Volunteers Are The Life Blood Of Barnardo's

05/06/2017 11:55 BST | Updated 05/06/2017 11:56 BST

Volunteers are the heart and soul of Barnardo's. It's their hard work and dedication which allows us run over 1,000 services which support and help transform the lives of the most vulnerable children, young people or families in across the UK.

Today marks the start of Volunteers' Week (1-7 June 2017); the week provides a wonderful opportunity for people across the voluntary sector to celebrate the contribution of millions, who selflessly devote their lives to better their local communities.

At Barnardo's we have a 20,000-strong army of volunteers. Their work is invaluable to our cause and to recognise their commitment we are honouring 2,300 volunteers with awards for five, 10, 15, 20 and 30 years of service this week.

This includes 125 volunteers who are being honoured with awards for over 30 years of service. Collectively they have dedicated 5,141 years to Barnardo's.

One of Barnardo's longest serving volunteers, Anne French, is being awarded for 81 years of service. Her mother signed her up as a volunteer in 1935 when she was just two months old.

The Minister at her local church, Grays Congregational Church (now called the United Reformed Church) met Thomas Barnardo over 100 years ago and persuaded the congregation to start fundraising for vulnerable young people.

Now, all these years later, Anne is the secretary at Grays Barnardo's Helper Group, she said: "I volunteer because I believe Barnardo's is doing wonderful work to help young people and families in need".

Another inspirational volunteer being awarded for 70 years' of service during Volunteers' Week is Christine Clark.

Christine started supporting Barnardo's in 1947 at the age of four after reading a magazine at school which encouraged pupils to raise money to buy Christmas presents for the children's charity.

Since then she has become the Chair of Sanderstead Barnardo's Helpers Group in Croydon. Each year the group holds community events and raises around £5,000 in Christmas card sales.

Volunteers that work in our 700 shops are also being recognised this week, including, Sylvia Hetherington who is celebrating her 30th anniversary at Barnardo's store in Chelmsley Wood, near Birmingham.

The 73-year-old started volunteering to help her search for employment but continued to help even after she found a job. She says that being a volunteer gave her the confidence to find work.

These incredible volunteers are the lifeblood of Barnardo's and I cannot thank them enough for their life-long loyalty to the charity. Without them, we would not be able to help the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children and young people each year.

Thanks to them, we can support children who have been sexually abused and exploited, children who are leaving care, children dealing with mental health problems, and children who struggle to help care for a loved one.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering opportunities available at Barnardo's then please visit our website to find out more.