After an Army career spanning 35 years, Les Wood has joined a new task force. He reveals why he finds his volunteer work so rewarding, as the new Smarter York campaign appeals for more recruits
Wander through the village of Copmanthorpe on a Wednesday morning and you’ll spot an assortment of people in overalls and hi-vis vests.
Drug users, you’ll probably think, and you’ll be spot on. High blood pressure, bad backs and mild indigestion all have them reaching regularly for their tablets. No one asks Derek about his little blue pills, but we all have our suspicions.
Despite their “habits” these folk are not serving sentences handed down by a magistrate. They’re a motley collection of village residents with an hour or two to spare and who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves to help smarten up the village a little.
Copmanthorpe “task force” began in 2010, initially meeting just twice a month to tackle the ever-present problem of litter. Soon more people came forward to help, more tasks were identified and ideas proffered, and twice a month quickly became once a week.
These days, with the help of a generous grant from their parish council, they have a variety of brushes, shovels, hoes and spades as well as a fearsome petrol-driven strimmer and hedge trimmer.
Tasks vary throughout the year. Major projects have included cutting back vegetation and overhanging trees along the many unadopted pathways linking areas of the village, clearing snow and ice and salting pavements in winter, cutting back trees and bushes in the graveyard in spring and summer, and clearing rotting leaves from the gutters along the main streets in the autumn.
Alongside this, lesser task are carried out either as they arise or on a continual basis. An hour or two of work prior to Remembrance Sunday, for example, recently saw the War Memorial looking at its best, whilst other volunteers dedicate themselves entirely to litter-picking every week.
I derive great satisfaction from seeing things looking their best. We’re all very privileged to live in such a great community. We have every conceivable amenity here, as well as easy access to historic York and the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, and it’s no surprise that people are keen to make it an even more attractive environment in which to live.
What is clearly evident in Copmanthorpe is the infectious pride which the volunteers take from having done something worthwhile for their community – an infection which they hope will soon become an epidemic throughout the York area!
How you can volunteer
With the rest of the Copmanthorpe task force are brilliant examples of the sort of volunteers City of York Council would like to recruit for Smarter York.
Launched last month, Smarter York is a community scheme which aims to unite everyone in the city to help keep York clean and pleasant to live in at a time of increasing funding pressures.
The aim of the scheme is to work alongside the council’s waste and street cleaning teams and enable residents to take part in more opportunities to volunteer in their local neighbourhoods.
After receiving an avalanche of requests from volunteer snow wardens early this month, the total number of recruits has now reached a record high of more than 100 volunteers.
Cllr David Levene, the council’s cabinet member for environmental services, is a snow warden himself. “Smarter York is about the council recognising the huge financial challenges we face by being honest about what we can do, encouraging residents to help out, and working more effectively to help keep York looking like a world-class city,” he said.
For more information about the scheme visit the Smarter York page on the council website email [email protected], call 01904 551551, follow @CityofYork #SmarterYork or download the Smarter York app now for free from iTunes for Apple devices or from Google Play for Android phones.