On a beautiful sunny 19th September I set off with Helen Gray, Director of Hertfordshire Community Foundation and her colleagues Georgina and Danielle for a whistle stop tour around the county to visit and showcase some of the small charities and voluntary groups that make Hertfordshire a better place for all. Henny Buxton kindly drove us in her blue bus!
First stop was to INS in Stevenage where we met wonderful volunteers who help the elderly and vulnerable with visits, advice of forms and applications, IT, social occasions and encourage good savings habits through the Christmas Club. This was a real example of care in the community.
Next to the Emmaus shop in Hertford where we chatted with companion Richard about how the community had saved him from homelessness and taught him new skills in retail through selling recycled furniture. Other companions drive the vans and help with restoration of the furniture, and the charity tries to help others in need too.
Our third stop was in St Albans at Centre 33 where we met trustees, volunteers and some of the clients who use the centre as a place to go for a hot meal, company and a shower as they struggle with homelessness and other challenges. The centre volunteers operate cheerfully in tiny premises and cook, listen and support.
Next to Hemel Hempstead to the DENS Hub where we visited the foodbank and the new workshop for recycling bicycles. There is so much going on here to help rebuild lives and beat homelessness, poverty and social exclusion and as usual dedicated volunteers are vital in making it all happen.
On to Watford to join a musical activity session run by Electric Umbrella for those with learning and other disabilities. This was a wonderful example of inclusion and empowerment and we all joined in with singing and playing instruments. We learnt a new song ‘Hi, Hi, Hi High Sheriff’ and I had a go in a converted wheelchair/drum kit. It was wonderful to see the joy that these sessions bring and the great work of the professional musicians who give their time and energy to the music making.
Next to Bushey to meet with representative from Red Trust who support the local community by running a café and foodbank where all are welcome without the need for vouchers. This was another example of a team dedicated to making a real difference to others, supported by wonderful volunteers.
Our final stop was in Hatfield to Potential Kids who provide social activities after school and at the weekend for children with autism and ADHD. Everything from craft and coding to cycling and football is on offer and there is a special sensory room for quiet escape and play. The Hatfield site is now an accredited training hub so that young people can gain qualifications too and this is a much-needed service for all who come here and their families as well.
We had a wonderful and varied day and HCF were able to visit some of the projects they had recommended to donors for funding. We are fortunate to have Helen and all her team at HCF who help match local giving with local need and are so knowledgeable about the charitable and voluntary sector in the county. An excellent and inspiring first Love Herts Day!