In February, I was invited to a very special event; the launch of Kent Coast Volunteering, which took place at the Astor Community Theatre in Deal.
Kent Coast Volunteering is a new charity formed by the merger of three Volunteer Centres on the Kent Coast which serve the districts of Dover, Shepway and Thanet.
The merger brings together 100 years of local service and knowledge and enables the charity to continue to provide a wide range of services including matching people with local volunteering opportunities, befriending for older people, community transport services and other projects including sewing clubs, gardening services and a men’s shed.
The combined potential impact of the new charity is impressive; 700 charities have registered their volunteering opportunities with Kent Coast Volunteering, 130 volunteer drivers make 17,000 journeys each year and more than 140 volunteer befrienders provide support to vulnerable, lonely or isolated people on the Kent coast.
The launch of Kent Coast Volunteering was a classy affair, attended by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Paul Auston, representing the Lieutenancy of Kent, and Councillor Nicholas Tomaszewski, the Worshipful Town Mayor of Deal and Mrs Muriel Tomaszewska, his wife the Mayoress, all of whom spoke positively about the new charity and its impact on coastal communities in Kent.
However, I wasn’t the only person in attendance not wearing gold chains or carrying a ceremonial sword, because large numbers volunteers, staff and representatives from other Kent charities and community groups were also in attendance and it was inspiring to speak with them and hear about the difference they’re making in their community.
Kerry Smith, chief executive of Kent Coast Volunteering, summed up what all three organisations hoped to achieve by coming together:
“This is about playing to our strengths and building on them to raise our profile and better position ourselves in a competitive funding environment. We want to maintain our role as the go to place for all things volunteering and we are committed to maintaining a local presence, so it’s business as usual at each of our hubs.”
I was particularly pleased to be included in the launch because I’ve been supporting all three Volunteer Centres on their journey towards merging, by undertaking due diligence, developing a merger plan, designing a Theory of Change, developing an outline strategy and supporting staff and trustees with various issues and unexpected bumps in the road along the way.
As cheesy at it may sound, during a series of inspiring speeches, I wondered if this is how a proud parent may feel on graduation day? Everyone involved in the merger, particularly trustees who are volunteers themselves, has worked so hard to turn the vision of Kent Coast Volunteering into reality and I can’t help but feel proud of their achievements and their unwavering commitment to volunteers and volunteering.