Fifty Years of Innovation


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In its first year, the (then) Volunteer Workers' Bureau sourced volunteering opportunities for 78 people and worked with 53 charities across London. It delivered that work on an income of £232.11 - all of it from donations. There were no paid staff members, but a team of 21 volunteers (mostly working out of their own homes) helped with interviews, telephone calls and clerical work.

 

In the 50 years since the Volunteer Centre has placed countless thousands of volunteers into individual volunteering roles in hundreds of organisations. It acquired its first computer in 1987, which helped with the processing of 266 placements.  In 1999 its technology took a further leap forward when it became the first Volunteer Centre in the UK to launch its own website.  Nowadays, Volunteer Centre Kensington and Chelsea (VCKC) relies on a slightly more sophisticated system to achieve over a thousand placements a year and manage relationships with around three hundred organisations.

 

Since its foundation in 1969 (when it operated out of Lady Goodman's kitchen), the Centre has moved three times and is now back at Thorpe Close - the second home we moved to 45 years ago. We've also had three names.

In addition to working with individual residents, VCKC has supported local community celebrations such as the Notting Hill Carnival, Westway presents, Vote 100, and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, recruited huge numbers of volunteers in response to national events including the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and mobilized volunteers to respond to tragedies including the Paddington rail crash and the Grenfell Tower fire. Its Operation Cup of Tea was a response to the 2011 London Riots, giving the local community the opportunity to have a cup of tea and a conversation with a friendly stranger.

 

At its 1978 AGM, it decided to adopt a role in developing and setting up new organisations whose services would rely on the involvement of volunteers. These included Hearing for the Elderly, ADKC, Dial a Ride, Talking Newspapers and Crossroads. We also hosted the first London pilot of Victim Support. In 1982 a successful application to the Manpower Services Commission resulted in the establishment of NOVA.

 

In 1999, HRH Duchess of Gloucester joined us to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We were delighted to have her join us again to celebrate our 50th anniversary.