Delve into an enlightening Q&A with Mill St Club volunteers Stephen and Darren as they share their motivations behind volunteering and discover what drives them to make a meaningful difference.

What were your reason/s for wanting to volunteer?

Stephen:
At the end of the second Covid lockdown, I was at a bit of a loss and thought some form of volunteering would be a good use of my time. I wanted to throw myself into something having retired just before Covid hit and initially looked at opportunities to volunteer in an outdoor environment when a request for volunteers at Alzheimer’s Support appeared on the Wiltshire Council's website.  My mother lived with dementia for several years and I thought that my first-hand experience with her could be useful for whatever role I was given if I was considered suitable. So that's how I ended up volunteering at Mill Street day club in Trowbridge.

Darren:
My circumstances were different but I was also looking for something new to make good use of my spare time. I saw a card on a notice board in Sainsburys looking for a handyman to help out as needed at the Mill St day club in Trowbridge. This sounded like something I could get to grips with so I rang the number. It turned out that there was a greater need for a volunteer to help out with club members alongside staff and fellow volunteers.

What do you do when you are volunteering at the club?

Stephen:
For some reason on the day we volunteer (Friday) there have always been more men than women so at the suggestion of former staff member Fiona (now based at the Devizes club) we started what is called the Mini Men’s Shed. The name sounded good and has stuck, and the women members join in as much as the men do.  Projects undertaken have included assembling and painting hobby horses, welly wickets, and upcycling old wooden chairs, and coffee tables.

Darren:
We've recently produced a range of bird tables, feeders, and nest boxes and had a commission for a hedgehog house. The latest project was the renovation/replacement of the plant troughs outside the club. Seeing members sawing, drilling, sanding and painting can be a bit nerve racking at times but the end results are great. The best part is seeing how much enjoyment the members have participating and the pride radiating from them when each project is completed. 

 
What do get out of volunteering at Mill St?

Stephen and Darren:
We have got so much out of being part of the Mill St family. The club has a great warm and welcoming feel to it. The staff and other volunteers made us feel at home from our first “trial” visit. There's so much happiness and fun involved in providing members the opportunity to have a day out of the house and a regular opportunity to spend time with other people. We both agree that by being part of Mill St club we have gained a great sense of satisfaction and increased self-worth.


Did you have any challenges to overcome as a volunteer?

Stephen and Darren:
Neither of us had any idea what to expect when we first arrived at Mill St. Being thrown in at the deep end during the first few volunteer days was a bit daunting, worrying if we were going to do or say the wrong things. But we both soon learned some things will work and others will not. Getting to know each member well and understanding them as individuals helped, and staff and other volunteers provided amazing support whilst we got used to being in a situation neither of us had been in before.


Have you developed skills that helped your career outside volunteering?

Stephen:
No, I just really enjoy being part of the club, doing the occasional extra day when needed.

Darren:
Not long after I started volunteering I was made redundant. This provided the opportunity to extend my involvement with Alzheimer's Support and, following the completion of the appropriate training, I am now a Home Support Worker.


What impact has volunteering had on you?

Stephen:
It is hard to say exactly what impact volunteering at Mill St has had on me. But at the end of every volunteering day, as I walk back to my car, I feel a few inches taller and have a warm fuzzy feeling inside of me. My wife tells me I am much happier and more content with retirement! I have gained a post-retirement purpose in life.

Darren:
I am now in a much better place than I was. Being at Mill St has given me the feeling of giving back to society in a great way. Just seeing members enjoying themselves, having fun, and smiling all day also makes me smile much more.


What advice would you give potential volunteers?

Stephen and Darren:
Whatever the volunteering role is, just give it a go. It's a great feeling knowing you are giving something back into the local community.


Can you summarise your experiences in one sentence?

Stephen:
Extremely satisfying, exhausting at times, great fun, giving me back as much as I put into an incredible place and organisation that supports people with dementia.

Darren:
What he said!


More about volunteering at Alzheimer's Support