Gill Graham

Gill Graham doing her volunteer work.

By Democrat reporter

Residents and employees who have volunteered to help during Covid-19 are being celebrated by West Dunbartonshire Council this week.

Their dedication and hard work is being highlighted as part of the annual Volunteers’ Week, which runs between 1 June and 7 June.

More than 600 Council employees offered to volunteer in alternative roles to support critical services in the days and weeks after lockdown.

Some have been redeployed into roles in the contact centre, where they answer hundreds of resident queries each day; the crisis support team, where they arrange for practical advice and assistance to any resident requiring additional help; and others into a caring role, providing support to the most vulnerable members of our communities.

Gill Graham is usually based in Educational Services supporting the Holiday Hunger programme, but volunteered to help the crisis support team.

She said: “Over the last 5 weeks I’ve worked with over 100 individual clients across the Clydebank area to deliver prescriptions and shopping. I have regular visits a week, much of which involves dog walking for local residents who are currently shielded and unable to get out. I’m currently doing about 3-4 dogs walks each day – I’ve never been so fit!

“The services we deliver play a vital role in reducing the anxiety of our residents, which I see every day. Every person I have worked with has been grateful and very supportive of the volunteer programme and the Crisis Support Team has made a huge difference to their lives during these exceptional times. Some of my volunteering involves befriending and I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know the residents at my  regular dog walking visits.

“I volunteered because I felt it was an opportunity to make a difference and as part of a team support our most vulnerable residents.  At times it’s  been challenging and exhausting but I’ve loved every minute of it.

“Volunteering has definitely benefited both me and the residents I’m helping.”

Claire Prior, 32, usually works in revenue and benefits, but volunteered to work in a care home.

She said:  “So far, I have found the experience really rewarding and I have enjoyed feeling like I am making a difference to the elderly residents lives. My duties have included moving residents, helping with meal times, personal hygiene and supporting them in general in things like talking to them about how they feel and just being there to chat if they want to. This is home for these elderly residents, so we want them to feel safe here.

“I volunteered because I wanted to help and it feels good to be doing something during this time. I hope that if I was in this situation, or a family member was, then other people would volunteer their time if they were able.

“I didn’t imagine I would enjoy this work as much as I am, it’s been such a good experience and the team have welcomed me in and been extremely supportive.”

Alongside staff, volunteers from the local community have signed up to help too, and community organisations including local foodbank Food4Thought and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park are working in partnership with the Council to ensure demand for critical supplies can be met.

>Kevin Unnit

Kevin Unnit’s (pictured) usual role with the National Park is currently restricted, so has been using his time to support vulnerable and isolated residents.

He said: “I am finding it very rewarding to feel helpful, and useful, in the lockdown by supporting vulnerable members of my community.

“We have joined a large volunteer team supporting over 1,000 vulnerable and isolated residents in West Dunbartonshire. Every day hundreds of workers are delivering shopping and other essential supplies.

“I am given a list of names, addresses and a brief description of each residents needs. It could be anything from collecting shopping from the local supermarket for a shielding older resident, or joining the queue outside a local chemist to collect important medication and drop it off for a different person in the area.

“The next day it might be batteries for a hearing aid to pick up, or back to a chemist, or a vulnerable person whose dog required their walk.

“Everyone I’ve knocked on the door of has been hugely relieved, grateful and thankful for my efforts. Even if it’s just a wave from the window as they don’t want to get too close.

“Little glimpses of people in need, in these unique circumstances, have cast a greater perspective on my area, and society. I’m just one part of a much larger effort and  I am proud such procedures are in place to support people in such a way.”

Each volunteer is given training, guidance and advice throughout their placement to support them.

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Caroline McAllister

Cllr Caroline McAllister said: “A big well done to every single person who has volunteered to help during this national crisis. Every tiny action to help or assist a person in need is so appreciated, and I am extremely proud and humbled to see the way the communities in West Dunbartonshire have joined forces with the Council to make sure nobody is isolated or alone.

“I know the number of people who volunteered to support critical Council services exceeded expectations and that not everyone who put their name forward has been mobilised. However it is important to thank every person who showed willing to help during this pandemic.

“Though I’m one of the people not yet called up, I have been helping out in my local area when I’ve become aware that people have required help with shopping or other essentials.

“I’ve seen so many other residents do the same, and if one good thing comes from this pandemic, it will be that we have been reminded how important it is for communities to work together and look after each other.”

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