‘Seeing residents safe is the most rewarding thing volunteering at YMCA’

By selflessly donating their time to support vulnerable adults and young people across the region, volunteers are the beating heart of Nottinghamshire YMCA.

This Volunteers Week, we would like to recognise Neil Cooke, who is one of our most dedicated volunteers having spent the past 7 ½ years helping young people rebuild their lives after homelessness at YMCA Housing’s supported accommodation in Mansfield.

Exceptional dedication

“My background is in education and administration, and I first began to volunteer at Nottinghamshire YMCA’s Mansfield hostel when the charity was short-staffed and needed extra support,” Neil explained.

“It was back when the service used to be for anyone needing emergency accommodation for a couple of weeks, but the charity has grown and evolved so much since then.”

Thanks to the dedication of people like Neil, Nottinghamshire YMCA’s Mansfield provision has grown exponentially to provide temporary supported housing services for homeless young people (aged 16-25), plus training and 24-hour staff support for residents.

‘Volunteering gives my week structure’

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Neil’s usual volunteering hours were 9am-12pm every Tuesday and Thursday. His key tasks would include everything from office admin to taking housing benefit forms to the council to help ensure vulnerable and at-risk young people are allocated appropriate supported housing as quickly as possible.

“Volunteering at YMCA gives my week structure,” explained Neil. “My hours may shift slightly depending on what needs doing, whether it is filing, occasionally covering reception or going down to the local council with housing benefit forms. I also used to create posters and notices to display around the office and accommodation.

“I often see homeless people sleeping rough and when the weather turns (it gets really bad in winter) it is a heart-breaking sight. Seeing the residents warm and safe is the most rewarding thing about volunteering at the YMCA hostel in Mansfield.”

Without the incredible commitment and devotion of volunteers, our charity movement would not be able to deliver the high standard of life-changing frontline services.

‘A fantastic asset to our residents’

Sandra Young, Housing Development Manager at YMCA in Mansfield, said: “On behalf of all staff and residents at our YMCA hostel in Mansfield, I would like to say the biggest thank you to Neil for his care and commitment over the years.

“As our longest standing volunteer, Neil has made a significant and impactful contribution to the lives of so many at-risk young people since joining our movement. From helping our staff team members to delivering excellent support with the charity’s administration efforts – it has often been these everyday activities that have made the greatest difference.

“Neil is a fantastic asset to our organisation and, though he cannot be with us at the moment due to self-isolating, we want to highlight and celebrate his wonderful contributions to date. THANK YOU Neil!”