Council leader Damian White has visited one of the borough’s vaccine centres to say a big thank you to its army of volunteers.
For more than a year, a band of volunteers have been welcoming residents to the Victoria Centre in Romford, with a warm smile, marshalling the car park and directing residents where to get their jabs.
Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed as NHS staff said they wouldn’t have been able to cope without the volunteers’ commitment to ensuring that the centre runs smoothly.
They have also come to the attention of nearby local residents who have on many occasions brought over a cup of tea to warm up the cold volunteers standing outside and braving all seasons.
It was a return visit to the site for Councillor White who visited the centre shortly after the vaccine became available and witnessed some of the first residents to get their jabs in Havering in December 2020.
He met volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, including Army personnel. The volunteers range in age from 16 to 76 and many have been volunteering for over a year, which has resulted in many forming lasting friendships.
Retired and working, they come from industries such as the NHS, chamber of commerce, IT and accountancy.
Married couples are volunteering together and people who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 – one just a month before the vaccine was available.
The volunteers have made such a mark, that the NHS has even employed one of them.
They all had genuine reasons for what they do – to help fellow residents fight Covid-19 and to give something back to the community.
Between the Victoria Centre and the second vaccine site at Hornchurch Library, 100 volunteers are helping out each day courtesy of Havering Volunteer Centre.
Councillor White said:
“It was really inspirational to meet the volunteers and to hear stories of how they are making a difference to the community. They have also shown how volunteering is benefitting them by keeping them active and helping them to form good friendships.
“We have some remarkable people in our community and I’d like to say a massive thank to them for all they have done.”
Terry, another volunteer, said:
“We have a lot of interaction with local residents who might be passing by or out walking their dogs. They have been really supportive, giving us chocolates and bringing coffee and tea. The local people have been really receptive.”
While Margaret said:
“My husband died from Covid a month before the vaccine came out. To me it feels like I am able to give something back.”
Shelley Hart, CEO of Havering Volunteer Centre, said:
“Just before Covid hit we’d drawn up a pandemic recovery plan, so we were ready to find volunteers and support the borough.
“The volunteers complement each other. Each one is different and brings their own individual skills and experience to help make every bit of the puzzle come together.”