A scheme set up to encourage more volunteers in Plymouth is celebrating its first anniversary this month.
‘Our Plymouth’ – the name given to the local Cities of Service volunteer programme – marks the milestone on Wednesday 21 October. Plymouth was one of seven cities selected by the Cabinet Office and Nesta to take part in Cities of Service, based on a successful American project.
Since the initiative was launched, 12,500 portions of healthy food have been distributed through Grow, Share, Cook, Plymouth residents have saved £134,000 on their energy bills, and 117 volunteers have been recruited to the project. In addition, almost 2,000 residents have had conversations with our Energy Champion volunteers.
Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cities of Service Ambassador for Plymouth, said: “We are absolutely thrilled with the success of Our Plymouth in its first year, which has helped thousands of people in the city and energised residents to help their local communities.
“Plymouth City Council, as a co-operative council, sees Cities of Service as a great vehicle to help us achieve our aim to create a fairer city where everyone does their bit, in this case through volunteering.”
Initially focusing on two of the Fairness Commission’s priorities, ‘heating and eating’, the two main local volunteer projects under Our Plymouth are Grow, Share Cook and Energy Champions. Grow, Share, Cook sees the mobilisation of volunteers to grow more fresh fruit and vegetables, the development of community gardens and the distribution of the food to those in need, as well as healthy cookery sessions, while the Energy Champions project promotes energy efficiency across the city.
Darin Halifax, Chief Cities of Service Officer for Plymouth, said: “You always hope that when you launch a project like this it will be a success, but we have been overwhelmed with the public’s reaction.
“Every step of the way – from the willingness of local people to roll up their sleeves and get involved in volunteering, to the feedback from our healthy cooking sessions, to the Energy Champions visiting people at home to give advice and help people save money, to our pots and pans amnesty in the summer – the response to Our Plymouth has been overwhelmingly positive.
“As ever though, we are always on the look-out for more volunteers so if you are interested in finding out more then please do get in touch.”
Cities of Service is based on an American model introduced by Mayor Bloomberg, and each UK city taking part has a mentor from the US. Plymouth’s mentor has been Marcia Hope Goodwin, Cities of Service Director for the City of Orlando, Florida, who said: “It has been a great pleasure supporting and encouraging Darin and his Cities of Service UK team in Plymouth. The volunteer engagement and program outcomes that “Our Plymouth” has achieved in its first year are outstanding! I look forward to seeing the program expand in the future and I wish my adopted city continued success.”
Nadia Bettega, Cities of Service programme lead at Nesta, said: “Plymouth’s Cities of Service team have made strong progress in the year since they launched their service plan, building strong relationships with partners and the chief executive’s office. They have achieved very good scale with their projects, making a difference in the lives of almost three thousand residents across the city.”
Simon Platten Project Manager for Tamar Grow Local said: “Our Plymouth has real potential to change lives through its holistic approach to tackling issues in the city such as fuel poverty and healthy eating.
As an Our Plymouth partner we are now delivering 100 veg bags a fortnight to front doors across the city, all sourced from Tamar Grow Local growing projects, Tamar Valley growers or English farms which is fantastic both for the recipients who get really fresh food and the small local growers who are benefitting from increased sales.”
Tami Skelton, Nutritionist and Director of Food is Fun, said: “The most rewarding thing about being a delivery partner in the Grow, Share Cook project, has been seeing the big difference it has made to people’s lives. The people that have taken part in the cooking sessions with us have become much more confident through A having the access to more fresh vegetables by receiving free veg bags, and B having the knowledge of how to cook them.
“They are proud of what they have achieved. So far this year we have already delivered 18 cooking sessions, and some of the recipients have been happily sharing their culinary creations in the form of photos and recipes at our sessions and on our Facebook page where they can be shared with other families who are involved in the project. They are passing on their experiences and knowledge to their families – it’s all about teaching people valuable life skills.”
Our Plymouth partners include Tamar Grow Local, Food Is Fun, Plymouth Energy Community, Plymouth University and Plymouth Community Homes.
Helen Ryan, Head of Communities at Plymouth Community Homes, said: “In one year, Our Plymouth has made a massive difference to lots of PCH residents. Whether it’s been supporting cookery sessions through Grow Share Cook, or working with Plymouth Energy Community to help people keep their homes warm for less, we and our partners have had a real effect on the health and wellbeing of people across the whole city.”
Clare Mains, Volunteer Coordinator for Plymouth Energy Community, said: “Our energy volunteers are doing a great job helping Plymouth residents to make their homes warm, healthy and affordable.
“It doesn’t take a lot of time to make a huge difference and they’re using their new skills in their own homes too. What could be better than that?”
To find out more about Our Plymouth, contact Darin Halifax on 01752 305446 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Our Plymouth website can be accessed at www.ourplymouth.co.uk
You can also follow Our Plymouth on twitter at @ourplymouth