects for them to keep.  Local art lovers are most welcome to pop in and see these amazing pieces for themselves between 3 and 4 pm on Friday 12th April, in the main hall at DY1 Venue, Stafford Street, Dudley DY1 1RT.

However, this will not be the last time you get to see these pieces as we have plans to convert images of the artwork onto canvas prints for public display, and for them to tour the borough displayed in various locations so everyone can enjoy them.

Over the next few months we will be sharing pictures of these wonderful creative pieces individually and telling you the stories behind these amazing volunteers who are featured in them.

One of the portraits will be on display in the café at DY1 Venue from 15th April until 30th June 2019.  Steve Mukanovic (Ford) passed away in late December and was a well-known local volunteer, who had also volunteered as a minibus driver for Dudley CVS.  As he had so many friends, Dudley CVS thought it would be appropriate for his portrait to be displayed in the café so that friends and family could pop in for a cuppa and reflect on their much loved friend and relative.  The portrait will hopefully be going to a permanent home where he volunteered for over 30 years, but we wanted to share this beautiful piece of art with the world before it goes to its final location.

Making magic happen!

Well what another amazing Operation Santa 2018 was!  13152 donations was our final figure for 2018.  We had more support than ever from members of the public, statutory partners and businesses, with some phenomenal donations.  Conversely, we also had more sad tales and children, and their families in crisis, than ever before – domestic abuse, burglaries, evictions, deaths, separations, parents with no money and no-one to turn to.

How did we do?

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Who did we support this year?

This year we had 51 lists of children and young people who needed our support to provide a gift when otherwise they would get nothing [average number on list was 25, although there were 89 on one list!].  These lists came from people from the voluntary, community, faith and statutory sector [this included schools, social workers, children’s centres and housing support], who support children and families in need.  We don’t deal with individuals and only take referrals through groups, as that way the group can identify those most in need.  We have had more organisations and groups than ever before through the Operation Santa Grotto this year!

In addition to that we funded 11 Christmas parties, some of which provided a full Christmas lunch and provided grotto presents for parties.

Supporters

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Our regular supporters from Kingswinford Charity Football Club – Simon, Carl, Mike, Jason, Louis and their lovely families supported us again this year:  fundraising to provide a hot Christmas lunch and party for 100 local children and their parents at DY1 Venue.  Simon works in local schools in the borough, so was able to ask them to nominate families most in need.   Abi and Stacey helped us again, as did Becky and Ben Knott who dressed up as elves.  They did a sterling job assisting Santa 3
and keeping the children amused.  Abi’s colouring corner was a huge success too, with those who didn’t want to join in the fun with Wally Wombat having a quiet time with some colouring. Wally did a wonderful job of amusing the children and the adults.

Everyone sat down to a delicious Christmas dinner, prepared once again by the lovely Donna, Dawn and Kayleigh from Lunch on the Run, who gave up their Saturday to cook and serve a piping hot lunch.

Huge thanks to Eric for stepping in to play Santa.  He did a fantastic job and the children thoroughly enjoyed chatting to him. One little boy was trying to grab an armful of presents 4
which brought home to us how little some children may get at Christmas.  Team Santa elves had wrapped lots of lovely grotto presents so everyone got an extra treat on their way out too.  Cheers to Carl too for once again providing goody bags for the parents.

It was a wonderful afternoon and everyone seemed to have fun, although we were moved to tears after discovering that one family had eaten nothing hot for two months and a second family hadn’t eaten anything for a couple of days.  However, we had food spare from lunch and two sizeable take-away bags of food were soon put together for the families, including some fresh baguettes. Turkey and stuffing sandwiches may well have been on the menu for tea that day!

The party was a roaring success as always and it’s all booked again for next year.

 

Not cont6
ent with providing the party, the lovelies did a huge Smyth’s toy shop the following week, which ensured the grotto was bulging at the seams again.  They drove over to Smyth’s in Longbridge, where Shane the manager kindly offered to open an hour early so they had the shop to themselves.  Here are the boys with their huge pile of toys.

 

 

 

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Maren Lilley from Dudley MBC

Dudley MBC staff and Local Councillors

More staff and councillors than ever kindly supported us this year with a wonderful selection of toys and gifts. Here is Maren from Chief Exec’s Department who organises the council collection each year.

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Glynne after School Club

This lovely group have supported us for several years and this year was no exception with a visit to the grotto loaded with gifts. It’s wonderful that a group of local children want to make a difference to other children who may get nothing for Christmas.  This lovely photo shows Dean Goodman (Deputy Manager), Carley Jewkes-Jones (Deputy Manager), Emily Eades (Chairgirl) and Christian Allport (Chairboy)

Please click here for a full list of all our lovely supporters

Brilliant businesses bringing hope

Brett and the Blaze Angels – Our wonderful Business Ambassador and his team have, as always, gone the extra mile for Operation Santa. They generated an incredible 4946 donations and as always brokered the mystery business supporter’s donation.  This team are on a mission to make a difference and spread the word about the difference Operation Santa makes locally, and the importance of supporting the appeal.

