June 7th marks the culmination of Volunteers’ Week 2018, and we mark it with this inspiring story of how Spiritualists used volunteering in the community to make a difference…

The homeless charity, Shelter recently estimated that at least 307,000 people in the UK were sleeping rough or staying in temporary accommodation - an increase of 13,000 in just one year. Closer investigation of these figures shows that in Manchester, for example, one in 154 are homeless.

In 2016 a project was organised by Salford Spiritualist Church called “Gifts for the Homeless.” Project volunteer Danny Goodchild CSNU tells us, “We wanted to collect warm coats, blankets, hats, scarves and gloves for the Homeless on Manchester. We asked members at our services for donations of warm clothing and the response was fantastic. Although very short notice we gathered approximately 35 bags to give, some also collected by Wigan Spiritualist Church.”

“Our first idea was to distribute the clothes ourselves, but because of the short time and lack of knowledge about taking on such a big task we decided to take them to an already established homeless charity, Barnabus.“

As the 2017 Christmas period approached, the Committee decided they would build on previous experience, and distribute the collected items themselves. “We felt we wanted to give more personal items to those on the streets,” explained Danny, “just to say we were thinking of them. We decided on assembling 30 waterproof bags; inside would be two pair of new socks, a warm hat, gloves, men or women’s toiletries, chocolates and cakes - just little personal items. We received donations from our members and also local organisations. We were able to take nine parcels to everyone in a men’s homeless hostel, and to an old people’s residential home where new socks were given to each resident - another 31 in total. People still brought in warm clothes, coats and even a sleeping bag.”

“We distributed the personal bags, and we talked to both men and women living on the streets of Manchester. The bags were gone within an hour. To be thanked by those who have nothing is quite humbling.”

Like many other churches and groups of Spiritualists, Salford Church and friends realised that a difference could be made without having to raise massive amounts of money. They recognised that their thoughtfully targeted efforts would make a difference at a time of heightened need. Their story demonstrates the power of volunteering.

We’ll leave the last thoughts for Danny, who said, “It is better to do something than do nothing at all. We have already started planning for this year.“

Thank you to all volunteers within Spiritualism - your work is truly Spirit in Action!

(This abridged article first appeared in SNU Today, our membership magazine. Find out more about becoming a member here.)