An enthusiastic army of dedicated volunteers mobilised across Kent during the pandemic to help their local communities.
Generously giving their time and skills to aid others, they provided vital assistance to the vulnerable, elderly and self-isolating, supporting frontline health services.
Now Kent County Council (KCC) is launching a £170,000 grant-funded pilot initiative, in partnership with the Ashford Volunteer Centre (AVC), to help establish a co-ordinated, properly resourced volunteering system for Kent.
During the pandemic AVC took the lead in bringing together all of Kent’s volunteer centres to explore how they could better join up to deliver the most effective volunteer network.
Now the Ashford centre will look to further develop the Kent Volunteers’ website to provide a one-stop shop for volunteering in Kent, including sharing opportunities, resources and information.
The move to build on the invaluable contribution volunteers make in our communities – especially over the past 18 months – forms a vital part of KCC’s new draft Civil Society Strategy, which will be considered by Cabinet on Thursday 9 December.
Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, Mike Hill, said: “From the start of the pandemic, the local knowledge and dedication of our volunteer centres was a vital resource with hundreds of volunteers coming forward in an exceptional display of solidarity in every part of Kent.
“While KCC has always highly valued volunteers and, along with district partners, has funded volunteer support in different ways over the years, one of the key lessons learned from the pandemic was recruiting volunteers can take time and there was a need to co-ordinate and resource Kent’s volunteer network.
“I am therefore delighted to launch this pilot scheme with the Ashford Volunteer Centre as part of the County Council’s plans to celebrate and support Kent’s civic activity and community spirit.
“I hope the new website will offer real practical support – coordinating the efforts of all of our fantastic volunteers, inspiring others to get involved and helping a host of organisations working to make a difference every day.”
Beth Peal, Chief Executive of the Ashford Volunteer Centre, said: “The aim of this project is to create a one-stop digital shop for anyone looking for volunteering opportunities in Kent, and also for charities and community groups to advertise for help that they need.
“We thank Kent County Council for this funding and are absolutely delighted to be working in partnership across the county with KCC and volunteer centres, building on the local best practice of volunteering across Kent.
“Volunteering remains at the heart of local communities and we are proud to be part of this pilot scheme.”