NEIL COUPE: Our borough’s volunteers are often quiet, unglamorous and very much appreciated

It may have taken a while, but seen on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I really felt that the work on the town centre is coming to fruition with the whole place starting to look much more cheerful and lively.

The outstanding work that has not yet been completed seems to be starting to come together quite nicely.  Well done to all involved.

I had the good fortune to see Mari Wilson performing at the Whitty Theatre on Friday evening.

Until then I was only vaguely aware of the Wokingham Music Club, who organised the event, or of the Whitty Theatre itself, which I now know not only holds concerts of performers that people have heard of, but also, courtesy of the Wokingham Film Society, shows films every month or so.

While it is important to have a spruced-up town centre and thriving retail and leisure outlets, it made me reflect upon the immense contribution so many unheralded people in the voluntary sector make to the quality of life that so many of us take for granted here in Wokingham borough.

There is a local charity, which runs the Link Visiting Scheme, confronting the issue of loneliness particularly among the elderly and vulnerable.

The organisation matches volunteers who are able to give a couple of hours of their time every week or fortnight to people feeling isolated or lonely.

This strikes me as an excellent example of everyone involved in the programme benefiting, as friendships blossom through the generations

We have our own Wokingham Litter Heroes who proactively try to keep the streets clean, making the environment more pleasant for everyone.

In an ideal world, other residents would not be discarding their half-eaten pizzas and boxes on the pavement, and could be expected to finish their bottle of Beck’s before placing it in an appropriately coloured recycling bin.

However we are where we are and it is great to see people devoting some of their spare time to this valuable task.

There are several thriving grassroots football clubs in the area.

Wokingham and Emmbrook FC  and Ashridge Park are just two of them. They are both Charter Standard Community Clubs (the highest possible level of grassroots club under the FA’s accreditation system, achieved by around 10% of clubs in the country).

Between them, there must be around 850 players, the majority under 18, who are able to play thanks to the efforts of unpaid volunteers.

Given the amount of support each team requires, it is reasonable to suggest that there must be at least 100 volunteers in just those two clubs maintaining the correct infrastructure and facilitating training sessions during the week and matches at the weekend.

The volunteers can expect quiet, unglamorous but sometimes life-affirming bursts of satisfaction as their reward for hours of commitment every week (and at least one 35 hour training course).

Chatting to a football coach at the weekend after a very enjoyable match, I remarked that the icing on the cake would have been if Bobby’s shot had gone in to give him his first-ever goal.

He replied that Bobby had already provided the icing on the cake by saying ‘I am not scared of the ball any more’.

There are literally dozens of other groups of volunteers doing great work in our community in all sorts of fields, be it the arts, sports or generally just being helpful to others.

This work is generally done below the radar but I hope that they realise how much their efforts are appreciated.

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