In marking National Volunteers’ Week 2020, we shine a light on one Northern Lincolnshire woman who has made it her mission to make sure her neighbours are ‘Not Home Alone’.
Communications & Public Affairs Professional, Nina Stobart, her husband John, her brother Guy Bryant and mother Wendy Nielson set up ‘Not Home Alone’ in 2013 to bring elderly and lonely residents together on Christmas Day.
In 2016, their venture received charitable status and since then, thanks to an army of local fundraisers, lives have been transformed for lots of senior citizens living alone and isolated in North & North East Lincolnshire communities, but Nina and John’s volunteering doesn’t stop there.
They have just completed the Humber to Houston cycling challenge to raise £5,000 for three local hospices – and this is all alongside Nina’s day job, leading external communications and public affairs for global energy company Phillips 66, which itself, has a strong community focus.
Here, Nina talks about what motivates her, how they have had to adapt to deal with Covid-19 and why putting volunteering into your business strategy is a ‘no brainer’.
Explain your charity Not Home Alone and what motivated you to set it up...
Each Christmas our family would talk about how sad it was for elderly people spending Christmas Day on their own and how lovely it would be if they could join us. That was where it usually ended.
But finally, during Christmas 2013, we decided to do something about it.
‘Not Home Alone’ started in 2014 with our Christmas lunch for senior citizens, who would have otherwise been home alone. We are still a small, volunteer-led and self-funded charity based in North East Lincolnshire. The charity continues to grow and help those who live on their own, and who do not have any family, or whose immediate family do not live in the region.
You run the charity with your husband John. How has volunteering benefitted you both?
Both of us have always volunteered in various roles. Maybe it was the way we were brought up.
Volunteering feels like the right thing to do and to be able to work together, as a family, to set the charity up was great. Although, it was a massive learning curve for both of us.
We now have the support of almost 100 volunteers and a charity committee who help us steer the charity.
What has volunteering taught you?
One thing everyone has is time. It is free, and yet it is one of the most valuable things you can give to make a difference someone in need.
Does volunteering have a place in business strategy?
You can’t, and shouldn’t, force people to volunteer. That would be wrong.
But for companies to have an ethos of supporting their communities, and their employees to do good, can only be a good thing. It enhances staff development, planning, teamwork, communication and general morale.
How has the Coronavirus pandemic impacted on Not Home Alone?
The COVID-19 pandemic made us think very differently about the way we operated.
The fundamental aim of the charity is to put on face to face events where people can meet, socialise, make new friends and get out of a house that, for some, can feel like a prison. Our Easter event was cancelled and we quickly reviewed how and what we could do to continue to support our guests.
We now have volunteers who ring round and have a chat once a week and also offer a shopping and prescription service. Our volunteers have been amazing and we look forward to the day we can, once again, meet everyone face to face.
What inspires you to keep going?
Simply the comments we receive from our guests.
Such as, “ Being alone at Christmas is no joke. It can be the most upsetting and lonely time of year. But thanks to your dedication and inspiration all negativity is dispelled by your care, love and personal attention. What more can I say? Just, I love you guys!”
What is the hardest part of volunteering? What has been your proudest moment?
Working full time and running a charity in my spare time does, some times, take a lot out of you. But each event, comments and phone calls from our guests makes it all so worthwhile.
Describe the volunteering community in Northern Lincolnshire. Do you think the voluntary sector receives the recognition is deserves?
We live in an area with a huge volunteering sector. People are kind and really want to make a positive difference.
I think there are many unsung heroes in our area doing amazing work and I also think most of them wouldn’t want recognition. The feeling you get from volunteering is rewarding enough.
How much of an impact does social media have on volunteering?
Social media is a brilliant way to promote a charity and the work it does.
‘Not Home Alone’ has a Facebook page and through that, we have recruited volunteers, run fundraisers and, more importantly, reached out to more clients than we are able to help. We would love to have more social media channels but at present, we just don’t have the time to keep them updated.
Describe a typical day in the life of Nina…
My day job and the work involved in running the charity keeps me very busy, so I love to switch off by spending time with my family, my husband and I cycle quite a lot so getting out into the amazing Lincolnshire countryside and coast is always a fantastic experience.
During the Covid-19 lockdown I have learnt to run, which I am thoroughly enjoying. It is not only keeping me fit but is also great for my positive mental health.
Time is valuable and that is the most important thing I have learnt through ‘Not Home Alone’.
Inspired by Nina and National Volunteer’s Week? You can hear more inspiring stories from fantastic individuals by downloading your very own KnapChat eBook. Or, feel free to check out some of our latest interviews below: