The first week of June is National Volunteers Week – a wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate all our amazing volunteers. There are so many incredible volunteers we’d like to shout out, but instead of writing a long list of names this is really an acknowledgment of the commitment and invaluable contributions of the volunteer cohort as a group to ODL and our members. 

As always, we have had a busy year, and there has been such a range of activities that it’s difficult to reflect in detail.  But as an overview, all our groups are volunteers run by people who cook, prepare food and refreshments, socialise, organise speakers on a regular basis; our visits to galleries, museums and places of interest such as Kew Gardens have been facilitated by volunteers; our arts events such as the Tate Late could only have run with volunteers and the list goes on. Meanwhile, our Ambassadors have been busy advocating on behalf of LGBTQ+ people over 50, training and liaising with corporate partners. Volunteers in the office have been increasingly supportive in data entry and updating records, helping prepare meeting and inductions, and getting the listings put together and mailed out. Befrienders and latterly telefrienders have visited or called members, weekly, fortnightly or monthly to provide support and companionship. And of course, we cannot forget our Trustees who have put in the hours to make sure the whole show stays on the road. This all amounts to literally thousands of hours of volunteering over the year, supporting our small ODL team, who it is fair to say, couldn’t do a fraction of this without you!

Our volunteering has particularly benefited from:

  • Low volunteer turnover – we have a stable group of amazing core volunteers, with a high retention rate of experienced people.
  • Volunteer expertise and innovation– we have had a number of volunteers who have come with us volunteering to do one thing and then offered to employ their professional skills to support ODL and our members in other ways. This is helping us offer particular services to the members but is also increasing the skill sets and capacity within the organisation.
  • Responsiveness and flexibility within the volunteering cohort – when we have put call-outs for help with particular projects or events someone, and often many of you, have always come forward to help.
  • Going that extra mile – we are only too aware that so many of you put far more in than we ask you too, in time, in physical energy, in imagination and creativity and critically in emotional labour.
  • Diversity – it has been really rewarding to work with an increasingly diverse cohort of volunteers of many sexualities, genders, ethnicities and ages, all pulling together to the benefit of the members. Please do not underestimate what this means to all of us at ODL in these tricky and divisive times.
  • And, of course, in recent times the volunteer response to the lockdown has been nothing short of inspiring – your flexibility, your drive, your commitment at a time when we are all under so much stress has been simply overwhelming! And an additional shout out to the patience of the people who have come forward to volunteer but who we haven’t had the chance to call on yet. Thank you so much for hanging on in there.

So, in summary, here’s my shout out to you all –

Whether you have volunteered week in week out or just occasionally when you could spare the time from your busy schedule – at a group, in the office, advocating to health professionals, linking up with businesses, or in someone’s home – thank you so much!  If you have given your time to attend our forums, to fill in our volunteer surveys, to attend an induction, or to come to one of our volunteer celebrations, thank you so much. If you have helped with or led on setting up any of our one-off arts or education events throughout the year, thank you so much.  If you have supported our comms team or our members with their IT needs or supported our staff in the office, thank you so much.  If you have supported our policy team with your research skills or participated in any of our research projects, thank you so much.  If you have supported the move from befriending or other volunteering to telefriending during a time of great difficulty for many of us, thank you so much. And if you have come forward to offer support for ODL during lockdown by raising money for us or becoming a telefriender, whether you have begun your volunteering, or are still waiting to be called on, thank you so much. We think you are all amazing!

It is such a privilege for me to do the job I do, and to work with such a fabulous group of people. I offer all the acknowledgment above in my professional capacity as volunteer coordinator for ODL, but in addition my heartfelt thanks, respect and love as a part of our wonderful LGBTQ+ community, working, living and growing together 😊 xxx

Chryssy Hunter - Volunteer Coordinator