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Enabling others to make a difference

Celebrating International Volunteer Managers Day - a chance to recognise the hard work and dedication of volunteer managers across CHAS who play a crucial role in enabling volunteers to make a difference through the time they give.

This year we sat down with Peter Cockill, General Manager at Ardoch Loch Lomond and Shirlie Geddes, Volunteering Development Manager at CHAS. Peter has not only embraced volunteer management but has also seen the positive impact it has had on the sprawling 133-acre estate that was generously gifted to CHAS in 2020.

Can you tell us a bit about how volunteers came to be involved at Ardoch?

Peter: For 14 years I had maintained the 133-acre estate primarily on my own. Professionals (woodmen, plant drivers) still helped on occasion but when Ardoch was gifted to CHAS, we took on a new direction and rebranded the business. Time wasn't on my side at that point. It was recommended to reach out to volunteers to help support.

Shirlie: Recruiting and managing volunteers was entirely new to Peter but with the Volunteering Team's support, he's been able to build a diverse team who each bring something quite unique to Ardoch. Some already helped CHAS out at Robin House in similar or completely different roles, some were completely new to both CHAS and Ardoch. Peter has developed strong relationships with each member of his volunteer crew and has learned their individual strengths and particular skills and relishes the time he spends with them.

What can you tell us about the volunteers at Ardoch?

Peter: Nowadays a small team of dedicated volunteers help with the gardens, cut the grass, chop wood and they help with autumn clean ups. There have also been opportunities for corporate volunteers to get involved at Ardoch. In April this year, employees from companies such as SGN and other volunteers from the local area spent three days planting over 1,200 trees on the estate as part of a wider plan to convert the site into a biodiverse broadleaf woodland.

Shirlie: I joined the local volunteers that Peter had recruited for the final day of woodland planting and I can't speak highly enough of the warm welcome and well-organised activities Peter provided. One of the volunteers was a Ukrainian refugee who had spent the winter on a ship in the Clyde. She returned to her accommodation that day, laden down with sandwiches and soup, and with a new friend from among Peter's regular volunteers. And she sent some amazing photos to her family, documenting her day. Peter has created something very special for volunteers at Ardoch.

What do you enjoy about working with volunteers?

Peter: I enjoy the company and the good humour. I'm all for teamwork. I have always been a hands on manager and like to be working with members of the team. We always have a group cuppa at the end of the day which is just as important for people to chat, for me to show appreciation and for everyone to keep up to date with what's happening at CHAS and Ardoch.

What's something that you've learned through managing volunteers?

Peter: I have been more patient. I have slowed things down for those three hours a week and enjoyed the teamwork. I've also learned more about how to understand individual needs and make the most of people's strengths. I am much more appreciative of people who give up their time for good causes. We've involved volunteers at Ardoch for almost 2 years now and they have stayed with us.

See our Careers if you're interested in joining our team.

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