The Manx public turned out in force at the weekend to ‘speed date’ their way through representatives from volunteer-seeking organisations. Reporter Lee Brooks went along for a taste too
HEART-shaped balloons and soothing guitar music set an intimate mood at The Sefton Hotel in Douglas on Saturday, but this was no ordinary speed dating session.
The brainchild of staff at Noble’s Hospital Volunteer Service, the psuedo-romantic event was in fact one of the island’s biggest-ever volunteer recruitment drives.
The 30 stations were manned by representatives of charities ranging from Hospice to the TT and Manx Grand Prix marshals, with a curious public of would-be volunteers having the chance to find out more about an organisation, before moving on to the next table at the ring of a bell.
Noble’s Hospital volunteer service manager Alison Lester said the 30 spaces were snapped up quickly, and there are hopes to make it an annual event.
‘I’m really pleased with the interest,’ she said. ‘We’re very lucky to live in an island where people are willing to give their time to help others.’
Live music ambience came from guitarists Eugene Wilson and Mark Burrows, representing the Noble’s Hospital Healing Arts Programme, which was looking to recruit more musicians.
By lunch time the event hit full swing, with the public passing through in good numbers.
Pauline Howell from Colby was one, and she is now considering offering her time to both the Victim Support and Live at Home Scheme charities, after chatting to representatives at the hotel’s Garden Room.
She said: ‘Due to ill health I have had to give up work, so I’ve got time on my hands. There was a lot of people with information, the event is a good idea to encourage people into volunteering.’
The event underlined the fact that volunteers so often make up the backbone of organisations we all rely on.
It also served as a prime networking opportunity for groups to meet, and form new relationships and collaborations.
‘The format is good, we had lots of different inquiries,’ said St John Ambulance Community First Responder Gerry Jones. ‘People might not want to be first aiders, but there’s so much behind the scenes stuff that goes on too.
‘We’ve also had the chance to speak to the guides and the TT guys about their events that we’ll be involved in.’
The One World Centre’s Rosemary Clarke said an increased volunteer base would help them develop the charity’s work in schools and their Tynwald Day ‘Global Village’ events.
‘As soon as I saw the opportunity in generating interest I knew it was a good idea,’ she said. ‘I’m glad I signed up when I did, there was only room for 30 organisations.’
She added: ‘There was a real buzz being there, people making use of the opportunity.’