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Our Magical supporter
 – Lee Southerton from Volks Magic and his team of amazing supporters from Santa’s a Gangster were fired up to make a huge difference this year.  Lee’s nephew Dale donated a VW Mk2 Golf Cabriolet and a prize draw was set up.

Along with fundraising at VDubz in the Valley, the Prize Draw and other lovely supporters, this year over £9000 was raised!  Lee even had a video made by the legendary Fuzz from the Car SOS TV programme encouraging everyone to support the appeal!

This phenomenal figure meant that we were able to do a huge shop for toys and gifts, which meant the grotto was piled up to the ceiling and at one point we couldn’t get in the door.  Also we were able to provide food gift cards, toys etc and emergency support to families in crisis, including one who was the victim of a burglary right before Christmas, when the thieves stole Christmas presents for 3 girls, but left the TV and electronics!  This incredible fundraising has also meant that we have a very healthy bank balance for Operation Santa 2019.

Not content with providing funds, Lee and Billy the Elf popped in regularly with piles of donations too, totalling a jaw dropping 1576 donations of toys and gifts too!

Court House Carvery – Chris, Paula and Paul who run the pub kindly donated 100 free Christmas lunches for local children. We approached two local schools and provided a coach for the Monday 17th December meal, when 50 children and their parents from Bromley Primary School enjoyed a Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings and ice cream for dessert.  Santa was there too and every child received a present.

On Wednesday 19th December the Court House hosted another lunch and 50 children and their parents from Bromley Hills Primary School enjoyed lunch, dessert and a present from Santa too.

Smyth’s Toys – Shane the Manager at the Longbridge store generously opened his store an hour early one Sunday, so Simon, Mike, Carl and Jason for Kingswinford Charity Football Club could shop in peace. He also gave them a generous discount and some free toys – what a star!

Prospect coaches – kindly provided us with a free coach for the 19th December Court House Christmas lunch, after we had to change the school attending and needed a coach at very short notice.

Merry Hill private hire – when the appeal went out for a free coach, Adam from Merry Hill Private Hire kindly offered us one too and although we did not take him up on his generous offer, we have been invited to ask again next year if we are again offered free carveries.

Geoff Hill – We sadly said goodbye to Geoff Hill this year and he was a much loved and stalwart supporter of Operation Santa for many years.  He was also a founding member of the Hope Charity that used to support the appeal.  Geoff popped into the office every year with a cheque to support the appeal.  He will be sadly missed as he was so much a part of Operation Santa, amongst all his other charity activities.

Nicklin – are one of our longest serving supporters and Harvey was on the original Hope Charity Board.  Each year staff collect for us and encourage their customers to donate too, so they always arrive with a lovely pile of gifts.

We also had a small business who had ceased trading and donated their stock to us, which was entirely toys and colouring packs.

Our mystery supporter – each year we have a sizeable donation from a large high street retailer who insists on remaining anonymous, but is brokered via Brett Harris from Blaze Hair.  This year they generously gave us around 2000 items, which have all gone to good homes.

Team Santa

As Operation Santa has grown we’ve had to grow the team too and three new elves joined our ranks in 2018.  It’s certainly a volunteer role with a difference as it’s a hectic 6 weeks of collections and deliveries of toys and gifts, sorting, counting, wrapping grotto presents, helping with toy and gift selection, plus helping at our Christmas parties, greeting guests, helping with activities, laying the room out, helping to serve lunch and clear away after, plus numerous other tasks.  I would like to record my heartfelt support to the incredible team who helped make Operation Santa so successful and supported me through an extremely stressful and emotional period.

Trev is my long-suffering husband who is conscripted each year to support Operation Santa.  He’s always spend hours of his own time, petrol and money to support me to make Operation Santa go smoothly, and reach as many children and young people as possible.

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Rose Cook Monk

Has volunteered for Operation Santa for three years and loves to make a difference. She juggles her volunteering around her existing charitable activities, most notably the Duncan Edwards Foundation, her speaking and family commitments. Rose’s comments about Operation Santa below sum up why she is so passionate about supporting #TeamSanta every year:

 

“Operation Santa for me is what Christmas is all about…..thinking of others, giving love where it is needed and sharing the true meaning of the festive period.   When you see your time and effort rewarded with hugs, smiles and tears, it is worth every second.   Operation Santa is an extension of my own family Christmas and the team behind it my extended Family”

Jayne Waltho

“Brilliantly organised operation to deal with a very large amount of donations.  Superb team, all pulling together to make it all happen and ensure that as many children as possible have some joy at Christmas time.  Very humbling, and at times some upsetting stories, but so happy to be part of the incredible “Operation Santa” and to know that I helped in making a difference!  Ready to help when it all starts again this year!!  “

Sarah Alliband

“What I liked most was knowing that my efforts are helping to make a difference to people’s lives, parents and children alike 😁”

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Steve Mukovic [aka Steve Ford]

Joined us an elf in November 2018 and spent hours in the grotto with the other elves, sorting donations and wrapping approx 650 grotto presents!  Steve was a lovely, warm-hearted man, with a wonderful sense of humour and always made you smile.  He volunteered for 35+ years on the Children’s Ward at Russell’s Hall Hospital, granting wishes to over 500 children and also volunteered for Dudley Hospital Radio and as a minibus driver for Dudley CVS when they ran their transport project.  We were sad to learn that Steve passed away between Christmas and New Year, and we will miss him dearly.

