This is what our Volunteers have to say about volunteering at
Darwen Heritage Centre
I started volunteering at the Heritage Centre a couple of years before I retired. I volunteer because I like meeting people and learning about the town and its’ history. I’m interested in social history and I really enjoy working with other volunteers to put together exhibitions and displays. Volunteering in the centre gives me an opportunity to learn new skills and to keep using old ones.
I took over the role of Treasurer at the beginning of the year so some of my time is now spent chasing/paying bills, banking donations, keeping the accounts up to date and ensuring there is enough money in the bank to cover our financial commitments.
I first became a volunteer at the Heritage Centre in 2016 just before we were open to the public. A friend who was also volunteering at the time introduced me to the Centre. The focus then was on getting the building ready for visitors and laying out displays of the items which had been donated.
As I have a secretarial background I was asked to take minutes at committee meetings. I found this very interesting and soon became familiar with the evolving Heritage Centre. We had quite a few volunteers from within the community who I regularly communicated with, setting up staffing rotas and sending out a monthly newsletter giving details of upcoming events and progress. Continuing from this, I took on more administration jobs and became a Trustee and later Office Manager. This involves looking after the Centre’s administration which I thoroughly enjoy. In addition to this, I am involved with any projects that are currently ongoing and lend a hand where I can.
I visited the Heritage Centre when the exhibition was pictures of Darwen Public Houses and I was impressed, not only by the exhibition, but by how many other things were on show. So after I retired from working at Crown Paints, and was looking to volunteer somewhere, I thought I’d see if my services would be welcome. They were, and I now have another use for my admin skills – cataloguing and storing all the donations that are made to the Centre – books, artefacts, paintings, postcards, photos – the list is endless. Being a Darrener born and bred, I couldn’t have picked a better place to volunteer.
I have been at the Heritage Centre since it started. At first I was reluctant, thinking I would not have the skills required but it’s surprising how many different ways you can make a contribution. My main interest is local history so it has been a delight to use any knowledge I may have and to gain more from others in the Centre and from the great variety of artefacts that people bring in for us to keep and display. I also enjoy looking after the garden and we are very grateful to Four Seasons for donating some of the plants.
Volunteering at Darwen Heritage Centre is very interesting as I have always had an interest in family history and the parks and buildings in Darwen all have a story to tell, very often a family story.
I am not a Darwener and didn’t think I would be able to contribute, but it didn’t matter, as there are plenty of tasks to carry out.
The volunteer crowd are warm and friendly, making it easy to feel at home. The Centre is run by the trustees – again all volunteers, but we are all happy to brew-up, wash-up as well as creating new displays and greeting the many visitors who come to look round, bring contributions and to tell us about their childhoods, work and experiences in Darwen that have long disappeared.
I saw a small news item about the 1st AGM of the heritage centre in summer 2017 and, like many, had no idea it had been set up.I started by offering to help list all the donated items into a database. Being more involved each week, I also offered suggestions for improving the practical tasks such as restocking the display cabinets, and helping out elsewhere with basic DIY jobs to save money. The majority of the main core of volunteers were well researched in local history and interesting for a newbie to listen to, but nobody was a “prima donna” expert as everyone stepped in and worked as a team. Then I discovered the cellar which led me into a wholly different direction. Two later volunteers and myself, with a massive amount of help from others roped in for specific tasks, have transformed the basement from a damp dingy dump into a bright usable storage area. A transformation we can rightly take pride in and I am in the process of writing up the transitional journey.
The 4 years I have been involved with DHC have been varied and mainly enjoyable. It became apparent to me that there can be different types of volunteers People with special skills who can be called upon for specific occasional tasks; people prepared to get stuck into basic maintenance jobs as they arise; people happy to do the necessary admin jobs; helpers who can work from home on the internet; and “people” people who can offer a good visitor experience. There are no rules, except for courtesy and possibly common sense so come and talk to us and see if you can find a niche.
I was invited to join a Committee Meeting in 2016 after retiring from teaching. Not knowing what to expect I went along and ended up writing the first business plan for the Centre. This developed into taking on the role of Secretary and I went on to complete the application for Registered Charity Status for the Centre and as result I write the Annual Report for the Charities Commission.
What I like most about volunteering at the Centre is that it gives me an opportunity to develop my skills in photography. In turn this means that I have to get out and about meeting various people and persuading them to let me photograph important aspects of Darwen. This has given me the chance to meet so many people, each with an interesting story to tell, that otherwise I would never have met. Climbing to the top of St Peter’s Church Clock Tower with Mavis Smith was a highlight, possibly only topped by sitting in Horace Toolis’ room listening to his stories of life as a Royal Navy gunner in WW2. I have also been given the opportunity to follow up this work by presenting talks to both adults and school students at the Heritage Centre.
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