Volunteer marshals who dedicated more than 15,000 hours to helping out at Covid-19 vaccination centres in Barnsley have been celebrated at a special event.
A total of 230 people volunteered to help at the vaccination centres in Lundwood, Goldthorpe and Dodworth during the pandemic.
Barnsley Community and Voluntary Services (Barnsley CVS) co-ordinated and managed the volunteers on behalf of Barnsley Healthcare Federation.
As a thank you to the volunteers for their amazing efforts, a celebratory event was organised by the Volunteer Centre at Barnsley CVS at Worsbrough Mill.
The event was a chance for volunteers to catch up and reflect on their efforts during the pandemic, and enjoy Christmas themed activities and refreshments.
Volunteers made Christmas tree decorations that are now on display on a tree, sponsored by Webmart Ltd, in the Christmas Tree Festival at St Mary’s Church, in Barnsley.
Each decoration features the name of a volunteer and the dates and total hours they volunteered for.
Volunteer manager, Rachel Neale, said: “We just had the most wonderful response from the Barnsley community to help with the vaccination clinic marshalling at the start of the vaccination roll out.
“We had never coordinated volunteers to this degree before and we had to turn it all around in a matter of days back in December 2020.
“We had always wanted to host a celebration event for the volunteers, but it was finding something suitable for everyone.
“Being invited to take part in the Christmas tree festival felt the right way that everyone in Barnsley could see the vast amount of people and volunteering hours that went into supporting the vaccination clinics.
“Being able to invite the volunteers to make the decorations helps them be in control of their legacy and the amazing work they have done.
“It gave them a great chance to reflect on what a huge part they played in supporting the NHS and their community to get vaccinated.
“The vaccinations clinics are winding down in their current form, and we have been working closely with the volunteers to find them new community opportunities, but this seemed a lovely way for us to say thank you and give the volunteers a well appreciated send-off.”
A special presentation was made to Phil Jones who has volunteered for 670 hours at the Covid-19 vaccination centre at Priory Campus, in Lundwood.
He said: “It was the best experience. The great thing was all the wonderful people I was working with.
“The people volunteering and the people administering the vaccines are unbelievable.”
He added: “I started volunteering at Priory Campus in January 2020 and spent my first few shifts shovelling snow off the car park.
“I wanted to do something that got me out of the house. I had been working 12 hour shifts and to go from that to retired, and nothing, was hard. This has been a step to not working at all.”
Adele Richards volunteered 152 hours between January 2021 and April 2021 when her hairdressing business had to close during lockdown.
She said: “For me volunteering kept my mind going. I absolutely loved it.
“It was so exciting and kept me busy. I couldn’t wait to get out of bed in the morning.
“I had been worried about what I was going to do when I had to close the hairdressers, but volunteering gave me so much. I felt wonderful doing something for a good cause.”
Gill Partington volunteered for 99.5 hours between September 2021 and November this year at Priory Campus.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with people. I am a people person and love having all different conversations with people coming for their vaccine,” she said.
“What I loved most was being made so welcome by everyone involved. They made me feel valued.”
Andrea Parkin, BHF's Head of Nursing and AHPs, praised all the volunteers involved in the vaccination sites in Barnsley.
She said: "I would like to say a huge thanks to all the volunteers helping across all the Barnsley vaccination sites.
"You have helped Barnsley achieve the amazing milestone of offering a vaccine to everyone and so many of our most vulnerable residents.
"All of your contributions have undoubtedly helped us to set up and run our vaccination clinics at such an incredibly fast, yet, safe way. Quite simply, we could not have done it without you."
The Christmas Tree Festival, supported by Harris + Co, launches on Thursday 24 November as part of the Barnsley Bright Nights celebrations. People will be able to visit the festival between 5pm and 8.30pm on Thursday 24, Friday 25 and Saturday 26 November. The church will remain open from Sunday 27 November to Thursday 1 December, from 10am-4pm.
There will be a silent auction in operation on Thursday, Friday and Saturday which will give everyone visiting the church the opportunity to bid to purchase one of the trees for a donation to Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Richard Boon, Managing Director at WebMart, said: “We are really pleased to be joining with Barnsley CVS as part of the Barnsley Bright Nights celebrations.
“Giving back is one of Webmart’s core principles and being able to help raise money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance through this initiative is what Christmas is all about.”