Sandra Moss

We also recruited another elf this year, especially to help us with the Court House events. The lovely Sandra [who is a friend of Brett Harris from Blaze Hair] arrived at the Court House in her elf outfit at both of our special carveries, helping to set up the room, serving lunch and helping Santa.

Feedback

It’s always good to hear that Operation Santa has made a difference and we’ve had some lovely feedback this year.

A grateful Mum

Just before Christmas we supported a single Mum Chloe who had been the victim of a burglary. Her car and all the Christmas presents for her three daughters were all stolen, whilst the family slept upstairs.  Her mum sent us a lovely thank you message:

“I cannot thank you and your team enough.  I just can’t believe how you have turned a really horrendous situation upside down. My daughter sat on the kitchen floor when Marieclare brought the presents and broke her heart. You and your team have totally restored my faith in the human race … you cannot imagine the difference this gesture will make to the girls xmas… U are truly amazing and I cannot thank you enough. What a blessed xmas Chloe will have xxxxx”

Jon Stevens – Head teacher, Bromley Hills Primary School

“Before Christmas we were given the opportunity to send a group of children, with their parents, for a Christmas lunch at the Court House Carvery in December. It was Eileen Fielding who contacted us and arranged this for us. I would like to send my appreciation and thanks, first of all to Eileen for organising this so well and then to the Court House Carvery for providing the food free of charge to families who cannot afford this normally. It was a fantastic experience for the children, who came back buzzing with excitement, and for the parents who all said how wonderful the food was and also that they were given this chance and opportunity.

Therefore, on behalf of the children and parents, I would like to say a very big thank you for providing this chance for us, it really did make a difference.”

Sarah Parkes – Brierley Hill Family Centre

“Just an email to say thank you for all of the hard work you and your team put in to support our families. Without people like you the children we work with would not have had that special gift to make their Christmas. You’re a star 🙂 “

Sutton School

“Operation Santa has given Sutton School students a magical Christmas and a huge smile on their faces”

http://www.sutton.dudley.sch.uk/blog/2018/12/21/operation-santa-iii-parenthub?fbclid=IwAR2i95PKstVENSBAP5CdS7TejM4odAauHXWXp7e7k6HpzEwDg_6xJb0LS4g

What’s next?

We are organising another fundraising event on 23rd March, so please help us spread the word and raise lots of funds for this year’s Operation Santa. We are hoping to raise £1000 to pay for hot Christmas meals for children and families across the borough, who may otherwise not get a hot meal.

A lifetime of volunteering -Steve Mukanovic [aka Steve Ford]

Steve was a volunteer for 35 years, supporting Dudley Hospital Radio and then  the Children’s Ward at Russells Hall Hospital.  He was also a volunteer for Dudley CVS for many years, driving our minibuses around the borough offering the elderly and disabled an opportunity to enjoy social activities. His warm personality and sense of humour made him very popular with his passengers, who always left the bus with a smile on their face.

In 2016 Steve Mukanovic was awarded the Children & Families Main Award at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2016, for his outstanding contribution to making children’s stays in hospital more pleasant and in recognition of making 500+ local children’s dreams come true. Everything from riding in a helicopter or a Ferrari, to meeting a celebrity or smashing gnomes!

His nominator Linda tells us just what made him so special. She said:

“He is not only an inspiration to us all but is also truly humbling. You would have to really meet him to understand his charisma and unique sense of fun, he is truly a one off and we are so proud that he chooses to help us.  It would be the best thing ever to give him some of the recognition he truly deserves especially as he is rather down awaiting further surgery.”

 Steve’s presentation photo and nomination film may be viewed by following this link

Midlands Film and Art’s Character Portraits Project 2018

In 2018 Dudley CVS were approached by Midlands Art Yard to help them identify 12 local community volunteers to take part in their Characters Portrait Project, where they would be a feature of a unique piece of artwork.

Steve’s Character Portraits Project video may be viewed here and it’s wonderful to hear him talking about his passion for volunteering and the joy he got from it.

In the video Steve shared his thoughts on volunteering:

“Volunteering has kept me active physically and mentally, and hopefully there’s 500 children from the Dudley area who had their wish come true already.

 As a volunteer of course you don’t get paid for what you do not in financial terms, but to see that smile how can you put a price on that? Then of course you’ve got the day itself when you meet up and you see them lift off in that helicopter, or set off in that car so you get another smile, and you get a smile from the family and that’s a very fulfilling it’s very rewarding.”

 

Team Santa Elf

Steve with Sarah Alliband and Jayne Waltho

In October 2018 Steve joined the volunteer elves supporting Operation Santa Dudley borough and spent 6 weeks, sorting and wrapping gifts in the grotto.  He also attended the special Christmas party on 17th December at the Court House carvery in Kingswinford along with the other elves, helping us set up the room and entertaining the 50+ children, and their parents who attended.

