PUBLIC sector organisations across Dorset are paying tribute to all volunteers who have given their time and expertise for free during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of people across the county have provided an invaluable contribution to the emergency services and public services response during an unprecedented and challenging time.
Providing vital support to some of the county’s most vulnerable residents, volunteer action has included delivering shopping and food parcels, collecting medication, co-ordinating hot meals and foodbanks, befriending phone calls, managing money, patient transport, doorstep chats to help with loneliness.
Chief Constable James Vaughan of Dorset Police, said: “I have been amazed at the level of commitment, dedication and selflessness shown by all the volunteers who have played such a huge part in the Dorset Local Resilience Forum’s COVID-19 response.
“From co-ordinating the delivery of food parcels and medicine, to supporting care homes and the fantastic volunteer provision at the Bournemouth International Centre’s vaccination site, these men and women have stepped up and offered their time to help our communities through a very tough and difficult year.
“I would like to thank them all on behalf of the residents of Dorset – our partnership response to this pandemic would not have been as successful without them.”
Cllr Laura Miller, Dorset Council portfolio holder for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all of our amazing volunteers for all that you have done and all that you continue to do to help our communities.
“The strength and resilience that you have shown has been outstanding. We could not have achieved all that we have, had it not have been for you.
“I encourage anyone who would like to volunteer to sign up. Although the Prime Minister has set out the roadmap for ending lockdown restrictions, many people may still be nervous about going out, but we are all in this together and we will get through this by supporting each other.”
Volunteers have also been helping out in hospitals and across the vaccination sites including GP-led hubs, hospitals and the large vaccination centre at the BIC, which alone has seen nearly 2,000 people sign up to give support 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
Chief nursing officer at Dorset County Hospital, Nicky Lucey, said: “Our volunteers have been absolutely amazing. They have been key in supporting the COVID-19 vaccination programme rollout and have brought with them an energy that has been inspiring and uplifting for our staff.
“They have also continued to volunteer across the hospital during the ongoing pandemic, bringing their passion for the community to the forefront. I am humbled and grateful for their support and thank them immensely on behalf of everyone at Dorset County Hospital.”
A partnership approach has been the key to success across the county. Both councils, NHS and emergency services along with the voluntary and community sector collaborated from the start to make sure people could get the help they needed.
Area Manager Seth Why, from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Over the last year, personnel from across our organisation have taken on roles very different to their usual day job. This has included driving ambulances, fitting facemasks for colleagues in the health and social care sector, delivering food parcels and now supporting the mass vaccination centres.
“This willingness to help has been reflected across our communities, and I sincerely thank everyone who has offered their time and enthusiasm to support other people.”
People of all ages regularly volunteer in Dorset and their work across the county is invaluable. Volunteering also brings its own reward; it can increase a person’s wellbeing, bring a closer connection to local communities, and provide new skills and experience.