To celebrate Volunteers’ Week 2021 and to say thank you to the thousands of volunteers supporting over 700 community businesses across the UK, we’re highlighting the stories of some of their indispensable volunteers.

In the last year volunteers have gone ‘above and beyond’ by giving huge amounts of time and energy to supporting their local town or village through community owned shops, pubs, farms and other projects too. They have shown true community spirit and have helped communities to not only handle the difficulties of the pandemic but continued to improve their lives and wellbeing too.

Here we share four of their stories:

Audrey Bott – Yarpole Community Café & Shop

Audrey volunteers at Yarpole Community Café and shop, near Leominster, Herefordshire. The shop and Audrey have one thing in common they are both extraordinary!

Located within an active church, the shop makes use of St Leonard’s space to provide a service for its wider community and provide an income too. Audrey is one of its most inspiring volunteers – not only does she help customers, check orders, work the till and offer a friendly face and hello, but she also explains here how volunteering has helped her with bereavement and to tackle depression. Community businesses really do have the power to reach out and Audrey’s story highlights just how essential they can be, watch here: Audrey’s story

Al Rae – Pathedible Project

Al Rae is what’s known as a ‘serial volunteer’. He’s the Pathedible’s regular Thursday morning volunteer, but he’s also given freely of his time to help local rugby clubs, support youngsters on the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, drive the community mini-bus and now weighing out veg at 6.30am every Thursday.

Chances are that if you’re ordering from Pathedible’s weekly marketplace – then Al has helped make up your delivery and may have dropped them round too.

What started as a project to build raised vegetable beds on unused land in Pathhead, Scotland, inspired a community orchard, developed the community gardening group and created a thriving online weekly market.

Al says: “During lockdown Pathedible’s veggie wagon turned from a few carrots and an honesty box into an online market, with over 70 regular customers and a free delivery service for the elderly and those shielding. There are jobs in the community that need doing and it’s rewarding to be involved and helping others.”

Sue Clasper – Ilmington Community Shop and Cafe

Amidst the aroma of freshly-baked bread, early-bird customers make their way to the bundles of newspapers at the back. Sue Clasper shares a shift with Belinda on the 7 to 9am shift, stuffing the shelves with croissants and strawberries, bringing in the milk, serving the first customers of the day. “We know the early risers in the village!” says Sue, as she sorts the pain au levain from the granary. The shop opens at 7.30am and Sue gets to greet the school children the newspaper hunters, the folk on their way to work and parents on the school run. She has lived in Ilmington, Warwickshire for 12 years and first joined in the April lockdown last year. “I enjoy volunteering here – it’s a really friendly place to work. You get to know people, you put faces to names. I would recommend it.”

Simon Fraser – Dryslwyn Community Shop & Post Office

Simon is a long-serving volunteer of the Dryslwyn shop in Carmarthenshire, Wales. He’s a mainstay of the Post Office and is known by the rest of the community committee as: “our enormously valued Mr Fixit”. He’s also on the delivery team helping those who are Covid-19 self-isolating and is one of the shop Directors too.  Simon is renowned for his phenomenal wit, cheer, and humour when working with other volunteers. In fact, every community shop should have a Simon!

Commenting on his many volunteering roles, Simon said: “My volunteering at Dryslwyn is lead by a strong belief in community. I love having the opportunity of meeting and helping our local community. It’s important to me that we offer daily essentials and that includes fellowship, assistance, sympathy & concern. We’re a common location for common good.”

If you’d like to discover more about our network of community businesses take a look at our UK community business map or discover more about creating a community-owned business here.