VOLUNTEERS’ Week is a chance to celebrate the people who give their time to help others and the community, writes Neil Brandwood.

BOLTON is lucky enough to have more than 1,500 community groups manned by 46,900 volunteers.

The dedicated group give 113,500 hours of their time - for free - to amazing causes each week.

One of those people is David Ruane, 50, who lives in the Heaton area of the town.

His road to volunteering began one afternoon in 2013 when his wife said she wasn’t feeling well.

“What happened over the course of that early evening and into the following morning changed the course of our lives unrecognisably,” David said.

“My wife wasn’t just feeling unwell, she had in fact contracted an unknown virus that has left her paralysed.”

David continued: “For two weeks it was unclear what her condition was or even if she would survive as there was a real fear that her vital organs would begin to shut down as a result of the virus.

“After 13 weeks of treatment she regained some mobility but was left severely damaged and in constant pain from the waist down.”

David says that before her illness his wife was very active, had two jobs, and would spend what other time she had caring for her family.

But the illness took its toll on her both physically and mentally, and meant devastating financial consequences for the family.

David continued: “By early 2017, despite the efforts of the neurological specialists at the Walton Centre in Liverpool and the Neurology Unit at Salford, it dawned that, after all the trials and interventions of the eminent neurological and pain specialists, nothing could be done and my wife’s mental health took a nose dive.

“At this point I had to seek a referral to the mental health unit for her. It was also at this time that after four years of struggling to pay the mortgage due to our circumstances, the bank finally gave up on us and we were forced to sell the family home.”

The situation caused a knock-on effect for David who also began to suffer physically.

He said: “It was during the mental health assessment that I also broke down as the four years of trying to keep everything together finally proved too much for me mentally and physically.

“At this point I had to start medication for a heart condition and depression and I had to give up work completely and became a full time carer for my wife.”

Once his wife was on the road to recovery, David realised he was over-caring and doing things for his wife that she was capable of doing herself. So, he decided to spend a few hours a week out of the flat volunteering to give both of them a respite.

He called into the Bolton CVS Hub to see what opportunities were available and was quickly assigned to the reception and administration role, a development that he said was life changing.

“Previous to my wife’s illness I had held a very good job travelling across UK and Europe for a large international industrial corporation and I still felt that I had a lot to offer a volunteering role.

“The staff at the Hub are aware of my situation and whenever I am on shift somebody always asks ‘how are you?’, not just in passing but with sincerity and grace. I know that if my wife and I have not had a good week I can talk about it and they will listen and offer support and advice were appropriate.

“In return it gives me a huge lift and a sense of pride and worth when I have sat at reception and been able to give a kind word or a hand of support to some of the service users of the many groups that reside in the Hub. Due to my volunteering I have recently come off the anti-depressants without any side effect or recurrence.”

His advice for anyone considering volunteering is to do it.

He said: “Do not doubt yourself. Bolton CVS will find opportunities for you to match your ability and expectations, it will change your life and you will walk two inches taller. Amaze yourself and be amazing in the eyes of others.”

Another volunteer who has dedicated her time for the benefit of others is Barbra Hackett.

For Barbra, the local environment is the focus of her commitment.

She is the co-founder and chairperson of Bolton Green Umbrella.

She said: “Why am I passionate about the work I do? Well, firstly I love walking in the wonderful country parks that we are so lucky to have in Bolton. Secondly, I hate litter and the way it defiles even a beautiful area.

“For many years I wondered if I was the only person who cared about our litter-strewn streets and green spaces. Then I joined The Litter Pickers of North Bolton, and became co-founder of Bolton Green Umbrella in August 2016.”

Bolton Green Umbrella’s mission is to act as an umbrella organisation which recognises and supports volunteer and community groups who look after the environment in Bolton via its website, newsletters, and social media.

Mrs Hackett said: “Our message is ‘Let’s restore pride in our town, and take responsibility for our own back yard!’. I have met some wonderful people who share this sentiment, and the feeling that we are all working together is encouraging and inspirational.”

How you can get involved

BOLTON Community and Voluntary Services is at the forefront of promoting this week’s Volunteers’ Week in Bolton.

It kicked things off on Saturday with a brunch at its base, The Hub, on Bold Street.

Darren Knight, chief executive of Bolton CVS, said: “This was a perfect opportunity to acknowledge and promote the good practice of many of the 1,561 community groups who involve volunteers within Bolton.”

Bolton CVS is a charity that exists to support voluntary and community organisations and positively promote voluntary and community action across Bolton.

Mr Knight said: “Volunteers Week is a time to say thank you for the fantastic contribution volunteers make and to acknowledge the good practice of groups and organisations in enabling quality and meaningful volunteering to happen.

“Bolton CVS would like to particularly thank our own team of volunteers who make a huge difference in supporting us to achieve our mission.”

In the last 12 months, Bolton CVS Volunteers gave a total of 2,789 hours of their time; that’s an extra 54 hours every single week, helping to support people and communities across Bolton.’

If you are interested in getting involved in or finding out more about local volunteering opportunities, please get in touch with Bolton CVS on 01204 546010 or dropping into The Bolton Hub.

You can also visit: www.boltoncvs.org.uk, or follow Facebook @CVSBolton Twitter: @BoltonCVS