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Keeping Wiltshire mobile – making vital community links

A new campaign by Community First, to recruit more volunteers for the Link and Community Minibus transport schemes that it supports, is set to have a big impact on keeping vulnerable Wiltshire residents mobile.  

“Link and Community Minibus volunteers do an amazing role by ensuring that vulnerable residents can reach essential services and facilities, such as crucial medical appointments, getting food shopping and meeting friends,” said Linda O’Gorman, Community First’s Link co-ordinator. “And it has the added benefit that those who volunteer should see some health benefits of their own.”

Devizes based charity, Community First, has launched the new campaign to try to recruit volunteers to ensure longevity for the vital transport services that the Wiltshire Link scheme and Community Minibus schemes provide across the county.

“In Wiltshire, Link Schemes and Community Minibus groups covered nearly 1.3 million miles last year, providing lifeline support to those without access to alternative transport,” added Linda.

“The campaign that Community First is running will focus on the benefits of volunteering – both to those clients that the schemes help – and for those doing the volunteering. Keeping active and mobile can benefit everyone, and many of the Link volunteers that I talk to tell me how good volunteering makes them feel.

“Research shows that the benefits to volunteers are immense.  People who volunteer regularly are proven to have less anxiety, better health and well-being and they report higher levels of happiness with their lives.  Volunteering will also help keep you active and mobile.”

Jenny Staton, Community First’s transport support officer added, “Getting involved with Community Transport couldn’t be easier.  You will be offered training, if this is required, your expenses will be paid and you’ll become part of a network of over 2,000 community transport volunteers in Wiltshire and Swindon.

“Whether you would like to volunteer as a driver, or for one of the other roles available, we can then put you in touch with either a Wiltshire Link or Community Minibus Group in your local area.  You will then be well on the way to meeting a new circle of friends and contacts and making a big difference to lots of lives.”

Linda O’Gorman is also keen to point out that the input required from potential volunteers needn’t be onerous.  She said, “The majority of volunteers are retired and looking for something to ‘keep their brains going’.

“The benefits to retired people through volunteering are huge.  However, volunteering doesn’t need to be confined to later life.  One example of how you can volunteer as little or as often as you like, is Wiltshire hairdresser and mum of three, Emma Glenister – who has joined Bedwyn Link, as a co-ordinator.”

Emma said, “Volunteering doesn’t take up too much of my time, but makes a massive difference to people in my village.  I have a busy life.  I work part-time and have three children, but I know that giving just a couple of hours a week makes me feel great and has helped me meet loads of new friends.”

Up to 98% of Wiltshire is currently covered by Link schemes and there are 20 community minibus groups based in the county, meeting the transport needs of the local community.

As well as drivers for community minibuses and Link schemes, both are always looking for people to help run the groups, whatever your skills or life experiences are. For example, as a Link co-ordinator, you can work as little or as often as you choose and you wouldn’t be tied to working at home necessarily, as a  mobile phone is supplied and would only need to be answered a few hours per week.  Or you may be able to help take the bookings for your local minibus from home a couple of hours a week.

There are also opportunities to support Link schemes and community minibus schemes by becoming a Committee member, a little of your time could help provide support for these vital services and ensure their continuity. Some Community Minibus Groups may also have paid driving roles available.

For more information on how you can join one of the 44 Link schemes in Wiltshire or how your skills could benefit your local Community Minibus Group, and open up a whole new world for you, call Linda O’Gorman on 01380 722241 or Jenny Staton on 01380 732824.

Background to the campaign: Wiltshire College Film Students help Community First to capture Link Scheme and Community Minibus Experiences:

Film and production students from Wiltshire College helped Community First to encourage more people to get involved in their local Link scheme or Community Minibus group, by giving their services to the campaign, free of charge.

Seven students were out and about for three days, filming current Link and community minibus volunteers for ‘vox pops’ video excerpts, as well as speaking to passengers about their experiences for using community transport.