 

We were sorry to hear that Steve passed away in December 2018 and will be sadly missed.  There was a lovely feature in the Express & Star.

Eileen from Operation Santa said:

“Steve was just 100 per cent the nicest man. The outpouring of love for him is incredible. He was an absolute star.”

 

 

 

 

The event with the ultimate feelgood factor #dva18

18th October was our annual Dudley Volunteer Awards and as always it was a truly inspirational and emotional evening, celebrating amazing local individuals and groups of volunteers who give their time to grow communities, and support the people who live in them.

The Brierley Hill Civic and Dudley CVS staff teams spent the day preparing the Civic for the event and I think you will agree that it looked fabulous.

Brierley Hill Civic was packed with around 300 guests, including local voluntary, faith, community, statutory and private sector partners, MP’s, Deputy Lieutenants and of course the VIP’s of the evening, fabulous local volunteers and their guests.  All 80 of this year’s nominees were invited along on the evening to receive their certificates and our illustrious Awards Panel selected main awardees and highly commended awards across the nine categories.

A showcase for local talent

We are always fortunate to have talented local people performing at #dva each year and this year was no exception.  Guests enjoyed performances by three entertainers during the evening.

Dancers from Sutton School were the stars who opened the evening.

We were also treated to a stunning performance by Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Youth Group, performing songs from their recent sell-out production of ‘Grease’

Our final entertainer was Malcolm Palmer, a talented ukulele player, who started the Stourbridge branch of the George Formby Society.

 

Say ‘cheese’

We had some wonderful photos taken on the evening and were sharing the event’s highlights through our Twitter feed during the evening.  Unfortunately not everyone came to the group photo call, but I think you will agree that this lovely photo catches the spirit of the evening perfectly.  If you would like to see the photos please click here to visit our special #dva2018 blog page.

Their moment in the spotlight

Once the nominated volunteers had each received their certificate, it was time to focus on the nine different award categories and distinguished local dignitaries were invited to introduce the awards and announce the awardees.

I’ve listed all the main awardees and highly commended for each category, including links to our special blog pages, with photos, video links and copies of the nomination forms, so you can see just what makes these exceptional volunteers so inspirational.

Business Supporting the Community Award

Shaz Saleem from Express Taxis was given a highly commended award for his contributions to local communities and causes.

 

The main awardee for this category was Lee Southerton from Volks Magic in Oldbury, whose mission is to ensure th

at no local child thinks that Santa has forgotten them.  He’s fundraised and collected donations for years and this year has pulled off a small miracle!  His nephew Dale Roberts has donated a VW Mk1 Golf Cabriolet and Lee is running a prize draw at £5 a ticket to win the car and all funds raised will go to this year’s Operation Santa Dudley borough appeal.  He has alr

eady raised £3700 selling tickets are various VW events and the Just Giving page is climbing to £400!  Why not watch the video from Lee’s nominator, telling us just what makes him so special?

Community Action Award

Scott Round was the deserving main awardee and his nominator said:

“Scott is always caring and worries about other people and will always put others first, he works hard and is always a joy to see around the Coseley area, he puts a smile on people’s faces. Scott is passionate about Coseley and all its residents, I cannot think of another person like him he deserves recognition for all he does in fact he deserves a medal.”

There was a joint Highly Commended Award in this category for Jasmine Road Community Gardens and Michael Price from White House Cancer Support.

 

Healthy Communities Award

Riverside House CIC were the inspirational main awardees in this category.  Their nominator said:

“The Riverside volunteers are wonderfully inspirational! They have been supporting a growing number of young people with learning disabilities and autism over the last two years; currently they are working alongside nine young people, all of whom have complex needs, requiring understanding, patience and kill to enable their participation.”

 

Wellbeing Award

Ronnie Wheeler from the Recovery Café was granted the main award in this category. His nominator said:

“Ronnie is an inspiration partly because of the challenges he has had to overcome himself. This has also led to him being compassionate and supportive of the group that access the service. His determination, persistence and commitment has created the group. He inspires others and has built a great team of volunteers to meet the increasing need”

Lyn Head was the worthy Highly Commended recipient for supporting lonely and isolated people at the Chit Chat Club.

 

 

The Black Country Radio arts & heritage award

John Raycord from Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust was the main awardee in this category in recognition of his passion and commitment. He’s well-known by local boaters using the canal. Please do follow the link and watch the lovely nomination film, telling you all about him. 

Jo Gresswell from Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company was given a Highly Commended Award in this category and got an even bigger surprise as her group were performing their ‘Grease’ songs at the Awards.

Children, young people and families award

Caroline Smith from Dudley was granted the main award in this category.  Her nominator has done an amazing film, telling us all about what makes her so special, so please do watch it.

Emily Bills was given a Highly Commended award and runs a Special Educational Needs play group, which offers children and parents much needed support

 

Duncan Edwards Sporting Champion award

This year’s Sporting Champion was Anthony Coghlan from Dudley Water Sports Club.

He was recognised for his drive and commitment in developing the club into a true community asset for local people to get involved.

