05 November 2018 | North East England
Meet the joggers on a mission to help the community.
Who would have thought you could combine exercise with helping people? But that is exactly what members of GoodGym do. The not-for-profit organisation encourages people to combine running with doing good for their communities.
Newcastle is the latest town to introduce the scheme which has branches in 47 locations across the country. Volunteers can choose from three different programmes. There are group runs, which give you the opportunity to work with others on doing something good for your area – clearing weeds from a community space or painting a school.
Or, if you'd prefer to volunteer alone, then you can opt for a "mission", where members are sent on one-off jobs, such as picking something up for an older person. Finally, you can also be paired with an isolated older person who becomes your "running coach" and whom you visit regularly.
Since they launched in Newcastle in April, nearly 200 people have signed up and over 731 “good deeds” done for the local community. Volunteers undergo a short training programme and those going on one-to-one missions vetted.
Anji Andrews, 37, trainer and running coach for the Newcastle group said: “We will take on anything that benefits the wider community. For group runs, we usually run to a project around three miles from our meeting point and spend 45 minutes doing some work before heading back. We recently worked with the charity Linking Lives to deep clean the kitchen and paint the fence of Elliott House which provides temporary accommodation for the homeless. There were 25 of us - and it is amazing how much can be done in a short amount of time!”
The group also recently completed a ‘mission run’ at Nunsmoor Park, a community garden, where they cut hedgerows, weeded and planted bulbs.
Isolated elderly people are also helped. “We have one lady whose husband died, and is finding it difficult to manage her garden,” said Anji. “So we sent a chap over to mow her lawn. The impact can be huge for older people who might go week to week without seeing anyone. For us, it’s about building that relationship and having a face-to-face chat.”
Stephen Bell, OBE, chief executive of Changing Lives said: “The partnership that we have created with GoodGym has made a huge impact on many of our projects. The work that the runners have completed in such a short space of time is incredible.
“From planting flowers to building flat furniture, they’re always eager to help and bring such positive energy and enthusiasm. We really appreciate the difference they’re helping to make within many of our various Changing Lives projects and hope the collaboration continues.”
Tanya Johnson, who runs with the group said: "Volunteering isn’t new to me. I’m usually front of the queue. What’s different about GoodGym is the community. Not just those new friends we’ve made on group runs but the people we meet at the tasks. My favourite community mission is gardening with Friends of Nunsmoor Park. I feel completely at home. It’s given me back something I didn’t even know I was missing. What I lack in green-fingeredness I make up for with enthusiasm... and they feed me ginger biscuits with my cuppa! It’s like extra family."