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Royal Voluntary Service blog
Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.

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"I love life and people and want to keep my brain going, and volunteering definitely helps!"

Set up in February 2019 and supported by funds from the Asda Foundation Social Dining Clubs programme, The Royal Voluntary Service Monday Lunch & Social Club is a weekly social dining club that meets at The Quaker Hall in Maldon, Essex.

Royal Voluntary Service volunteer coordinator Diane
Lead Coordinator for the club is Diane Cox, 70.

"I’ve been a volunteer for years and years, through Girl Guiding and now with Royal Voluntary Service. My view is that it’s good to be active and help people while you can. I love life and people and want to keep my brain going, and volunteering definitely helps! "

The Monday Lunch & Social Club welcomes over 20 diners from the local area each week. They travel to the club by minibus (volunteer drivers collect those needing transport), on foot, by mobility scooter or in their own cars to enjoy a two course lunch with us.

But there’s much more on offer at the club than a hearty meal. We open our doors at 10am, to enable club members to start the day by getting active – either with a gentle chair-based exercise class to stretch and strengthen muscles, or by exercising the brain with jigsaw puzzles, bingo, dominoes, card games and quizzes. We provide newspapers and magazines, and hot drinks and biscuits are served too.

Royal Voluntary Service Monday Lunch & Social Club 
We have a lovely team of volunteers who read to visually impaired members and those who find it difficult to read, and we have poetry readings too.

After working up an appetite for lunch, our friendly volunteers serve a tasty homemade two course lunch, cooked from scratch by volunteer cooks, Val and Sue. Fish pie, stews, jacket potatoes, gammon and bacon-wrapped chicken, all served with fresh veg, are favourites on the menu, with strawberries and cream, apple crumble or rice pudding to follow. For most members, this will be the main meal they eat in a day and there are usually empty plates. For those that find big meals over-facing, smaller portions are provided. After more activities, the afternoon finishes with tea and cake.

We get fantastic feedback from diners who really enjoy the combination of a home-cooked meal, exercise and activities. Old friends stay in touch through the club and new friendships have formed too. The club continues to grow because many of our members recommend it to others. There’s always a lovely, buzzy atmosphere and it’s difficult to draw things to a close each week at 2pm as people don’t want to leave!

Royal Voluntary Service Monday Lunch & Social Club
Helping to run the lunch club is so rewarding for all of the volunteers; knowing that we are helping our members to live happier and healthier lives, reducing loneliness and isolation makes it so worthwhile. Volunteering is something that gives me purpose and satisfaction – I’d recommend it to anybody!

All of us at the Monday Lunch Club are very grateful to the Asda Foundation for their support. They help clubs like ours all over the country to make a difference to our communities.

Posted by Diane Cox at 11:15 Friday, 20 September 2019.

First-Timers: Kickstarting a Volunteer Revolution

I’m often asked the question - why do people volunteer? As you’d expect, there’s no one definitive answer. The reasons for volunteering vary greatly, with a complex tapestry of motivations and emotions underpinning the decision.

What I do know is the potential for volunteering to positively impact society is enormous.

Volunteering one’s time is perhaps the most generous gift you can give. Whether it’s supporting people to age better, helping the NHS or volunteering your time to support something completely different, by working together we have can affect positive, tangible change. My vision is for everyone in Britain to consider volunteering as a part of who they are, a part of how they choose to live their lives.

The challenge? How do we inspire more people than ever before, from more diverse backgrounds, to volunteer? Working with researchers at CASS Business School, we recently took an in-depth look at the British public’s attitudes towards volunteering, honing in what we can learn from the mind-set of first-time volunteers. The results are published in our new report, First-Timers: Kickstarting a Volunteer Revolution.

The highlights

Our findings confirm the UK as a generous nation. But while over half of adults say they have volunteered at some stage in their life, there is a significant proportion of people who have never been involved. A huge pool from which to recruit.

In the last year alone, the equivalent of 1.3 million new volunteers stepped forward to gift their time. And it is by exploring these first timers and the public as a whole, we can derive a better understanding of the motivations behind the decision process – as well as examine what stops us. Specifically, the study found:

  • Nearly a third (29%) of first-timers said their decision to volunteer was influenced by cuts to community projects and local services, with a similar proportion (27%) citing concern for older people and care cuts.
  • Altruism wasn’t the only driver. First-time volunteers reported wanting to meet people and make friends (36%) and simply to have fun (30%).
  • Many still struggle to overcome barriers to volunteering, with work commitments (cited by 40% of respondents) and children and home responsibilities (20%) common reasons for ‘why not’.
  • Among all volunteers, respondents felt more useful (60%), fulfilled (56%), socially aware (53%) and more connected to the local community (52%) as a result of volunteering their time

Starting the revolution

Based on these findings, the report goes on to make a series of suggestions for organisations reaching out to first time volunteers. This includes making it easier for people to get involved, developing more flexible and micro opportunities and reinforcing the benefits of volunteering.