 

Ray McGuirk young volunteer of the year award

“Ray McGuirk, a proud Dudley resident, helped many in his community and particularly those less well off than himself. He was a great supporter of young people, whom he felt so often received unwarranted bad press. As a member of Dudley CVS Executive Committee for many years, it was only natural for him to ask Dudley Lions to sponsor the CVS Young Volunteer Award. This they have done for 14 years, championing the youth of today.

Sadly Ray passed away in December 2014 at the young age of 88, but his work and legacy lives on in this award. He would be immensely proud to have his name associated with the work that these outstanding young people have carried out”.

The Ray McGuirk Award for outstanding Young Volunteer of the Year is a very special award and is given to young people from across our borough, who demonstrate a commitment to making a difference in their local communities and are positive role models to other young people.

This year’s recipients were no exception and were a truly inspirational group of young role models.

The Panel could not choose between two exceptional young volunteers and made a Joint Main Award to Lauren Bollans and Skye Edwards, who are both Young Health Champions for Healthwatch Dudley.

The Panel also chose to make a joint Highly Commended award in this category to two outstanding young volunteers Chloe Sallis and Thomas Southall.   To read more about these simply exceptional young volunteers, please do follow the links to read their nominations and see the wonderful photos from the evening.

 

Gordon Lindsay Award for long service

Our most prestigious award of the evening is this award in memory of our late Chairman Gordon Lindsay, who dedicated his life to volunteering and local causes. The nominees in this category have usually volunteered for at least 25 years and this year was no exception.  Gordon Lewis took the main award for his unstinting long-term commitment to growing and developing Himley Cricket Club.

 

It was an amazing evening, but don’t just take our word for it 🙂

 

 

 

Operation Santa 2018 is go go go! #charitytuesday

Although this year’s appeal will not be launched officially until the end of October, our amazing supporters have already been very busy preparing for what we hope will be another very successful Operation Santa 2018.

Win a car for £5

Yes you did read that correctly!  Last year Lee Southerton from Volks Magic and his lovely team of ‘Santa’s a Gangster’ supporters joined Operation Santa and made a huge impact. After dropping off toys and raising cash donations for last year’s appeal, this year they have taken their support to a whole new level!  Dale Roberts who is Lee’s nephew, has donated a VW Mark 1 Golf Cabriolet and Lee has organised a prize draw, where people can contribute to this year’s appeal by purchasing as many prize draw entries as they wish at just £5 a time. All donations will go to this year’s appeal and the grand draw will take place on 14th December 2018.  Lee and Dale were fundraising on 14th-16th September at V-Dubs in the Valley in Bewdley and raised an incredible £2700 with an auction and prize draw ticket sales. The team also organised a reverse Santa with visitors dropping off toys in the car for this year’s appeal. Wow that’s incredible and will be a huge boost to this year’s appeal!

The link is here for more information: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/santasagangster2018

 

Taking the plunge

Jayne Bond and Matt Cook from Brierley Hill Civic are doing a parachute jump to raise funds for this year’s Operation Santa too. They’ve already raised almost £300 and we will be sharing pictures from the jump when they do it. This is a really lovely gesture and very brave of Jayne and Matt!

Eleven elves a ‘elping

I’m delighted to announce this year we have three new volunteer ‘elves’ joining the existing team, plus a fourth one who is yet to confirm.  Jayne and Sarah are going to be helping with the grotto and events, and Phil is our new volunteer sleigh driver, helping with collecting donations. Welcome to the team J   The lovely Rose and Andy will be helping us once again, alongside Abi, Mike, Stacey, Simon and Carl.

Spreading the word

By popular demand we have got a dedicated Operation Santa poster this year. We are hoping they will help us spread the word about what we do and whether it’s someone who wants to donate, or an organisation who supports children, young people and their families, they will be able to get in touch. If you can help us by putting up a poster or sharing via your social media feed we would be very grateful.  We also have wishlists with suggested items to donate too, so why not see if your family, friends or colleagues could help this year by collecting donations?

Oh no you haven’t!  Boo Hiss

We do love a good panto and this year will be no exception.  Thanks to our lovely friends at Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company, who do us a special price on tickets, some lucky local children will be enjoying a visit to Brierley Hill Civic Hall to see Rapunzel in January 2019.

Date for your diary – 23rd May 2019

After the runway success [hope you like the pun!] of last year’s fabulous fundraising fashion show in May 2018, I’ve taken the plunge and booked another date in the Civic’s diary for 2019. We raised just short of £1000 in ticket sales, tombola, auction and sales on the night, which is a huge amount of money for the appeal. So far I’ve booked Eloise Amelia and Bradley Stokes to provide some musical entertainment on the evening, and will finalise what sort of event it will be next year. The fashion show was a great success, but it depends if we have any clothes donated for this year’s Operation Santa. So watch this space and I will keep you posted.

Keep yourself updated on what we’re doing this year!

 

 

A volunteer is for life … not just Volunteers Week!

