FIVE district STAR volunteer winners were crowned during National Volunteers’ Week last week recognising the invaluable time and commitment they give to their local community.

Voluntary organisations and members of the public were asked in February to nominate ‘Somerset Star’ volunteers who deserve special recognition for the voluntary work they do.

Over 70 STAR volunteer nominations were received from across Somerset and each nominee was invited to attend special district events during last week’s National Volunteers’ Week.

From each district, one volunteer was crowned district winner by local voluntary organisations Engage and Spark.

Cllr David Fothergill, leader of Somerset County Council, said: “We are very proud of all our Somerset volunteers who tirelessly give up some of their spare time to help others.

"Volunteers do so much to help others and this is a chance to recognise the fantastic work they do.

"A huge well done to all those who were nominated and particularly to those who were crowned district champions last week.

"The county’s ultimate Star Volunteer winner will be announced at the Chairman’s Awards in the autumn. ”


Taunton Deane: Beacon Centre Volunteers. The Beacon Centre volunteers carry out a variety of activities including meeting and greeting patients and visitors to the Beacon Centre, providing an active ear listening service (which allows patients, friends and relatives to talk about their feelings), supporting and running errands, helping in the provision of refreshments and meals to patients and providing feel good factor/pampering sessions to patients.

West Somerset: Healthy Hedgerows Project Volunteers. The Healthy Hedgerows Project aims to develop a better understanding of the status of dormice and condition of hedgerows. The project has a dedicated team of 30 volunteers who undertake small mammal surveys, trialling a variety of recently developed techniques such as hair trapping. All their findings are then recorded and assessed. The group is incredibly dedicated. With live trapping the traps need to be set at night and checked first thing to avoid distress to the animal. The volunteers cheerily commit to these unsocial hours.

South Somerset: Debbie Fry, who volunteers for the Yeovil Opportunity Group. Debbie volunteers for three mornings a week at the Yeovil Opportunity Group (a charity providing pre-school education for children with additional needs). Its aim is to work with children and families giving them significantly greater dedicated and professional support than they could normally receive, at what can be an incredibly difficult, challenging and emotional time. Debbie first became involved with the Opportunity Group in 2004. As a result of Volunteering Debbie is now embarking on part time level 3 qualification in childcare and hopes to be able to use the skills she has learned to become a specialist SENCO for children with additional needs. Debbie goes over and above the roll of an “individual” volunteer and is often the centre of fun for the children and the Group. Singing, laughing, organizing games and full of fun ideas for learning.

Sedgemoor: Hands of Change for Burnham and Surround Area. Hands of Change started in January 2016 as a small group of friends wanting to do some good in Burnham and Highbridge. Only just over a year later they now have 538 members. It works on the basis that a little kindness can go a long way. Hands of Change has organised and run a wide range of activities in the community, including a fortnightly tea party for elderly and isolated people, a monthly craft session for people with mental health issues, a fortnightly social group for people with aspergers and autism, and a fortnightly drop-in for anyone at all. It also ran a Christmas party for isolated and elderly people in partnership with a local restaurant. It has a children’s group that recently helped restore a sensory garden at a local community centre, and has a regular walking group. It has also collected clothing for homeless people and arranged with a local restaurant for a ‘pay it forward’ tree, where diners can leave a donation on the tree, so someone who is homeless can go and have a free meal. It has a ‘Tardis’ outside its home where people can deposit items they don’t use any more and people can take them to use at no charge.

Mendip: Lynn Rendell. Lynn is the volunteer co-ordinator for the Home Library Service in Wells, Street, Glastonbury and Shepton Mallet. Lynn is the day to day contact for the volunteers for four libraries and has been prolific in not only recruiting volunteers but in bringing in new clients and has grown the service in Mendip. Nothing is too much trouble and she has been a real help in supporting other new co-ordinators in other areas of Somerset. Individuals who have a passion for reading and are socially isolated now have a volunteer visiting them, delivering books and spending times with them, ensuring individuals are supporting each other in their local community.