When Leicestershire Cares approached Hinckley & Rugby Building Society to become a member in January 2012 it turned out to be a perfect fit.
The Society has always had the interests of its communities at its heart and encourages and enables staff to volunteer on up to three days of paid leave per year. Leicestershire Cares introduces its member companies to local people and organisations that are in need of help. It was indeed a perfect fit.
One of the first Cares projects Society staff got involved with was Number Partners. Each week volunteers go into a local primary school to play maths-based board games with pupils. The children need a little extra support to gain confidence with maths or with participation, or both.
The games are designed to make maths fun, and it works! The Society has a team of seven staff who visit Manorfield Primary School in Stoney Stanton to work one to one or in small groups of pupils.
Jo Hudson, Leicestershire Cares’ Number Partners coordinator, said:
“I was so impressed with the change that I saw in one pupil in particular. She reluctantly whispered her answers initially without making any eye contact whatsoever.
“Over the weeks, this young lady really came into her own and was laughing, joking and confidently giving her volunteer the correct answers. This is what Number Partners is all about.”
Another of Leicestershire Cares’ Education Projects is Go for Reading. The Society provides a team of six staff who work one-to-one on reading skills with pupils at local schools Redmoor Academy and Hinckley Academy.
The Society also regularly sends volunteers to help in local secondary schools, providing mock interviews for teenagers in readiness for further education or the world of work. These Interview Technique sessions are always enthusiastically delivered by the staff who volunteer their time.
Once a year, a team of up to 20 staff are given time off from their usual duties to take part in a Cares Team Challenge, offering much-needed assistance to charities and community groups with major projects that they would otherwise struggle to fund or undertake.
Team Challenges are an opportunity for Society staff with no previous management experience to lead a team.
The first Challenge saw Society staff redecorate at Mencap in Hinckley, giving the tired interior of its community hall a complete refresh. Staff completed a similar job for the disabled residents at a Leonard Cheshire Disability home in Coalville the following year.
To help mark the Society’s 150th Anniversary in 2015 the challenge chosen was a bigger one, with over 20 staff spending three full days transforming the garden at Barwell Community House.
The centre works with local residents and young people in an area previously blighted by anti-social
behaviour, encouraging them to become involved in community projects and activities. The community house is used by a wide variety of users, from mother and toddler groups to local pensioners.
Community Development Worker Militza Kirkham said:
“The volunteers were the nicest people and so eager and willing to complete the challenge. They don’t realise what this means to me and to the residents that use the House. It was a privilege to meet them.”
Carla Loughrey, who co-ordinates the Society’s Leicestershire Cares activities, said:
“All team challenges are met with such enthusiasm, however it really pushes the volunteers out of their comfort zone and tests their abilities. The team spirit on these days is fantastic and give staff from all over the Society an opportunity to work together and make a difference for others – what could be better?”
The Society also participates actively in the other annual projects run by Leicestershire Cares, such as the Coat Drive and Collect for Christmas Campaigns.
The Coat Drive sees ‘gently used’ coats passed on to disadvantaged people throughout Leicestershire via homeless charities and voluntary groups.
The Collect for Christmas Campaign facilitates the donation of countless toys and home starter packs to those who otherwise would not be able to enjoy the type of festive period most people take for granted.
The most recent campaign in November 2015 supported Age UK in Leicestershire and Rutland, resulting in more than 1,000 practical gifts being distributed to hundreds of older people throughout the area.
Carla said: “It’s not hard to encourage staff to get involved in these projects, they are all so worthwhile the benefits to others are clear. Everyone doing just a little bit can have such a huge impact for those on the receiving end.”
The Society’s increasing involvement with the many projects outlined here was rewarded in May 2015 when it was named Company of the Year at the Leicestershire Cares Annual Celebration event.
Chief Executive Chris White said:
“The Society was delighted to receive the award, but it was really an honour and reward for every single member of staff who gave their time or made a donation towards the valuable work Leicestershire Cares does.
“It’s something we are rightly proud to be involved with and which reflects the guiding principle of giving back to the community that the Society has followed for the last 150 years.”
Cares director Monica Stark said: “The wide range of our projects which Hinckley & Rugby has embraced is impressive, but what is truly inspiring is the enthusiasm and energy the Society’s staff put into every single activity. They have truly taken Cares and the people they help to their hearts.”