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Volunteers Week 2021: A chat with Gainsborough Community Wheels

Volunteers with Gainsborough Community Wheels

Volunteers in West Lindsey are continuing to be celebrated as part of a national celebration to highlight and thank the work of local community volunteers.

This lunchtime (04 June) we dropped into Gainsborough House to catch up with Office Manager and Secretary of Gainsborough Community Wheels Julie Brighton, and Treasurer and volunteer driver, Marion Thomas – who have both been volunteering since 2014.

Read on to see the full Q&A with the pair – as they discuss the charity and what they believe volunteering means to local communities.

For those that don’t know, can you explain what Gainsborough Community Wheels does, and what service they provide?

Julie: “We are a transport service that takes individuals without transport to places like hospitals and doctors. We used to do shopping and things, but we haven’t got enough drivers to do that at the moment. The drivers give their time for free, but we have to make a mileage charge, to cover their petrol. We differ from a taxi in that our drivers – they are all door-to-door – they pick them up, take them to their appointments, stay with them and get them home again.

“We are struggling for drivers at the minute – we got up to 15 once. It’s now whittled down to around eight. We are always on the lookout for new drivers.”

“When people need a journey, they ring us up, and we assess what their needs are – then we arrange the journey for them. We get the driver who is available, tell them how much it is going to be, and if they are happy, we book it and that’s the process really.”

Marion: “Our service is literally for you – we take you, we will even help you into the hospital if needs be, wait with you and bring you back again.

“We do trips to Doctors, Dentists, Opticians, but hospitals are our biggest (calls), and we go all over. Nottingham, Sheffield, Boston, Louth, Grimsby – we literally go wherever. Leicester and Leeds were probably the furthest trips we have been on.”

How many Volunteer drivers do you currently have at the moment and are they all local?

Julie: “We have eight at the moment. We have signed one up from Misterton, and everybody else is local – all Gainsborough based.”

Why do you personally volunteer and how important do you think volunteering is for the community?

Julie: “I do it because I don’t want to commit to a job personally! Although I do have set days, it’s still quite flexible for me. We are all a great team together.”

Marion: “I don’t think we as a county really appreciate the value of volunteers, I really don’t. This building (Gainsborough House) was set up to help older people – with lunch clubs on almost every day at one time. I really do think that the value of volunteering is underestimated.”

What would you say are the main benefits/rewards of volunteering?

Julie: “Keeping your brain going. As you are getting older, that’s one of the positives of volunteering.”

Marion: “Definitely the social aspect of it. If you’ve had a very stressful job, it’s nice to be able to give back.”

Julie: “I agree with that - the social aspect is important. I always look forward to coming in, it gives me a focus outside of the house.”

If local residents do want to volunteer as drivers, how would they go about doing so?

Julie: “They can contact us – or they can go through the volunteer bureau. They have all our details and they can forward on the details to us, or anyone interested can email or ring us here.”

Marion: “If anybody is interested, they can do as little or as much as they want. There is never any pressure – you can say no (to shifts). It is entirely up to volunteers how much they do.”

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