I believe the gift of voluntary service is one anyone can make, and everyone should believe they have the opportunity to give. This is why at Royal Voluntary Service we are already working to grow newer forms of volunteering to make it easier for people to play their part. This includes opportunities to volunteer online and micro volunteering. New routes that allow people to make short but impactful gifts of time.

We have also recently started inviting, and actively encouraging, volunteers to bring their children with them (where appropriate) to make it just that little bit easier for parents, carers and grandparents to give their time. It is proving to be a fantastic way to connect the generations together, as well as helping embed the idea of volunteering into people’s minds at an early age. There is a great joy in volunteering, and to inspire more people to step forward, organisations like Royal Voluntary Service have a responsibility to convey these benefits and inspire people. We also need to play a bigger role in celebrating the successes and achievements of volunteers. Volunteers should no longer be unsung heroes.

For eighty years our volunteers have proved that “all things are possible”, and that by working together we can change lives, change communities and change society.

So are you ready to join the volunteer revolution?

First Timers: Kickstarting a Volunteer Revolution was authored by authored by Dr Justin Davis-Smith, Nick Ockenden and Dr Helen Timbrell. To read the report in full please visit here.

*The data is based on a sample of 4,000 UK adults, boosted by 500 people who volunteered for the first time since 2013.

Posted by Catherine Johnstone at 09:00 Thursday, 14 March 2019.

"Leaving a gift in my Will was another way I could help."


Mary, who will be 80 on her next birthday, has volunteered for Royal Voluntary Service for an incredible 38 years. On top of her decades of dedication in a range of Royal Voluntary Service roles, Mary has decided to leave a gift in her Will to Royal Voluntary Service. For Mary, it’s a way of giving – like her volunteering – that just feels right for her.

Mary's story

“Volunteering has been like a second career for me. I was a chemistry teacher, but always part-time while I brought up my children. We relocated to Scotland in 1984 and I didn’t know a soul. The local office was manned by volunteers. It was wonderful working in such a congenial team, feeling you were doing something useful and helpful. We could see the results of what we were doing, helping people in the community.”

After working directly with older people in Midlothian, Mary became a training manager for Scotland – which suited her perfectly. “It was a combination of everything I’d learned as a teacher and a volunteer. I enjoyed passing on what I knew and being part of the community. It’s been stimulating personally, while all the time the objectives have been to help people in the community. It’s a two-way process – it helps the volunteers and the people they support. People appreciate what you do.”

Mary claims her loyalty is not unusual. “Tons of people are the same. That’s what makes it such a special organisation. But people are modest and just get on with it – we don’t like saying we’re wonderful! That wartime spirit is still there.

“You can find Royal Voluntary Service wherever you are. When I moved to Wales 11 years ago, I knew someone in the area who said ‘Let me know the minute you get here’ – and she put me in touch with the local Royal Voluntary Service.”

The ethos of the charity resonates with Mary. “The words of Royal Voluntary Service’s founder, Lady Reading, sums it up for me: Service before Self”.

Those words are on the long service medal that Mary cherishes, together with ivy for steadfastness and rosemary for remembrance. “It was the first non-military medal to be awarded that was approved by the Queen,” Mary explains.

Her years of commitment have earned her an extra bar on her medal’s ribbon and another one will join it in a few years’ time. Mary is also proud that she was asked to carry a wreath at Royal Voluntary Service’s 75th Anniversary service at St Paul’s, where she wore 1940s uniform.

Leaving a legacy

Mary made a Will because she says, “It’s a common sense thing to do, however old you are – and it would be foolish not to make one at my age!

“There will be fewer and fewer younger people to look after the older ones as life expectancy goes up – so that motivated me to give to a charity that helps older people. It will be a big problem for the country – but it’s a hidden one. There are many people who don’t get out of their houses unless we take them. They go to lunch clubs and social clubs for the company. And the hospital shops and tea bars are valuable too – people appreciate them and the money generated goes back into the hospital.”

Mary’s decision to remember Royal Voluntary Service in her Will is fully supported by her husband and children. As for her, she says Royal Voluntary Service “ticks all the boxes. I’ve had a connection with Royal Voluntary Service over the years. It’s the charity I support.”

And Mary has no plans to give up her involvement with the charity anytime soon. “I’m slower than I was, but I’m still mobile. As long as we can keep fit, we older people can still do our bit!”

To find out more about legacy giving for Royal Voluntary Service, please visit here. Lots of information about how you can help and you'll find two information leaflets to download.

"It’s a lovely feeling to know you are helping to look after someone who is more vulnerable than yourself.”


Meet Joyce, 78, and volunteer Laura, 20, who live in Leicestershire. Laura started helping Joyce after she was in hospital following a fall.

Joyce Mee

“I tripped and fell and broke my shoulder. It was right on the street and everyone was watching, which I found embarrassing. It’s still quite painful even now but it’s getting much better, which is a relief.

