There is no part of life in the UK, private or public, that is untouched or unsupported by volunteers. Often those volunteers are the grease to the wheels, ensuring that things run smoothly, while at other times they are the glue holding everything together.
Hundreds of volunteers, from right across the UK, helped during the last week, supporting those who queued to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state at Westminster Hall. The Queen was a lifetime supporter of volunteers and volunteering, and so it seems fitting that volunteers should be a big part of such an event.
Organisations represented included the British Red Cross, and St John Ambulance, the Salvation Army, and the Samaritans among others, with volunteers offering medical support, guiding crowds, and stewarding the massive line of people, which at one point was believed to have reached 10 miles long.
In what now feels like a poignant coincidence, last week was the final chance for people to nominate local organisations to the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which is an annual award established by the Queen herself on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee in 2012. That year I was part of the procession of voluntary organisations and volunteers when the Queen and Prince Phillip visited Hyndburn, and I was struck by the clear and genuine enthusiasm each of them showed for the work of the sector and the people who volunteer in it.
Many Lancaster-based voluntary groups have received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service over the years, including the Centre@Halton and Beyond Radio.
During her lifetime, Queen Elizabeth II was patron to over 500 organisations, many of them charities and voluntary organisations. Some were inherited from her father, King George VI, whilst others were taken on because of her own interests, such as Action for Children and the Royal Voluntary Service. Supporting and encouraging public and voluntary service through Patronages was one of the most important aspects of The Queen’s work.
Volunteers will continue to be integral parts of our communities and will carry on, calmly, supporting needs big and small, personal and collective, and being a source of pride for our district, county, country and beyond.