SEMI-RETIRED businessman Murdo MacDonald enjoys a bit of a laugh and he has plenty to chuckle about as a volunteer driver taking residents from Pershore and the surrounding villages to the shops, a day centre at Evesham and other destinations.

His passengers, many older and disabled, love a bit of warm banter and so does he.

Murdo, aged 63, ran his own engineering company until retirement and has lived in Pershore for 21 years.

Last November, he was looking for an opportunity to do some community work and one of his neighbours happened to be Kate Walton, the chief officer of Pershore Volunteer Centre. He popped into the office to explore any suitable volunteering opportunities and discovered there were potentially 30 or so roles he could fulfil.

He likes driving and the centre was desperate for hub drivers – people who could drive the minibus and the 15-seater bus – taking passengers to the Pershore Co-op supermarket, to a day centre at Evesham, on other shopping trips or to events. On one occasion he drove a group of Girl Guides to Hereford Cathedral to see the weeping window of poppies.

“Over many years I had seen a number of people giving their time to the community and at the end of the day I wanted to put something back into the local community,” he said. “I love it. We have a laugh and I am pretty chilled out with life.”

Many of his passengers are elderly and some – aged as young as 28 and up to 68 – are disabled. “A good sense of humour is a good quality for this type of volunteering. Having patience and respect for these people is very important too,” he said.

“You get a tremendously good feeling from doing this. The fact that you can make someone’s life that little bit better is priceless. And they do not realise what they give back to you. It is thoroughly enjoyable and very satisfying.”

The volunteer centre, located in Billing House, Pershore, WR10 1EY, aims to support people in Pershore and the surrounding villages who are at risk of becoming isolated. It provides a community transport service for residents unable to use public transport; runs a community resource centre providing office facilities and meeting rooms for individuals and not-for-profit organisations; operates a lunch club for older people once a fortnight; promotes volunteering and provides a range of volunteering opportunities within the charity or for other organisations.

Rob Fogarty, aged 65, retired early from his work in finance, human resources and legal work and about a year ago – after enjoying a few years of seeing different parts of the world and pursuing some new hobbies – he decided he wanted to make a contribution to the local community where he has lived for 25 years.

He said: “I had never been unemployed and I felt I could pass on some of my personal skills and work experience to make some positive change or contribution to someone’s life. I started looking into how I could volunteer locally.

“I popped into the volunteer centre and gave my details to the receptionist and Carol, the volunteer recruitment administrator, overheard the conversation. We went through the things I could do and we discussed about 10 opportunities and there was one with the YSS.

“I went for an interview with the YSS and I felt it was the one for me.” Rob did some training and now volunteers as a meet and mentor. The YSS is a county-wide charity that helps vulnerable young people and adults to help themselves in life.

Rob gives support and guidance to offenders released from HMP Hewell, Redditch, to help them integrate into the community and access the services and facilities such as job centres, substance misuse services and anything else available to help them get back on their feet and into training and work.

Sue Wathen, aged 66 from Drakes Broughton, retired last April and decided to give herself a few months to get used to not working. But it wasn’t long before she was getting bored. “I have always had an active life. I was walking past the volunteer centre in Pershore and I thought I would pop in and see if there was anything I could help with.”

Sue, who had been a project manager for an insurance broker in Worcester, now helps to staff the main reception in the centre and also acts as an events co-ordinator, bringing together all the elements of a fund-raising event.

She said: “I was quite gobsmacked when I heard about all the services they offer at the volunteer centre. I did not know it was open to such a wide area and I did not realise how much it costs to run the centre and its services.”

She pointed out that one of the reasons why she volunteers is because she wants to keep her brain active. She also enjoys meeting people and talking to them. “I think it keeps you young,” she added.

“The other thing this does is give me an understanding of some of the issues out in the rural areas – that people feel isolated because they are not mobile.

“The lunch club is a good example of how this helps people who can be isolated. It is oversubscribed and gets people together who would not be able to do that under their own steam.

“I am pleased I came into the centre that day. I can do as much or as little as I want. I could be doing it five days a week if I wanted but I do about one day a week.”

Keen cyclist Emily Foster-Phillips, from Stoulton, is helping the Pershore Volunteer Centre by doing an 80-mile sponsored bike ride on Sunday June 3. “It is a bit of a challenge but I like challenges,” said the 21-year-old.

She has been in the saddle clocking up the miles – her longest ride so far has been 72 miles – and joining in with the Evesham Wheelers cycle club to do some of its routes.

Emily has boundless enthusiasm for cycling and the volunteer centre. She says the centre has helped her gain confidence and does a huge amount for the local community. “I am raising money for the centre and hoping to raise the profile of what it does by doing the cycle ride.”

Anyone who would like to donate please visit

She is also currently on a two-year sport course at Evesham College and will be going to the University of Worcester to study sports coaching when it finishes.

“As part of my sports course at Evesham I have to organise an event and this is the first time I have done that.”

Eric Wiles, chairman of Pershore Volunteer Centre, said: “All of our services are provided by around 80 volunteer drivers, escorts, cooks and office support, without whom we would not be able to provide vital services.

“The whole volunteer centre – trustees, clients and staff - are truly grateful to our volunteers for giving up their time to help us help some of the most vulnerable people in our community. They are the unsung heroes of Pershore and we thank them.

“The volunteers centre places people with a variety of voluntary organisations all across the district and Carol Christmas and her team of volunteers do an excellent job of matching volunteers to the needs of these organisations.”

Carol added that 540 clients use the organisation and 40 per cent of people registered to use the centre’s community transport scheme live in rural areas. These areas cover 44 villages including Grafton Flyford, Dormstom, Bredon, Pirton, Fladbury and Charlton.

The centre has attracted 175 new volunteers in the past year and there are currently in the region of 50 volunteering opportunities available through the centre.

National Volunteering Week runs from Friday June 1 until Thursday June 7. Anyone interested in finding out about volunteering can visit