Volunteers’ Week (June 1st to 7th) is an annual national event which celebrates the fantastic contribution that millions of people make throughout the UK, regularly contributing to society while inspiring others to get involved too. In Staffordshire, the leading UK children’s disability charity – Newlife Foundation – concentrates its volunteers’ efforts around its successful trading and recycling business. With support from Friends of Newlife volunteer fundraising groups across the country, the charity last year awarded £1.2million of equipment grants to more than 15,500 disabled and terminally ill children. In addition, it operates both a confidential freephone Nurse helpline and an equipment loan service for life-limited children as well as funding valuable research into genetic conditions. Volunteers at the charity’s headquarters in Hemlock Way, Hawks Green, Cannock, come from all walks of life. Newlife Community Relations Officer Heather Campbell said: “Many of our volunteers help us because it is an ideal way to meet new people and broaden their social lives. Some have had personal experience of accessing Newlife services. Or they might be regular shoppers at our Cannock clothing and homeware superstore. “Whatever the reason, we are extremely grateful for all their help, which contributes to Newlife’s effectiveness as a leading UK charity.” Newlife Trading recycles donated surplus stock from more than 400 retailers, selling it at discounted prices at its Hemlock Way superstore. The profits are used by Newlife Foundation to fund its charitable work. Volunteer job roles include sorting and preparing stock for sale, organising and operating local fundraising events and administration duties. Heather added: “At our Hawks Green opportunities centre, we can be flexible with the sort of work we offer, matching it up as closely as possible with a volunteer’s needs. In addition, all areas of business can be accessed by wheelchair users.” Eighty-five-year-old Marjorie Mansell has been volunteering at Newlife for seven years. She has done everything from sorting and pricing stock to selling ballgowns. Now she mans the jewellery counter at the Newlife superstore three times a week. Marjorie, from Cannock, said: “After the death of my husband – who I sorely miss – I found working here gave me a second life. I really enjoy this and volunteer three days a week. I love mixing with the customers and have made a terrific lot of supportive friends.” Forty-nine-year-old Wendy Wright, from Hednesford, was diagnosed with neurological disorder dystonia five years ago. She said: “Volunteering at Newlife was a natural progression for me because I wanted to get back into work. I think the volunteering helped boost my confidence.” Wendy, who has helped out at the Newlife Opportunities Centre once a week for almost a year – de-labelling and sorting stock – added: “I now have a job in accounting two days a week, but I still like to volunteer. The work the charity does is very important.” Mum of five Alison Waite, aged 39, gives up one afternoon a week while her four-year-old disabled son Logan attends a Sure Start pre-school centre. Alison, from Huntington, said: “I class this as ‘me’ time. I get to be Alison the person, away from the children. I chose to support Newlife because I shop at the charity’s retail outlet. Newlife has done me some favours over the years, helping me to clothe my children, so I thought it was time I did something in return. “The staff and volunteers have made me feel very welcome and I leave feeling that I have done something positive with my two or three hours – it’s a real sense of achievement.” Newlife has a small army of volunteers who organise and operate community fundraising events. Retired businessman Mike Mellor, from Cannock, is one of them. Aided by wife Trish, a serving magistrate, and family friend Janette Arrowsmith, he has been at the heart of a group of 30 people who have arranged a series of clothing stock sales at schools and church halls across the Midlands, raising more than £32,000 in the past six months. Mike said: “Our group started off small but we ended up with a core of around 30 wonderful people who gave their time willingly. Many of the people who came together didn’t previously know each other and the nice spin-off has been that they have found a great spirit of comradeship. As the project blossomed so did friendships, while at the same time doing something very positive and worthwhile.” Newlife CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “We are very grateful to all our volunteers, in whatever capacity they are able to support us. “Over the coming 12 months, Newlife is going to need all the help it can get as it is experiencing a dramatic rise in calls to its Nurse helpline; enquiries were up a staggering 86 per cent in the first eight weeks of the new financial year compared to the same period in 2010. And the numbers are likely to rise as families of disabled and terminally ill children are being crushed under a pile of local authority cuts.” For further details about Newlife go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk or www.newlifetrading.co.uk; alternatively, contact services and development manager Sarah Coughlan on 01543 468 888 or email email@example.com. Pictured: 85-year-old volunteer Marjorie Mansell.