We are looking for volunteers!

Jean Haldane, our volunteer coordinator, explains, “Since I started at Minsteracres about five years ago the need for volunteers has increased because we have become much busier and we need help in more areas.

“In addition to the dining room, we need support in housekeeping and hospitality, in the office and communications and across the estate and gardens.

“We are looking for men and women right across the age range (our oldest conservation volunteer is 81!) because we have such a range of need and a diverse clientele.”

One recent recruit is a returnee. John McKean’s first job back in 1980 was as a trainee with the Manpower Services Commission based at Minsteracres on the princely sum of £10.50 a week.

“We did all sorts back then. I remember trimming the lower branches of the sequoias and we built a boathouse on the lake. We got some of the most unglamorous jobs though,” says John. “We came up in July to help set up the stalls for the summer fair – which in those days was huge – and had to dig a big trench behind a tarpaulin at the far end of the field for the gents, which we filled in again after the event.”

John went on to spend ten years in retail and then trained as a mental health nurse where he stayed for 27 years, eventually rising to managerial posts. When he retired earlier this year he took a job working two days a week in a care home and decided to offer some of his extra time to Minsteracres.

“All those years of working, you don’t get time to think. Now there’s space for my family and my garden as well as spending time as a volunteer.

“It’s not just about giving something back,” he says, “I get much more out of coming here than Minsteracres gets from me. Working in mental health all that time I understand the concept of sanctuary, but never thought I’d be the recipient as I am here.

“Thank yous in my experience are rare, so I get a real buzz from the ones I get here. The catering team are lovely and very grateful for the help. It’s surprising, too, the number of people who ask about me, why I’m volunteering and what I do.

“Also, as a former manager it’s lovely to turn up and be told what to do! I don’t have to make decisions and that‘s great.”

John says that despite everything, it’s not much different at Minsteracres now from the 80s. “I drive through those gates as I did back then and it hasn’t changed. The technology and machinery might be different, but it hasn’t impacted on the vision or the place itself. Coming here – it feels like reassurance. You drive up and you think ‘it’s alright!’”

If you’d like to know more about volunteering at Minsteracres contact volunteer coordinator Jean by e mail at jhaldane@minsteracres.org or call us on 01434 673248.