We are the Diocese of Leeds: Volunteers: Our unsung heroes.

Volunteers is the theme for this week’s films in our year long campaign to tell the rich and varied story of our church and community life here in the Diocese of Leeds.

National Volunteers Week takes place every year from 1-7th June – an annual campaign for the nation to recognise the contribution these unsung heroes of our communities make every day – and our church communities are no different. 

You make the difference is the message during this week long campaign, and here in the Diocese of Leeds we show you two films that celebrate those volunteers without whom our church life would be much poorer.

In Pontefract, Wakefield, a birthday party is being held to say thank you to all the volunteers who have helped to run Lunch With Us, a project run out of St Giles’s Church which offers a warm meal and companionship to more vulnerable members of their local community.

[Video:https://youtu.be/DICAN-Ae1mU.]

It has been one year since Lunch With Us was first launched at St Giles’ and in that time they have served over 3,000 meals. The volunteers prepare and serve a hot meal every Wednesday afternoon and unlike a café, the customers don’t have to leave as soon as they’ve finished, the volunteers make sure they are around to chat to those who want to and they can signpost them to other services available from the Church centre and locally.

The Church and Church centre with its motto: One Church: One Community - aims to make a real contribution to local community needs and play an active role in the regeneration of the town and its rich and varied heritage – from its liquorice to its mention in the Magna Carta.

Our second film gives us a glimpse of life as a Festival Angel at the annual Leeds Festival – a three day music event which runs over the August Bank Holiday and attracts around 85,000 young people.

They are in the planning stages for this year’s Leeds Fest and have just launched an appeal for more volunteers to earn their wings.

Festival Angels have become a regular feature since they first started in 2011 when volunteers from the local church in nearby Thorner, Leeds set up a prayer café.

This has expanded over the years and now pulls in volunteers from right across the Diocese. As well as the Prayer Cafe, they run Lost Property and this year they have the support of West Yorkshire Police to offer protective security marking to valuables to deter thieves and help repatriate with their owner if they become lost.

The Revd Andy Nicholson, vicar of Thorner and Festival Angels Coordinator, said: "It is great to be at Leeds Festival and help show those attending that Jesus Loves Festivals.

“The care and compassion that the team of volunteers offer, with conversations around faith and spirituality, help the church in this region connect with hundreds who are otherwise not part of our community.

The Prayer Café offers a safe place either to sit and talk or have a quiet five minutes. There are daily prayer sessions and the Festival Angels sell a reusable refill mug at £5 each that gives festival goers unlimted tea, coffee or hot water over the weekend.  All profits go to a Diocesan project – last year it was the turn of the Wakefield Rent Deposit Scheme, a charity to help young people out of homelessness in the city.

Karn Dyson signed up to be an angel four years ago following an appeal in a newsletter; she returned the following year as a team leader and now coordinates the Lost Property.

“Many here at Leeds Fest are young people away from home for the first time;  some can get lost, get disorientated and we’re here on hand to help them have safe and happy festival,’ she said.

“It’s missional. You really feel like you are making a difference to some of these young people’s lives.”

[Video:https://youtu.be/fj9jzu27vrw]

Opening at 12noon on Wednesday 23rd August and running through the night until 12noon on Bank Holiday Monday 28th August, the role of Festival Angels is to offer a safe Christian presence in and amongst the festival goers. There is a designated campsite just behind the main stage for the Angels and a pass is available to get round the site.

To become involved in Festival Angels visit www.leedsfestivalangels.org.uk

Find out more about the national volunteers day here: https://www.ncvo.org.uk

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