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A letter to the Army

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Sergeant Tom Power volunteered to support us during the coronavirus pandemic. He was recently awarded the Royal Artillery Regiment Colonel’s Coin by his regiment, in return for his hard work and professionalism. This Armistice Day, we wanted to share the letter that Julia, our Head of Community and Wellbeing Services, wrote to Tom’s regiment, thanking them for allowing Tom to volunteer with us. 

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Dear Lieutenant Colonel,

I would like to express our thanks to the Regiment and the Army, in allowing Sergeant Tom Power, to volunteer with our organisation during the COVID-19 restrictions. He has been the most committed, resourceful, and adaptable volunteer we have ever had, fitting into the team from day one.  

The COVID-19 support, shopping, befriending and collecting medication, were all new offers our organisation made, trying to use our existing resources and volunteers to help vulnerable people and the shielded group to stay safe in the pandemic. Tom was one of the first people to respond to our request for volunteers.  

On the first day when I asked if he was willing to phone vulnerable people who all we had was a phone number for, and to find out how they were and what support they needed, Tom’s response was, “I’ve never done it before, but I’ll give it a try”. His compassionate and thorough approach sparked an instant rapport with the strangers he was talking to, but what impressed us most was his ability to spot potential safeguarding issues and to flag these up straight away.  

The list of tasks Tom has undertaken feels endless, as he volunteered for anything that needed doing. Shopping and deliveries, collecting and delivering prescriptions, compiling shopping lists and making sure all were coded up properly so deliveries went to the right place and people were charged for the correct shopping, liaising with the Fire Service to help out with deliveries and systems for collecting payments when shopping was paid for in cash, helping some of the staff who were less confident with spreadsheets, to name but a few.  

The patience Tom showed in talking to older people over the phone, sometimes those with mild confusion, often with hearing difficulties, and managing the careful explanation that our shoppers couldn’t go to the three or four shops they may have done over the week to get exactly what they wanted on the shopping list, was at a level we would have expected from an experienced member of staff. We have many compliments logged from the people he delivered shopping or medication to or helped sort out difficulties over the phone.  

Tom was always thinking about ways to make the support we were giving more efficient, and the experience better for the person on the receiving end, something we expect of staff but aren’t used to that level of commitment from volunteers.  

I was surprised to hear from Tom on his last day that it had been his first experience of working in a team of mainly women. I wanted to make specific mention of this as there was nothing in his attitude or manner that would indicate this was the case. He came in as one of the team, as if he had always worked with us, and if we had any stereotyped images of what we expected from a military man, they are well and truly squashed. What we did see in everything he did with us, was evidence of the 7 Leadership Behaviours in the Army Leadership Code. He earned the respect of the team and they quickly recognised the areas he was best placed to lead on.  

We are sad to see him return to his usual role, but very appreciative of the time that he was given to support our new venture. 

Yours sincerely,

Julia Perry

During the pandemic, Mental Health Concern has supported an additional 500 people who are isolated or shielding. From telephone befriending to delivering shopping, we could not do what we do without our volunteers. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped us during this time.

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