Celebrating Volunteers’ Week at Vygon

Published 13th June 2022

Volunteers' Week on the 1st – 7th June is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering. Here at Vygon, we are fortunate to have a policy which allows employees to use one day a year to volunteer at a charity of their choice.

One colleague who volunteers regularly is our QARA Manager, Mary Van Andel. We interviewed Mary to find out more about how she uses her volunteering day and what this policy means to her.

Mary Van Andel – Poppy Appeal Organiser & Secretary of local British Legion branch

Who are the British Legion and what do they do?
We provide lifelong support to serving and ex-serving personnel and their families. Our support starts after one day of service and continues through life, long after service is over. From providing expert advice and guidance, to recovery and rehabilitation, through to transitioning to civilian life – we can be by their side every step of the way. And it’s not just members of the Armed Forces but their families too.
If there is ever a reason we can’t help, our vast network will mean that we know someone who can.

How long have you been volunteering and how did you get into the role?
I became a Poppy Appeal Organiser in 2007 – I stepped in at the last minute as the previous organiser felt that they could not organise it for that particular year. I have been a PAO ever since even though I moved towns – when we moved our new town also needed a new PAO!
Over that period, I have raised over £300,000.

What does a Poppy Appeal Organiser of the British Legion do?
The PAO for each area contacts all local businesses and schools in the area to see whether they would like to hold a box in their business. I then contact previous volunteers to see if they would like to volunteer by selling poppies door to door, at street collection points or in large supermarkets. I then ask if any new volunteers would like to help. I also book stalls at local market days and identify who can man the stalls.
Once I have this information, I place an order with the Poppy Appeal for all the flat-pack boxes, tins, poppies, crosses, enamel pin, car poppies etc to cover the amount of boxes needed. Currently, I have around 200 boxes over a 30-mile radius in Faringdon and surrounding villages. I also order around 150 wreaths that businesses and individuals would like to lay either on remembrance day at a parade or at their own ceremony (some take wreaths to Belgium to lay on war graves). This order is placed in July.
The order then arrives in late September / October. All the boxes need to be filled with poppies, crosses and any other merchandise available (wristbands, pins, lanyards etc). Each box and tin is individually labelled with contact details and cross-referencing the seal number on the collecting tin. For the supermarkets, we make one large box up with all merchandise and then arrange for each volunteer to have a collecting tin.
All boxes are distributed to all volunteers, local businesses and schools 3 weeks before Remembrance Sunday. The boxes can be sold for donations from 2 weeks before remembrance Sunday. Around 200 boxes are distributed and collecting tins are given out to around 50 volunteers.
Timetables are made for the supermarkets and street collections for all volunteers with time slots and I try to cover all supermarkets for all 13 days.
During the two weeks, I check in on all the volunteers, ensure the shops are fully stocked and see if there have been any unusual requests – sometimes people ask for enamel pins for previous years or special badges they may have seen on the internet.
The wreaths are also distributed during this time ensuring that all businesses, charities, councils and Queens Representatives have theirs available for the Remembrance Sunday parade.
The week after Remembrance Sunday all boxes and tins are collected back in from volunteers, businesses and schools.
On the Thursday and Friday of that week, all tins are counted. Last year the area raised over £22,000.

This sounds like a busy schedule, what do you use your volunteering day for?
I use my volunteer day for the first counting day. Each tin needs to be opened, the seal number recorded and the total for each tin counted and recorded. We count around 150 tins on the Thursday. Last year we counted around £16,000 on the first day. We then take the amount counted to the bank before it closes.

How valuable is it to you that the company you work for offers a volunteering day?
It is valuable to have the day to carry out the count as it isn’t possible to count and bank at a weekend and with bank closures in many towns, we now need to drive 20 miles to bank the money. As we carry a large amount to the bank it wouldn’t be safe for one person to take it alone.

Allowing our employees the time to volunteer is important to us, not only to give back to our community to but also improve the well-being of our employees.
To find out more about other ways we support our community, visit our charity page

"“It's great to work for a company that values giving back to the community. It is valuable to have the day to carry out the count as it isn’t possible to count and bank at a weekend and with bank closures in many towns, we now need to drive 20 miles to bank the money.” "

Mary Van Andel, QARA Manager, Vygon (UK) Ltd

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