Volunteers thanked for decades of dedication to NHS in Harrogate

Volunteers who have dedicated decades of their free time to Harrogate's NHS Trust have been thanked at a 70th anniversary awards ceremony.

Volunteers at the Trust's 1940s long-standing volunteer awards tea party.

Volunteering Co-Ordinator at Harrogate Distrist NHS Foundation Trust, Fiona Tomlinson, threw a 1940s volunteer tea party to celebrate the hard work of all the volunteers.

Ranging from 10 to 40 years of service, the longest-serving volunteers were given badges of honour to display their commitment to the NHS.

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Presenting the awards, Chairman of HDFT, Angela Schofield, said: “One of the greatest establishments we have in Great Britian is the NHS and it is absolutely marvellous that we have so many volunteers.

Longest standing volunteer at the awards, Andy Wilkinson, won a badge of honour for his 40 years service to the hospital charity, Friends of Harrogate Hospital.

“From the Trust’s point of view, as an organisation that has volunteers like these, who are so generous, it is a sign of a healthy organisation.

“If you want to come here and give your time, after all time is the most time is the most precious thing that anybody has, so it’s really the greatest gift that the volunteers can give. “Thank you to all the volunteers for their support and time that they give and thank you to Fiona, she does a really great job of matching up opportunities with what people want to do and are interested in.”

Today the Trust has 666 active volunteers who provide a staggering 2,000 hours of help a month.

Around 80 per cent of those volunteers are based in the community but also support staff in Harrogate, Ripon, Northallerton, Scarborough, Durham, Darlington and Middlesborough.

Award-winner. Andy Wilkinson, is one of just two volunteers who has clocked an incredible 40 years of volunteering with his service to the Trust’s charity, the Friends of Harrogate Hospital.

He said: “I think my first mistake was going out for a few drinks with a neighbour who said would you mind helping me with a fundraising tombola next weekend. I agreed and my fate was sealed, by Christmas I was on the committee and here I am, still, 40 years later.

The volunteers at the Trust today range in age from 16 to 93 but Andy explained that young NHS volunteers were not always commonplace in Harrogate.

He said: “I did two terms as Chair of the Friends for nine years each and sat as a governor of the Trust for nine years.

“My best memory is that we got a grant of £17,000 to encourage youth volunteering and I was in fact chairman of the recruiting panel when I was a governor.

“We had to recruit a person to run the volunteer service and we chose Fiona, and the Friends then paid her salary for four years through donations. It was a lot of work but when I applied for the grant we had one volunteer in the hospital aged under 40, just one.

“But I look at it now, there are loads of them here. It helps them a lot for their CVs and things like that so there is a benefit for them too.”

Now Fiona has been co-ordinating the volunteers at the Trust for ten years, and still maintains that Harrogate’s volunteers are the best in the country.

She said: “I think as a country we are incredibly proud of this institution and the help and support that the volunteers give is priceless. They make the difference to our patients, to staff and to our community and I think we have the best volunteers in the country.”