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Celebrities support volunteering with Age UK

Helping hands

Don Warrington, Angellica Bell and Dev Griffin volunteered with Age UK recently, as part of The Big Help Out.


“Volunteering is hugely important for Age UK,” says Paul Farmer, Age UK’s Chief Executive.

“We have 26,000 formal volunteers across the country – as well as more than 110,000 digital campaigners – and they provide so many different types of support. We also know that a lot of older people volunteer and get a lot from doing it, so it’s right at the heart of our DNA as an organisation.”

There’s a vast range of volunteering opportunities available with Age UK and our network of brand partner organisations, whether it’s spending a day a week helping in one of Age UK’s shops, giving time to a digital inclusion programme or home from hospital service at a local Age UK near you, or spending 30 minutes each week speaking to an older person via the Age UK Telephone Friendship Service. “However much time you’ve got, or whatever your abilities and capabilities, there’s an opportunity for you,” explains Paul.

There’s an added focus on volunteering thanks to The Big Help Out. To mark His Majesty The King’s Coronation, organisations across the country are getting together to help out in local communities and raise awareness of volunteering throughout the UK. To support these efforts, we recently welcomed three celebrity visitors, who rolled up their sleeves to learn more about volunteering opportunities across the Age UK network and how rewarding they can be.

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Don Warrington reflects on the bigger picture

Actor Don Warrington MBE dropped in on Age UK Barnet to attend a morning of activities for older people living with dementia. During these mornings, volunteers do everything from making the teas to playing the piano that provides nostalgic background music for attendees.

Actor Don Warrington laughs with an older lady and older man at Age UK Barnet
Sharing stories at Age UK Barnet
Actor Don Warrington laughs with an older lady and older man at Age UK Barnet
Sharing stories at Age UK Barnet

Don, 71, known to television viewers from his appearances in Rising Damp and Death in Paradise, is no stranger to volunteering as a first step to becoming a part of something bigger: aged 17, he turned up in a Newcastle theatre to ask about acting work, only to be offered a job sweeping the stage, which he duly did and became assistant stage manager. “It was a selfish act on my part,” laughs Don. “I wanted to do something and didn’t know how to do it, so they told me that was the way to start.”

On his visit to Age UK Barnet, Don joined half of the group to make samosas, while the other half took part in chair yoga to encourage movement. “I made six or seven samosas,” reveals Don with pride. “I didn’t know how to do them before, but I know how to make them now. That’s something to achieve in a day.”

Don has done some of the work he’s proudest of in his career in the past decade, in productions of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and King Lear. These roles came from having a “champion” in the form of a particular theatre director, so Don is enthusiastic about the idea of volunteers championing the older people they’re working to support. “Having a champion is important during every stage of life,” says Don. “Age UK’s work is important because we all need to keep doing the things that keep us alive, like staying active and being able to communicate with others.”

Age UK’s work is also a reminder that nobody is invisible – older people are individuals who continue having stories and dreams.

Don Warrington

Having witnessed first-hand the contributions they make, Don was full of admiration for Age UK’s volunteers. “Speaking to them, it’s clear how much satisfaction they get from it,” he explains. “Volunteering is thinking about other people and is an absolutely vital activity. It’s a two-way street: you give up your time and efforts for other people, and you get so much back from those people, so everybody involved benefits. You have to make a decision to get involved and the rewards are immense.”

And Don has some words of encouragement for anyone thinking of getting involved. “You can’t imagine what those rewards are until you participate, because you’re learning all the time and consequently, you’re learning about yourself,” he explains. “If you’re thinking about it, do it. Stop thinking; action!”

Presenter Angellica Bell chats with three older men while cooking together
Cooking up a feast
Presenter Angellica Bell chats with three older men while cooking together
Cooking up a feast

Angellica Bell discovers the richness of volunteering

Television and radio presenter Angellica Bell visited Age UK Richmond upon Thames and Man with a Pan, a group for older men. “It allows men to come along, cook, learn new skills and be sociable,” explains Angellica.

As well as helping prepare a delicious chicken dish, and blondies for dessert, Angellica, 47, got the chance to sit down and have lunch with her new friends to learn more about how the work of volunteers enhance lives. “I don’t think enough people know that there are all these incredible people doing amazing things with the reward being that they’re making a difference,” says Angellica. 

People volunteer because they want to and they see a need. And they get so much richness and experience from giving up their time.

Angellica Bell

And, as Angellica discovered, there are multiple ways to support older people. “There are so many things people can volunteer to do, whether it’s in the kitchen, or using your IT skills to help older people get connected and online, or crocheting. If anyone is out there with a few hours to spare a week, and with knowledge and expertise that could benefit others, or a willingness to learn and interact, then get in contact with Age UK.”

Presenter Dev Griffin smiles with two volunteers outside an Age UK charity shop
Part of the team
Presenter Dev Griffin smiles with two volunteers outside an Age UK charity shop
Part of the team

Dev Griffin encourages others to take action

Volunteering is an essential component in Age UK’s shops too, as Age UK ambassador Dev Griffin learned on a visit to a shop in north London. Radio presenter Dev, 38, was invited to give up some of his time to find out more about what staff in the shop get up to, and how it helps support Age UK’s vital work. “I wanted to show people how easy it is to come and help out,” he explains. “Places like this exist because of volunteers, so they rely on people who can give up some of their time to come and help out.”

I think you, as a volunteer, will get a lot out of volunteering too – you’ll meet people, interact with customers, and make some friends.

Dev Griffin

During his time in the shop, Dev enthusiastically got to work, sorting through the clothes donated to the shop and sorting them by size, ensuring the quality was good enough to be put out on the shop floor. “They even trust me enough to use the steamer,” he joked.

“It’s super-flexible,” Dev says of the opportunities to volunteer with Age UK. “It’s as much about the quality of time you can give, rather than how much time. Go for it!”

More opportunities ahead

Paul Farmer, Age UK’s Chief Executive, joined Dev on his visit and explained how the Coronation weekend marks a jumping off point for a bigger focus on volunteering.

“The Big Help Out is initially connected with the Coronation weekend,” he explains. “There will be thousands of opportunities, including in our shops, where you’ll be able to take part in taster sessions. But it’s just the start of a bigger campaign to shine a light on volunteering more generally, and over the course of the summer we’ll be offering more taster sessions across the different types of opportunities we have.”

Paul also took the opportunity to thank Don, Angellica and Dev. “It’s brilliant to have that kind of ambassadorial support to send a message to a wider audience that anyone can volunteer and it’s a great thing to do.”

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Last updated: May 09 2023

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