I retired nearly 17 years ago and having never volunteered during my working life wanted to give something back, plus give myself an interest. I ended up as a trustee and secretary for the Friends of Beaumont Park. Their then chair invited me to become a trustee of a planned new venture to create a partnership with Kirklees Council, to bring some services and support to all the parks and green spaces in Kirklees – the birth of Natural Kirklees.
Getting involved in the Friends of Beaumont Park gave me and my wife a new circle of friends as the fellow volunteers all live locally. Prior to this my friends were scattered over the country. Unwittingly commandeered as a trustee, my activity escalated more and more, giving me a huge amount of satisfaction in feeling part of the team. More pertinently is that, during my time with Friends of Beaumont Park, I could rarely walk through the park without being stopped by the local residents to discuss various topics. Nowadays, my involvement with Natural Kirklees means meeting and talking to other members of the volunteer groups from all over Kirklees plus other organisations such the council or local MP’s.
I worked in private industry for 30 odd years in a senior role and developed the confidence to work with likeminded people. I’d been warned by a friend and became conscious of the fact that the norms of being involved in decision making and generally being relied on for advice would stop, potentially leading to a sense of having lower self-worth.
My volunteering journey started by becoming involved in helping a local amateur dramatic group and realising that volunteering was immensely fulfilling, not from an egotistical perspective but one of doing something useful and learning new skills. As time passed, I became more involved with our local park and subsequently the wider area of Kirklees green spaces. My skillsets lay not in anything that required artistic talent or hard work, but like my working life would need to be a continuation of administrative or technical tasks.
As chair of Natural Kirklees there are often decisions that are best shared and like my time at Friends of Beaumont Park, ask for opinions from those more experienced. This has always been freely offered and helps make decisions or take on issues, in a collaborative environment.
While no longer involved with the Friends of Beaumont Park, I still get a huge amount of pleasure working in the infamous Burger Van at events in the park, with all the profits helping improve the park. The Burger Van was all thanks to the extraordinary work of the volunteers being able to raise funds via the Visitor Centre and with the council’s backing.
Life moved on and I became one of six trustees to establish a new charity Natural Kirklees. Initially, I was sceptical about what we were doing but after six years, I firmly believe that we play an important role in linking the green space groups with the council team and provide various services and funds to those that need them. We have grown our membership to over 125 groups, over two thirds of them being helped in one way or another.
I am proud of what we as a charity do – I think its unique in the UK but more importantly, I get a great buzz from meeting the groups and seeing what they are doing with limited resources and the current constraints everyone is under. The 92 groups we provide public liability insurance for give over 50,000 volunteer hours a year to their local green spaces. This is a magnificent figure, and it gives great pleasure in being able to help in the small way we can.
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Thank you to Ed for sharing this story through our ‘Share your story’ page on this website. Do you have something to share about getting involved? We’d love to hear your story.