The importance of saying thank you to your volunteers

What better way to introduce an article about celebrating and recognising volunteers than to talk about our fabulous main award and highly commended awardees from #dva17? These wonderful volunteers were nominated and recognised for their outstanding commitment, and desire to make a real difference in local communities.  We recently had two wonderful celebrations when the Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr Dave Tyler and Barbara, welcomed these exceptional volunteers to the Mayor’s Parlour and Council Chamber.  These lucky guests enjoyed a special behind the scenes tour, where they learnt lots of fascinating facts and enjoyed tea with the Mayor and Mayoress.

Volunteers Week a national celebration of all things volunteering

1st to 7th June is an annual celebration of volunteers and volunteering. It’s a great opportunity to do something special for your volunteers to say thank you and take the opportunity to maybe recruit some new volunteers too! So let’s get you thinking about how you will say thanks, celebrating and recognising your volunteers’ contributions.

I think this quote from NCVO’s Quick Guide to Thanking Volunteers will hopefully get you thinking … Saying thank you isn’t just for Volunteers Week, it should be an integral part of your volunteer programme…

 “On the surface, saying thanks is easy – we all do it every day without thought, but saying thanks in an organisational context can be a very different prospect. Firstly, it can be easy just to forget if, like many charities, your trustees and leadership team have an ambitious vision, then the pressure is on to always look forward, at the expense of reflection.

Or your charity may be characterised by a rigid hierarchy that doesn’t always encourage positive feedback to be filtered down. Because volunteers don’t get paid, you might think that we should naturally be more inclined to thank them, but it might be just as easy to take their generosity for granted, especially if they have been with you for some time. Perhaps worst of all, though, is the ill-judged thank you – too fleeting, insincere, or undeserved. At best it may fall flat; at worst it can anger and linger. So how, how often, and to whom you demonstrate gratitude should be as integral to your volunteer management strategy as their recruitment, training and retention.”

Why not get thinking about how YOU are going to celebrate your Volunteers

Why say thank you?

There are lots of tools you can use to retain your volunteers once you’ve found them and one of the best is simply saying thank you. These are probably the most important two words in any volunteer manager’s vocabulary! You should be saying thank you regularly, rather than once a year during Volunteers Week, so why not start thinking now about how you could do this more often?

Say thank you to your volunteers as they leave at the end of the session they are helping with and encourage staff who work with volunteers in your organisation to do the same. After all a thank you doesn’t cost anything and will help the volunteer feel appreciated, and know you value the time they give to help.  Some volunteers don’t like a lot of fuss and would be embarrassed, whereas others like to be the centre of attention. You know your volunteers best but if you don’t, ask the person who looks after them when they are there and see what they think. A little research really helps to make the thank you more personal and genuine.

When you read surveys of why volunteers leave, one popular reason is not feeling valued or appreciated. You can easily rectify this with two little words, so get planning and say thank you more often!

Who should say thank you?

We’ve talked about the value of showing appreciation and saying thank you to volunteers, and I think another important thing to consider is who should be saying it!  This probably seems an odd thing to say but it’s something you need to think about isn’t it?

  • The person who supervises the volunteer on their regular volunteering slots could be saying thank you at the end of the session. If you train other people in how to support and manage volunteers, it would be a good idea to include a short section on how to recognise volunteers’ contributions and the importance of those two little words!
  • You as the Volunteer Co-ordinator could be holding an event to recognise the contribution of a group of volunteers.
  • For a more formal event what about the Chair or Chief Executive saying thank you? This would add a certain formality to a gathering, but would also hopefully make the volunteer feel important.
  • If you are holding a formal event, you could have a V.I.P. taking on the role – maybe a local MP, the Mayor or some local dignitary who supports your project. In Dudley borough, the Mayor takes on the Volunteering Champion role each year as part of their duties and is usually delighted to support and events involving volunteers.
  • If the person speaking at an event isn’t you or the person who supervises the volunteers, make sure you give them some background information about what the volunteers do, not just a list of names. This will help to make the whole thing more personal.

Just remember!

Try to tailor the way you say thank you to the volunteer[s]. If they don’t like a fuss, don’t arrange a formal red carpet event or they may well not turn up! You may have to downscale it to coffee and cake to make them feel more comfortable!

How to value volunteers

When you are planning how to recognise and celebrate your volunteers you may have a number of things to consider:

  • How many volunteers you have
  • When you need to hold the event to ensure as many as possible can attend – there’s no point choosing a Wednesday evening if half the volunteers are at their Zumba class! Checking availability is a sensible step.
  • Is it an informal gathering or a more formal occasion?
  • Where you will be holding it? Don’t just think about the geographical location, but also about things like parking, access for those who may be less mobile and how big a venue you need.
  • Who to invite – if you need someone key to attend such as your Chair, Chief Exec, the Mayor or a local MP, you may need to work the event around their availability.
  • Plan a programme for the event – a rough plan of who’s doing what and when is always reassuring and if it’s a more formal event, you may wish to have a printed programme for guests.
  • Budget – this is probably the most important thing to consider! If you are a small organisation and don’t have a budget for volunteer recognition and celebration, this may restrict your plans a little. You can do a great event on a shoestring, if you can find a free venue, free certificates from your local Volunteer Centre [we produce them every year for our local groups], get people to bring a contribution towards refreshments/buffet etc.

