volunteer hero feature

Finding 15,000 Coats for the Homeless This Christmas

Jon Meech, CEO of homeless charity Hands On London has been working tirelessly with his small army of volunteers to help charities meet their voluntary needs, especially this winter. Next month, Hands On London have organised over 1000 volunteers for their Wrap up London campaign where they will help collect and distribute nearly 15,000 coats for the 5th year in a row.

As part of our Everyday Heroes competition we asked Jon what truly makes a Volunteer Hero? Do you know a Volunteering Everyday Hero? Nominate them here and they could win two free flights to any destination of their choice.

It is clear Jon is passionate about the organisation, explaining that it was inspired by the US model of flexible volunteering. This model ensures that busy Londoners can volunteer in their spare time whether it’s weekends, evenings or afternoons. This has obviously proven successful and has now attracted 5,000 volunteers.

“These volunteers are the everyday heroes working behind the scenes. They come from a variety of backgrounds, but with a passion to give back to the community. Their compassion and passion to finish the day with a feeling the world is a better place is what makes them true volunteers.”

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What makes a heroic volunteer?

The short answer; normal people. Working behind the scenes for the organisation are people from all backgrounds, but the largest group are young people in their 20s and 30s. People of all ages volunteer, but it’s the young ones who will ‘pair-up’ and make an afternoon of it and create a larger impact.

For example, Jon tells the story of a man who volunteers as a gardener. The gardener’s own flat does not have any garden access, so volunteering  in his spare time gives him a chance to garden and improve the community with his skills. In this respect, volunteering can be a way to do something you wouldn’t get to do normally. Jon speaks of the joy volunteering gives many people of being able to end the day seeing others happy.

Each project typically lasts 2-4 hours. The majority of people volunteer in the afternoon or evenings outside office hours. Soup kitchens usually run in the evenings, while lunch clubs run throughout the week. At the weekend, many volunteers work with sports groups, but it depends on the project and how many hours the volunteer can work. For instance, many of the volunteers at Wrap Up London will begin the day at 6am. This is one of the larger events. All of the Hands On trustees are ‘angels’ and readily give up two months of their life to help organise these important events for the community.

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Changing the business landscape 

Hands On doesn’t just bring volunteers and small charities together, there is also a “third aspect” to the charity. Hands On also helps organise volunteering events for corporate groups with the largest group being 150 strong with a local charity. It is the high impact on these local communities that makes these projects so effective. Hands On effectively acts as project manager for small charities, helping arrange parties, park openings or days out for disabled or elderly members of the community. Many of these events wouldn’t be possible without extra help and that’s where Hands On helps most in providing volunteers.

The team recently helped a large hotel group partner donate to 30 small charities. Over 5,000 items were collected and distributed from the hotel group to charities working with the homeless or elderly. The items ranged from clothes, bed sheets to toiletries. This is just one example of how Hands On brings together volunteers, small charities and businesses in one project to help the community.

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Volunteer at Hands On London

To learn more about the latest projects, please visit the Hands On London website. The site features a calendar where volunteers can conveniently see what projects are running each week. If you would like to get involved with Wrap Up London, “WUL2015” it will run from the 9th until the 13th of November. You can also donate by texting HLDN14 £3 (or your donation amount of choice) to 70070.

This will make a real difference to somebody’s life. Please see the official link for WUL 2015 for further information about donating.

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