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Oakwell Hall thriving with help of volunteers.

OAKWELL Hall knows all about the benefits of volunteers.

Having people who willingly give their time and energy for free has helped turn the 110-acre country park into an award winning visitor attraction with a reputation for conservation and bio-diversity.

The Birstall site has been awarded a Green Flag for five successive years and won the Silver Gilt Yorkshire in Bloom award.

The park is also continuously improving and developing through schemes such as the creation of wetland and the development of a faith garden.

The small team of council-employed rangers readily acknowledge that it is the volunteers - including the Friends group and organisations such as the BTCV - that do most of the hard graft needed to keep the country park at the top of the tree.

Ranger Patrick Crowley said: "We coordinate the work but they do it.

"Without them we could not achieve what we do so it is only right that we crow about them during Volunteers' Week.

"In the last year over 120 people have done voluntary work here at Oakwell.

"Their combined total of 1,300 work days adds up to around pounds 50,000 of free labour, assuming a six-hour day at pounds 6 an hour."

The team's contribution is very visible at Oakwell but not so visible is the other side of volunteering - the benefits to the volunteer.

Thomas Mair, 46, started volunteering at the park after learning about the opportunity through the Mirfield-based Pathways Day Centre for adults with mental health problems.

He said: "I can honestly say it has done me more good than all the psychotherapy and medication in the world. "Many people who suffer from mental illness are socially isolated and disconnected from society, feelings of worthlessness are also common mainly caused by long-term unemployment.

"All these problems are alleviated by doing voluntary work.

"Getting out of the house and meeting new people is a good thing, but more important in my view is doing physically demanding and useful labour.

"When you have finished there is a feeling of achievement which is emotionally rewarding and psychologically fulfilling.

"For people for whom full-time, paid employment is not possible for a variety of reasons, voluntary work offers a socially positive and therapeutic alternative."

Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering at Oakwell Hall should contact ranger Patrick on 01924 326240.

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KEEP THE FAITH: Oakwell Hall volunteers help create a faith garden
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:May 31, 2010
Words:403
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