Just remember!

It’s quality that’s important and a genuine wish to make volunteers feel valued.

How to tell the world [well at least the local area how much you value your volunteers?]

 There are lots of ways you can do this and most of them are free!

  • Newsletters – have you got an organisational newsletter? This is a great place to tell other staff, volunteers and clients, just how wonderful your volunteers are. Add a photo and you are onto a winner!
  • Website/Blog/Twitter/Facebook/other social media – a popular way to share what you think of your volunteers with the world [literally via the World Wide Web] is via your website or social media streams. A winsome photo is a sure fire way to get your good news shared. When I published the photos from Dudley Volunteer Awards in October 2017, I had over 6000 views of the photos in 48 hours on the dva17.wordpress.com blog! If you aren’t au-fait with social media, why not attend a free local ‘Write here, write now’ session run by friendly staff from Dudley CVS, who will be able to support you to tell your story and get to grips with a variety of media platforms.
  • Local media – newspapers, radio and TV – are a great way to show your pride in your volunteer[s]. Don’t forget to tell them why your volunteer[s] deserve recognition and hopefully this will also help raise the profile of your project or organisation. Black Country Radio is a local community radio station and always looking for guests for their shows, so why not get in touch?
  • Awards – Dudley Volunteer Awards are an annual event held alongside Dudley CVS’s Annual General Meeting. Local volunteers [both individuals and groups] can be nominated and recognised at this high profile celebration. The winners are chosen by a panel made up of the Mayor, local decision makers, voluntary sector reps and our Chairman. Nominations for Dudley Volunteer Awards open in June each year and everyone nominated for the awards is invited along to the Dudley Volunteer Awards celebration in October. You can nominate now by visiting this year’s Awards blog https://dva2018.wordpress.com/ and clicking on the Nominate There are also the Mayor’s Civic Awards, which are another annual award scheme.
  • Queens Award – if you want to nominate a group of volunteers, why not consider this award? It’s a prestigious award and equivalent to an MBE for voluntary groups and charities. You can find out more by visiting the Queens Award website or by contacting Eileen at Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre on eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk

Miracles do happen

What an incredible Operation Santa we had in 2017 as it was none stop from the moment we opened up our grotto until Christmas Eve!  Piles of lovely gifts have poured through the door and this year we have reached more children, young people and families than ever; including children with additional needs, young homeless and even victims of crime. Our donations have come from kind-hearted individuals, partners and local businesses.

It’s certainly been a rollercoaster of emotions, from tears to hysterical laugher and everything in between. There have been highs as we’ve experienced people’s sheer goodwill and generosity, when ‘miracles’ have happened and lows as we’ve learnt the individual stories of those who have needed support this year.  People collecting the gifts to pass on to children, young people and their families have become emotional that through the kindness of our donors, they can spread a little festive spirit and lots of hope that people do really care when recipients feel there is nothing to look forward to.

We’ve had a couple of firsts again this year and a number of miracles, which I will thoroughly enjoy telling you all about!

Brilliant Businesses

Where would Operation Santa be without the community spirit, munificence and commitment of local businesses?

There’s Blaze Hair of course, who’ve campaigned for us every year for the past 7 year and have as always, gone the extra mile.

One new business contact was Lee Southerton from Volks Magic. Sarah Steventon from Dudley MBC FAST Team introduced him to Operation Santa and he jumped straight into supporting us, leaving a dazed and teary Eileen with £1000 in cash when they first met!  He has followed this by regular cash donations and huge drops (accompanied by Billy the Elf) of toys and gifts from his generous supporters, who have given to Lee’s Christmas campaign ‘Santa’s a Gangsta’ for 5 years.

Gary Barfoot from the Little Plumbing Company in Netherton is one of our newer supporters and this year was on a mission.  Through his business contacts and with support from his lovely wife Jane, who works at Netherbrook Primary School, he raised an incredible £850 in donations.

Nicklin are one of our longest serving business supporters, having been an integral part of the Hope Charity who used to finance Operation Santa, before it ceased in 2009.  As always they dropped off a great selection of toys to support the appeal. Here’s their comment on this year’s appeal.

“Thanking The Nicklin Team and Clients for their fantastic donations once again this year. Nicklins have been part of Operation Santa which is supported by Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre for several years and are always amazed at the wonderful response. Hopefully we will have helped put a smile on a few more faces again this year. The donations we have will be delivered by Clarks Archive Storage (who do this voluntary for us every year) to the Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre tomorrow. They will then be distributed to local families.”

 

Our Business Ambassador

Fresh from receiving their ‘Business Supporting the Community Award’ at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2017, Operation Santa’s newly appointed Business Ambassador was on a mission.  This year Brett and the Angels have generated an awe inspiring 12887 donations and pulled off several ‘miracles’:

  • Through a contact at his gym, he has organised food weekly food deliveries to the Hope Centre in Halesowen, so they can give people attending their Sunday lunches a lovely meal. The first week it was a well-known brand of ice cream amongst other things. Yum yum
  • He generated and organised a jaw-dropping 8000+ secret Santa donation of brand new clothes and toys from a business who wants to stay under the radar.

