Guest Column: Belper’s Greatest Accolade Is Its Diligent Volunteers

As a regular Sunday school attendee as a child, I was impressed by the power of the ten commandments. The one about loving your neighbour before yourself is forever engraved. I did like the one about not coveting your neighbour’s ass but as asses were few and far between even in the rural Belper of my youth, that commandment lost its way for me.

Seriously, one of the Belperites’ greatest accolades is the willingness to help others.

Within the town it’s not unusual to find meals being cooked for an elderly neighbour or infirm person, errands being run by young people, shopping being collected, help freely given with gardening, lifts being given etc. Nothing special about that, some readers may say, but what happens when we go to the next level and recognise the invaluable contribution to society by our many volunteers; volunteers who have given personal time so selflessly, sometimes for many years. It’s very interesting to hear recently that people who are former scouts and guides live happier longer lives overall and are less likely to suffer ill health in later life. Both organisations are well supported locally, indeed some groups have waiting lists of young people and would benefit by having more volunteer leaders. Beavers, Cubs, Explorers, Rainbows and Brownies volunteers give wonderful leadership within these important sub-sections of the scout and guide movement. In fact, the Belper area could easily accommodate a new scout group with Milford or Ambergate being possible locations.

One of the town’s real jewels, and an absolute credit to the determination of a hard-working group of volunteers, is the Strutts Centre on Derby Road. Although there will be considerable costs involved with future enhancements and maintenance of the building, this unique building deserves our fullest support with the volunteers worthy of one of our biggest Belper thank yous. We should all recognise that the Strutts centre is a real monument to one of our greatest benefactors, George Herbert Strutt.

We are blessed with many historic buildings locally. None more so than the architecturally ground breaking North Mill. Recent Discovery Days have attracted crowds of people from far distances. The volunteers in traditional clothing really added to the occasion, making Belper a real tourist destination with the World Heritage site firmly established as an international attraction. The residents of Berkins Court on Bridge Street deserve a special mention for opening their historic houses and bringing to life a lesser known part of the history of the town.

Linking into another worthy group, the Berkins Court residents were selling refreshments to fundraise for the Belper Food Bank, again staffed by dedicated Christian volunteers who are part of the Hope for Belper team. This group provides a real helping hand for families in need of support.

One of our oldest social groups is the Belper Social Club for the Disabled. In existence for over 55 years, many people enjoy the monthly social gatherings at the Whitemoor centre. The group have their own transport and convey their members on a variety of interesting visits to different parts of the country. The club are looking for a couple of committee members and an entertainment organiser. Who knows, we might discover the next Simon Cowell. Again, enthusiastic volunteers ensure some special occasions for all of their members.

St John’s Ambulance brigade are often in evidence at major sporting and musical festivals and events; they train all their volunteers to a high level, putting them through a thorough induction process. St John’s play an important role by providing a variety of courses, including comprehensive first aid at work and different IOSH management safety courses.

Similarly, First Responders are another group with an increasingly more visible profile. They are compliant for health and safety and providers of first aid advice, plus a wide selection of advisory and training courses. It was quite a surprise to find out just how many hours are given of potential lifesaving support in our community.

Volunteers at our many sports and social organisations make a positive contribution to our vibrant local scene. Making sport affordable and entertaining for all is a great way to encourage and enthuse feelings of belonging and teamwork so important in later life.

The opening this year of Belper Amateurs cricket club’s new practice facility was just reward for the efforts of their volunteer committee. Again, the club’s senior members are currently working very hard to expand their junior section and are enjoying great success with many talented newcomers. Although not famous for heat waves, the spectacular views from the packhorse ground are well worth a visit.

Belper Meadows sports club are also currently planning to enhance their facilities with a new pavilion. Again, the many Belper Meadows junior teams are really well organised and develop skills through various age groups, sometime resulting in an Olympic Gold Medal! It’s worth remembering that most of our qualified coaches are volunteers.

Belper Town Football Club and Belper Rugby Club continue to thrive, driven by the unselfish dedication of their committees. Greatly improved flood lights at both grounds are a fine testament to the ambition of their patrons and supporters. The social clubs and changing facilities are also in regular use for celebrating birthdays, weddings, engagements etc. Again, hard-working volunteers make these sports clubs a great success and provide a safe sporting environment for numerous young people and enthusiastic spectators. And I really must not forget a big thank you to Belper Rugby Club for hosting another great charitable success, The Belper Games.

This article hopefully highlights the generous citizens and groups who give positive support with no thought of financial reward, but there are many unsung heroes in the area who may benefit from moral or physical support. If you are one of these or a member of a local organisation in this category, I would love to hear your story.

Gary Spendlove

Former Town Councillor Former Mayor Conservative Party member

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