Ranger/manager Judi Arnold had the bright idea of having this year's volunteer gathering at the District Council's nursery in Godmanchester. This turned out to be a successful event on so may levels.
Firstly, I think the volunteers enjoyed getting together and this was re-enforced by the fact that so many agreed to come.
Secondly, we needed to promote the nursery and I know from talking to staff and volunteers alike that no-one knew how brilliant this project was. We really need to promote the nursery because it is a massive asset to the community, providing trees, shrubs, flowers, fruit and veg cheaply.
For me, the most important benefit from the project is that it employs a host of volunteers, especially those with Special Needs who find it impossible to get paid employment. This aspect is priceless. Imagine yourself in a position where no-one values your contribution and your time is spent on indoor frivolities that you are not interested in. Then someone offers you a few hours a week doing things that have real products such as food that you can eat and flowers that you can admire. And you get to do these things with people that you like and who like you.
Thirdly, the food was amazing. I have eaten Pizza in Italy, the Seychelles, Brampton, Boston and Chicago and I have to say that this pizza was right up there with the best. I wasn't expecting dessert, but imagine a choice between home-made summer pudding, apple pie, crumble, cream, meringue and cakes, or all of them, and you can see what I was faced with. Mmmmmm.
Finally, I saw this as a celebration of the volunteer sector as a whole. I moved from group to group and realised (again) that these are the kind of people I want to spend my time with. They are my kind of folks; the kind of people who give more than they take.
I had come prepared to make a speech, but because of the large number of attendees, we abandoned this.
I always say that we could not survive without volunteers, but now we are asking them to cover an ever-expanding range of tasks from making tea to doing patrols, wildlife monitoring, administration and gardening. This leaves the (shrinking) staff to do the essential tasks of cleaning toilets, collecting dog poo, emptying bins and driving big tractors. It will come as no surprise to you that we are now looking for new volunteers to clean toilets, collect dog poo, etc! Please send you CV to me if you are interested.