He’s also raised over £2700 through his fundraising efforts and organising the Jingle Bell Jog, when he and his angels, friends, family and Operation Santa ‘Boss’ did an eight mile walk from the salon to Caunsall in early December. walk [PIC MONTAGE]

Brett’s contacts boosted the appeal financially too, with sizeable donations from Paul Billingsley and Dean Banner.

Never one to rest on his laurels, he’s also partnered up with a domestic abuse charity going forward, with one of his stylists offering makeovers to people fleeing domestic abuse. Brett most certainly has a heart of gold.

 

Christmas Parties

This year we had our first ever sit down Christmas meal and family part, thanks to the fabulous Simon Leigh, Mike Knott and Carl Ackerman and their fundraising efforts.  They came long to DY1 Venue on 16th December with their lovely families to help us put on a very special party for families who would have little to look forward to at Christmas.  They paid for the food, a children’s entertainer and even goody bags or everyone to take away.

Donna, Dawn and Kayleigh from Lunch on the Run, a social enterprise who are based at DY1 Venue and run the café there, volunteered to give up their Saturday and slave over a hot stove, producing a delicious hot Christmas lunch.  Lots of the children and quite a few of the adults had seconds, with Donna’s buttery mashed potato being a firm favourite.

Our very own Santa PC Paul Davies also gave up his Saturday and brought along three young people to act as elves in the grotto, helping with welcome drinks, waiting on tables etc.  They were a great help.

Dudley Youth Health Champions made us Reindeer Food bags and special hot chocolate pouches to go in the goody bags.

The feedback from the children and their families was very positive, so although it was a wonderful if tiring afternoon we had so much fun that we are doing it again in 2018!

 

Our amazing supporters

We had over 100 supporters this year and there’s a list on the blog page, but there are some very special people who deserve a round of applause and to whom I would like to say a heartfelt thank you.

Louis Ackerman was this year’s Captain of Hagley Golf Club and after a pitch from his son Carl Ackerman, decided to make Operation Santa his charity of the year. We have never been anyone’s charity of the year before so this was a great honour and momentous way to start Operation Santa 2017 in the late summer.  His fundraising efforts have secured us a large donation, which will certainly boost the funds for this year’s appeal.

Simon Leigh, Carl Ackerman and Mike Knott are a group of friends from Kingswinford Charity Football Club, who have been supporting us for a couple of years now and this year did the biggest toy drop in Operation Santa history, spending an incredible £2500 at Smyths Toys. They also came up with the idea of putting on our first ever Christmas lunch and party, which all came together in less than a month, thanks to they and their families’ unstinting hard work and generosity.

Airtime are a social group for people with COPD, which is organised by the Integrated Plus Project and meet at DY1 Venue once a week.  They very kindly offered to make cards, gift tags and decorations for this year’s appeal, and are already planning what they will make this year too!

Then we have our faithful ‘regulars’ – Glynne School Club, Ice Blue and Tim & Tina Pace, who come back every year laden with gifts and boundless goodwill.

We also had our youngest ever supporter Jack, who came in with his mum and donated a brand new puzzle and a little note, bless him J

 

Strike a pose!

Every picture tells a story and we have some great ones from this year’s Operation Santa, so why not have a browse?

How did we do?

Why we do it

We’ve had some lovely feedback from some of our recipients and I have also shared some sad tales this year too, including an arson attack, a burglary and children being taken into care at Christmas. Thanks to the generosity of lovely local people, businesses and statutory partners, we have helped to add a little Christmas cheer.

May I have a round of applause please?

I would like to pass on sincere thanks to all the lovely people who have supported us, but also some very special people who have helped make Operation Santa a reality and have really gone the extra mile.

Brett Harris  for his passion, commitment and unfailing support

Rose Cook Monk for her help with elf duties and her lovely husband Andy for being our volunteer sleigh driver, whizzing around the borough collecting donations.

The lovely team from Brierley Hill Civic Hall, who have kept us plied with coffee and cake, moved boxes and found random items as we have needed them. We have been a real disruption at times, but they have put up with us and our incessant stream of visitors.

Did we have a panto? Oh yes we did!

Huge thanks to the fabulous Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company, who have done us an amazing price on their tickets, meaning that 180 tickets for their pantomime ‘Mother Goose’ could be purchased. This is always a fab experience for the children who attend and is often their first experience of going to the theatre.  Oh yes it is!

 

Thanks to BHMTC for doing very special prices on the tickets. 170 at panto performance.

Share our journey and join Operation Santa

If you would like to help next year or want to see what we are up to, why not join in the fun and share our stories as they happen.

BLOG:   www.operationsanta.wordpress.com  simply visit the blog and sign up to follow us, then you will get an email each time I post a story.  You can also download our wishlists for gifts and essentials, and see who’s been supporting us so far.

FACEBOOK:  join us at for the latest news and stories https://www.facebook.com/Operationsanta.Dudleyborough/