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Voluntary Action Honoured For Its Vital Support Work During The Pandemic

Published on: 8 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 9 Feb, 2022

At the start of the first lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic, Voluntary Action South West Surrey quickly rose to the challenge to become an important hub where people could go to for help.

During those first weeks from mid-March 2020 onwards, it received hundreds of phone calls from people urgently needing help as they struggled during a time of uncertainty and fear.

The charity’s vital role across the boroughs of Guildford and Waverley was to signpost people in need to organisations and local groups offering help – typically for deliveries of food and prescription medicines.

From left: Voluntary Action’s Caroline Keith, Carol Dunnett (who retired as its chief officer at the end of March 2021), and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Caroline Breckell. Click on pictures to enlarge in a new window.

In recognition of this, Voluntary Action has been awarded the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey’s Certificate of Appreciation for the work it has done throughout the pandemic.

The award was presented by the lieutenancy’s deputy lieutenant, Caroline Breckell, at Voluntary Action’s office in Castle Street, Guildford on Tuesday this week (February 8).

It was an occasion to which current staff and volunteers attended, along with trustees, guests and former members of staff.

Carol Dunnett who was the charity’s chief officer at the time of the first lockdown, and who retired at the end of March 2021, accepted the award. She said her team excelled themselves in the amount of work they did as Covid-19 spread and lockdowns were imposed.

Led by staff members at the time, Linda Mussell and Laura Dunham, they and other members of staff manned the phones from their homes as the calls came in. Some of its own volunteers also helped in the support that was being given.

The volunteer centre manager Caroline Keith recalled she took 60 calls within three hours on one particular day, highlighting how busy they were at times.

She added that staff members Ian Ross and David Rose worked to identify and list for those answering the calls the many organisations and people who were offering help.

These included newly formed Covid support groups (most using Facebook), as well as borough and parish councils, churches, residents’ associations and other community organisations.

Caroline summed up Voluntary Action’s response as being an important link within the overall jigsaw puzzle of services working in their local communities.

Voluntary Action South West Surrey staff present and past, volunteers, trustees and guests, pose for a celebration photo outside its office at 39 Castle Street, Guildford, on receiving the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey’s Certificate of Appreciation for the work the charity has done throughout the pandemic.

Voluntary Action also played an important part in linking up and helping organisations via Zoom calls as they soon became the norm. And it’s figures show that it assisted to place 1,000 people who volunteered to help in their local areas.

Throughout the past two years, Voluntary Action’s team of social prescribing link workers has grown. They have also been busy, and now more ever, with people who need help and support in their lives.

And Voluntary Action played a key part in the vaccination programme with the recruiting of more than 1,200 volunteers at vaccination centres. It’s website being used as the portal for volunteers to register to help out.

With its role of advising people who wish to volunteer now getting back to normal, it says its relationship with those organisations and groups who require volunteers is stronger than ever.

And with a new, fresh focus and much renewed energy that began in January, its office has this week reopened to visitors, from Mondays to Thursdays, 10am to 3pm. Email enquiries for volunteering opportunities can be also be sent to

Also during the presentation, via a Zoom call, Sue Tresman, who chairs the Guildford & Waverley Healthcare Alliance, thanked Voluntary Action for the huge contribution it has made to the Covid vaccine roll-out, saying that without its help it would not have been possible locally.

Cutting a cake to celebrate the event, now retired chief officer Carol Dunnett (centre) and staff members Nicola Freeman and Ian Ross.

Click here for more details about Voluntary Action’s social prescribing service, or send an email to

It is also recruiting for a brand new post for a young persons’ outreach worker. The role will be to support the uptake of Covid-19 vaccinations among people aged 16 to 25 across the boroughs of Guildford and Waverley.

The role is for a one-year fixed term contract and the outreach worker will provide local intelligence from young people and partners on the barriers to young people taking up the offer of a Covid-19 vaccine.

This information will help and allow health and care services to make responsive changes to service delivery to meet the needs of young people.

For anyone interested, email for a job description and application form. Closing date for applications is Friday, February 11.

Click here for Voluntary Action South West Surrey’s home page on its website.

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