#2016hours: First volunteers inspired by The YP's Loneliness campaign get to work

Laurence Furlong at the Royal Voluntary Service Wakefield Meals With Care depot in Featherstone. 
Picture: Scott MerryleesLaurence Furlong at the Royal Voluntary Service Wakefield Meals With Care depot in Featherstone. 
Picture: Scott Merrylees
Laurence Furlong at the Royal Voluntary Service Wakefield Meals With Care depot in Featherstone. Picture: Scott Merrylees
THE FIRST volunteers inspired by The Yorkshire Post's Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign's #2016hours drive are now doing their bit to eradicate social isolation in the region's communities - but your help is still desperately needed.

In February, on the second anniversary of the campaign, we launched a new initiative to encourage our readers to donate a combine 2,016 hours of their time to the Royal Voluntary Service - which runs dozens of services to combat loneliness and social isolation across Yorkshire.

After spotting a story in the newspaper, Laurence Furlong, 59, of Carlton near Rothwell, West Yorkshire, volunteered to help with the Wakefield Meals with Care service.

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Now, twice a week, he helps deliver hot meals to house-bound people who need them across West Yorkshire. But the service offered by Meals With Care is much more than simply providing a nutritious meal.

Volunteer drivers and escorts, who sometimes see their clients every day, are in the perfect position to notice any changes in the health or wellbeing of older people, and help to stave off loneliness by offering a friendly face and a chat.

Mr Furlong, who was looking for a new challenge after retiring from his managerial job at Bradford Council last autumn, said: “The whole process has been really quick and easy. I went into the office in February for a chat, filled in some forms, and was volunteering by March.

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“As a driver escort I spend three hours a day, twice a week, out with a driver delivering meals and checking up on people as we go.

“I’d felt like I wanted to give something back to my community, and this is my chance. A lot of the people we deliver to are waiting for us when we get there - they’ll soon tell us if we’re a little bit late - and they are genuinely pleased to see us.

“I’d absolutely recommend volunteering. Just give it a go - nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

There are more roles like Mr Furlong’s available at Wakefield Meals With Care.

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Natasha Mort, operations manager for the RVS across North and West Yorkshire, Leeds and York, said the role of drivers’ escort was invaluable in helping to ensure the older people who use the service are safe in their home.

“In some cases, they get to see them every day, so they are well placed to spot any changes in how they are feeling and make sure they are safe at home,” she said.

“We have lots of services across Yorkshire that are similarly making a difference and reducing loneliness and social isolation that desperately need people with the skills and time to help them.

“Whether it’s help with an activities group, people with fundraising experience or those with the admin skills to help our offices run smoothly, they are like gold dust, we need you.

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“If you are good at Cluedo, we have a games club in Leeds which needs help; if you have a voice of an angel, we have singing groups that need support; and we are starting a new falls prevention service in Kirklees that needs volunteers to go into people’s home and advise them.”

Other services desperately in need of help include telephone befriending across the region, the York home library service, a community centre in Pickering and befriending in Bradford.

Paul Taylor, head of support and development at the charity, said: “We are extremely pleased with the interest we’ve had so far as part of #2016hours campaign but we still have many more volunteer roles to fill.

“The Royal Voluntary Service provides vital services for older people in Yorkshire but without more volunteers we cannot meet the ever growing demand for our services. If you have a couple of hours to spare a week and are looking to make a difference in your own community then you are exactly who we are looking for.”

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To volunteer with Wakefield Meals With Care call 01977 696840.

If you would like to volunteer, or to find out more information, call 0845 608 0122. Alternatively sign up via www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk Please mention #2016hours