Harrogate and Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service is a local CVS which runs the Harrogate Easier Living Project (HELP), a group of services designed to foster accessibility and inclusion within the communities of Harrogate and Ripon.
Two of these services are Ripon and Rural Voluntary Car Driving Service, which operates in Ripon and the surrounding areas, and Driving Force which operates around Harrogate and Knaresborough. Each of these projects is a voluntary car scheme designed to ensure that everyone can get where they need to be on a day to day basis. Our services operate in quite rural areas, with our drivers in Ripon, for example, taking in two towns but also massive swathes of rural areas. Last year we ran 6,755 journeys for our clients so it’s clear to us that without our car schemes many people in these areas wouldn’t be able to get the transport they need.
Our services are a mixture of new and old. Our Ripon service has been going for 15 years whilst Driving Force launched in 2015 to meet a significant service gap in the community around Harrogate. After a local minibus scheme had to stop running, there was no community transport in Harrogate so we picked up the mantle and launched the much needed service.
We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers, though: they’re the lifeblood of our organisation. We’ve got 54 volunteers in Ripon and 34 in Harrogate and they go out of their way to help people stay connected to their communities. They work incredibly hard; one of our drivers did 3,000 miles in their first year! We also have drivers who give their time when they can, fitting it around their busy schedule and they are just as vital to making sure that our services run on time. One of my proudest moments working in community transport was earlier this year where we put on a certificate presentation for our volunteers as a way of thanking them for the time and effort they put in. To be in the room with all those inspirational people was amazing.
It’s not just me; our clients wax lyrical about our volunteers as well. For many, our service isn’t just about getting out and about but also seeing a friendly face and having someone to talk to. Our clients have told us they worry less because they feel they can rely on the service and when we’ve sent out surveys they’ve come back with some really lovely comments about how much of a difference it makes to their day to day lives.
We’re doing well as an organisation and making a real impact but, like many, we also have our challenges. Funding for example is always a challenge. We receive a grant from North Yorkshire County Council for our voluntary transport services but there’s still massive gap between that and what we need to run our services. Because of this we do a lot of fundraising. Our fundraising team do a bit of everything, the odd event, grant applications, a lot of work with local community groups and local businesses – we were Sainsbury’s Charity of the Year for example. When it comes to fundraising, it’s about staying visible in the community, and we’ve found that the people Harrogate are very philanthropic!
Over the 15 years, we’ve seen the enormous difference our services make for the people of Ripon. And over the last two years we’ve seen the difference a new community transport service has had in Harrogate. In both cases we help people stay active, make friends and get where they need to go. It’s such an important service, and it’s fantastic to be a part of it.