“Laura came to see me when I was back at home after hospital. She’s been so helpful in supporting me with the things I need. It’s so nice of her to take time out of her busy life to help me. I was having real trouble with getting shopping, just to get food for the week, and Laura has taken me to the local shops to help me get what I need.

“I don’t have any family or many friends, just one friend from within my housing complex. This means I rarely see people, and I don’t have any support from people for times like this when I need it.

“It’s really nice to be able to see Laura every week. Just having a cup of tea and a chat with someone regularly is a really positive addition to the week. It’s just a simple thing but it helps to build your self–esteem and confidence.

Just going out for a walk is nice as you get a change of scenery. I spend a lot of time in my flat so it’s nice to get out sometimes.

“I feel more confident being able to perform the basic tasks that I took for granted before, like getting food out of a cupboard, or getting groceries. If I hadn’t been for Laura I would have had to lean on social services, as there was a period of time when I just wasn’t able to be independent and just didn’t feel like I could be on my own.”

Laura Wrightman

"The first thing that struck me about Joyce was her isolation; she is the only person I know who doesn’t have the support of family. She doesn’t have any relatives, so she really has very little contact with people.

“She’s been having a lot of difficulties with her shoulder after her accident and it’s meant she just hasn’t been able to get out and about. Getting food shopping is something everyone needs to do, but she just wasn’t able to do it on her own.

“Leaving hospital would work fine for people who have a partner, family, or close friends nearby, but for people like Joyce who don’t have this support, volunteers like myself and those at Royal Voluntary Service help provide the practical and emotional support needed for when older people leave hospital. Joyce is now more confident and independent, and while there is definitely still progress to be made, I think she’s in a better place now.

“I joined Royal Voluntary Service while at University and realised I was at a time in my life when I had more free time - I would encourage anyone in a similar situation to do the same. Volunteering with Joyce takes very little time out of my life, and it’s a lovely feeling to know you are helping to look after someone who is more vulnerable than yourself.”

Laura and Joyce were matched through our Home from Hospital service, which helps vulnerable people to safely return home after a stay in hospital. To find out more about our Home from Hospital service, see here or take a look at volunteering roles here.

Posted by at 00:00 Tuesday, 12 February 2019.

"It’s possible to look after your family and also leave a legacy, which is what I have planned to do."

There are lots of ways that people choose to support Royal Voluntary Service, one of the most valuable, is through a legacy. Our long-serving volunteer Alice Cleland has decided to do just that: legacy a gift in her Will to Royal Voluntary Service.

The gift of time

Alice has been volunteering with Royal Voluntary Service since 1977.

When she first joined the charity, Alice was recruited for the Emergency Team and later managed the Emergency Service in Wiltshire. Over the next 20 years she was involved in a variety of roles. During the Gulf War, Alice and her colleagues were trained to deliver messages from the front-line to the families of soldiers.

Since the early 90’s, Alice has played a fundamental role in the running and upkeep of Royal Voluntary Service’s archive. With over 30,000 articles, keepsakes and uniforms the archive is home to the charity’s rich heritage. Working alongside our staff, Alice has conducted many roles at the archive; contributing towards the production of the archive newsletter (The Heritage Bulletin) and encouraging volunteers to donate their historic documents to the archive.

Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist, commented “Alice founded an Archive Support Group to bring people together who could each play a fundamental role in supporting the archive for many years. Our archive is all about volunteering. It’s vitally important to our volunteers that they preserve their own legacies. Volunteers are invaluable; if we don’t know the answer to a question, volunteers like Alice can always help!”

Alice told us why she has decided to support us in this way;

“I feel very comfortable talking about legacies and I think people talk about it a lot more these days.

My generation is very much of the opinion that we are not going to sacrifice everything for the sake of our children – we have worked hard and will make our own choices on what happens to any money that is left. So, we consider what else we might do with money and that includes considering leaving a gift to a charity. Having volunteered for Royal Voluntary Service most of my life, the choice of which charity was an easy one for me.

I have talked more about legacies with my Royal Voluntary Service friends since another friend left a legacy in her Will, and it made us think about our own options.

I have had such a lovely time volunteering for Royal Voluntary Service and it has given me the chance to achieve things I wouldn't have believed I could.

I think my family are proud of me – my achievements are much more important to them than my money! They were very proud when I got my CBE and took me to a very special lunch to celebrate. When I won the Royal Voluntary Service Local Hero award, my 4 year old grandson rang me up and said "Well done, Granny.”

Mostly I think people feel they must pass on everything to their children. I believe that it’s possible to look after your family and also leave a legacy, which is what I have planned to do.

I won’t be specifying what Royal Voluntary Service should allocate my legacy to – in terms of the money going to a particular project or area – as I think it is kinder not to. That way it can be used for the most important cause at the time and I trust that the right decisions will be made.

To find out more about legacy giving for Royal Voluntary Service, please visit here. Lots of information about how you can help and you'll find two information leaflets to download. 

Posted by at 00:00 Wednesday, 09 January 2019.