Volunteer groups play a big part in uniting communities
Livability ‘Friends Groups’ are the lifeblood of community fundraising, raising awareness and funding special projects for their local community. We talked to Brenda Verrall about her group of volunteers in Southend-on-Sea and how they are impacting the lives of residents at Livability Dolphin Court.
How did you get involved with Dolphin Court?
My son Ashley has been a resident there for the past seven years, so this service is very close to my heart. Ashley will be 49 this summer. Unlike some of the other residents, Ashley is mobile but has multiple health issues – although since moving into Dolphin Court, he’s been quite well! They’ve looked after him exceptionally well and cater to all his needs. I am more than happy with the support he receives.
Can you tell us a bit about your Friend’s group’s fundraising initiatives?
One of our most successful fundraising events is the plant sale and refreshments stall we set up in front of Dolphin Court. This usually raises around £1000 so we’re hoping that our recent sale made another four-figure sum. Our Christmas Fair is also a great success. Last November, with the help of some generously donated gifts to sell, we made over £1500.
What projects have you chosen to support with the funds you’ve raised?
Since we started the Friends group, we’ve raised over £40,000 with the help of corporate partners Olympus KeyMed. We bought a brand new minibus and installed a new balustrade so residents can sit out on the seafront. The front of Dolphin Court is a lovely space – it’s close to all the restaurants, so there are always lots of people about. Being able to sit out is great for the residents and has helped them to feel more connected to their local community.
How have the local community responded to your fundraising initiatives?
We get the biggest response to our largest events – not necessarily from the relatives of residents, but from local people coming off the street. We try and publicise our events as much as possible. Livability gave Ashley a big banner for his balcony and we have another on the balustrade and these help to attract attention. The local paper also gave us a big spread and we are getting the word out on Facebook too. Any exposure, no matter how small, always makes a difference and generates a good response.
What are your future plans?
We all love being outside and enjoying a beautiful garden, whatever our needs. At the moment, our main focus is on raising funds to renovate the front garden at Dolphin Court. We want to redesign the space so there is lots more room for multiple residents to sit outside along with their families. We are also installing raised flower beds. A raised garden means that the residents can take ownership and plant their own flowers or do a bit of weeding. We have already raised about £4,000, so we are hoping to get it finished next year.
Dolphin Court is in a brilliant location, facing the seafront, and the garden is a perfect place to spend time in the summer months. It also brings residents out into the community – people passing by often wave and say ‘hello’. Like all our projects, it is about supporting Dolphin Court to enhance people’s lives and help them play a bigger part in their community.
Brenda Verrall is Chair of the Friends of Livability Dolphin Court, one of Livability’s residential services in Southend-on-Sea. If you are interested in joining any of our Friend’s group, we would love to hear from you.Find out about volunteering opportunities at a Friends Group near you