Volunteers have a special role to play in the life of Pilgrims’ Friend Society. As it's Volunteers' Week this week, we thought we'd share this piece by Mandy Smith, Scheme Manager at Pilgrim Gardens in Leicester, on how a new volunteer initiative has been enriching the lives of residents at Evington Home

Over 200 years ago, Pilgrims’ Friend Society was started by a group of praying Christians concerned for the needs of poor, elderly Christians. Volunteers came forward to help carry out the vision of these praying Christians by initially taking food parcels around to those in need.

Throughout the next 200 years, volunteering has been an integral part of the Society’s growth in ministry to elderly Christians and even though times and needs have changed immensely over the 200 years, the need for volunteers hasn’t.

Benefits to the Society and the elderly in our care

All our homes are staffed by excellent teams who ensure that all the personal care needs of the residents are met. This they do excellently, which is why all our care homes are rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission. However, we believe that God wants more for our elderly residents. Psalm 92:14 says, “They (God’s righteous) will bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” It is for this work that volunteers are invaluable. A Volunteer Pilot has been started in Evington Home and the way that volunteers have helped the residents of the home ‘bear fruit’ is by enabling them to, independently study the Bible, create things for ornamental displays, make things to eat that they and their resident neighbours can enjoy, among other things.

Volunteers also contribute significantly to the Society’s finances, enabling the organisation to use its money and resources more effectively. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) say that there is a huge positive financial impact of volunteering, totalling over £23 billion in the UK per year.

Benefits to the volunteer

Some of the volunteers who signed up during the Pilot are residents of the Society’s Independent Living Housing Scheme, Pilgrim Gardens, which is close to Evington Home. It’s wonderful to witness their ‘God hasn’t done with me yet’ attitude as they are usefully employed leading Bible studies, helping on trips out, enabling the residents to arrange flowers and visiting those who cannot get out of their rooms.

Newly retired folks could also benefit from volunteering. According to a nationwide survey by Home Instead Senior Care, many people felt that they retired too soon, were disappointed by the lack of routine in their retirement and missed the companionship of work. 60% of those surveyed agreed that being employed was good for their mental health. Home Instead’s CEO Martin Jones noted how many people in their 60s, 70s and 80s enjoy the companionship and the sense of purpose and fulfilment that comes from offering extra support to those who need it or are lonely.

The Pilot has shown that those in their teens can also benefit from volunteering by adding to their experience and enhancing their CV.

What can volunteers do?

Volunteers can bring a whole range of talents to the homes and schemes to benefit the residents. The most popular being visits with or without prayer and Bible reading, flower arranging, craft and cooking workshops, helping on trips, leading devotions, helping in the office and cleaning. Pilgrims’ Friend Society’s Operations Manager, Jane Trimarco, who is heading up the Volunteer Pilot, speaks of volunteers abseiling with residents in a previous job. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet, but we really do not have to be limited to the list above.

Who can volunteer?

Anyone with a heart to serve the older generation. You will need to fill out an application form, provide references and complete a DBS check before you can start volunteering. Any training needed will be provided. You can be any age and ability as I’ve already said we have volunteers in their teens to their 80s.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering for Pilgrims’ Friend Society, please contact Jane Trimarco on [email protected] or call our head office on 0300 303 1400.

Although due to the coronavirus pandemic we are not currently able to welcome volunteers into our homes as usual, we'd still love to hear from you. 

Find out how our Evington Home is staying connected to the outside world during the lockdown

This article appears in the latest issue of The Pilgrims' Magazine