One of the best features about Ashford has always been how many people are prepared to spend time and effort helping their neighbours, or even complete strangers. The concrete evidence for this is the strength of volunteering in the town, and the consequent importance of the Ashford Volunteer Centre.
With this as a background, it was a genuine privilege to be asked to present the awards at the Ashford Volunteers Fair 2017, at St Mary’s Church on Saturday. The event was organised by the Stronger Kent Communities Programme in conjunction with the Volunteer Centre.
There were a large number of stalls manned by staff and volunteers from across Ashford’s voluntary sector. The extent of this is shown by the variety of interests covered, including the environment, health, wellbeing, social care, history and heritage and youth services.
Frankly, if you have any desire to help the community in a voluntary capacity Ashford will have the group for you. The awards we were handing out went to organisations from the Ashford Lions, who have a very general remit, to really specific charities.
The big national charities like the Citizens Advice Bureau, Macmillan, and the Girl Guides, as well as international ones such as the Red Cross, have strong Ashford branches. There were also certificates for Kent-wide charities such as the Kent Wildlife Trust and Stronger Kent Communities. Finally there were Ashford-specific charities such as the Willesborough Windmill team, and the Friends of Singleton Lake.
The purpose of the event was not just to celebrate the work of these and other equally worthy organisations, but to help them find new helpers. The one thing that unites all voluntary groups, from hospices to children’s charities, is that they have an insatiable demand for new recruits. Almost all of them can scale up their activities if they can locate new pairs of willing hands, so I hope that a few hours in St Mary’s Church has made a measurable difference to all of the groups.
I didn’t want to make this column read like a list, so I have to apologise to the various groups I have been unable to name individually but if you are sitting at home thinking you might have some time and talent to put to good use, contact the Ashford Volunteer Centre and they will point you in the right direction. You will not regret it.