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Home » Business News, News in Brief

Oldbury volunteers land national award…

Submitted by on June 26, 2017 – 7:00 am |

SLT VOY Win 1Two community volunteers at Sandwell Leisure Trust facility Portway Lifestyle Centre in Oldbury are celebrating after winning a national award for their dedicated service.

Oldbury locals Martin Floyd and John Totney have delivered some 2,000 hours of targeted voluntary work over the past year at the Newbury Lane site (which is a centre of excellence for people with disabilities) and won the ‘Volunteer of the Year Award 2017’ run by Sporta – the association that represents cultural and leisure trusts and social enterprises throughout the UK.

There are more than 1,800 Sandwell disabled residents who benefit from free access to many activities through the Portway Pass membership scheme and Martin and John have probably assisted the vast majority of them.

Martin (age 44) explains: “I’m over the moon, but also pleasantly surprised, as we were up against some huge organisations with a lot more personnel and budget than us – so it’s even more gratifying that the quality of service we’re able to provide has been appreciated and recognised.”

John (68) says: “I’m chuffed to bits too, as I know through my own past experiences that a little bit of encouragement goes a long way. Whilst working as a volunteer I have watched on as customers develop both their own fitness and gain in self- confidence and it’s a real joy to behold. “

Ash Rai, CEO for Sandwell Leisure Trust, comments: “We’re absolutely delighted that Sporta has recognised the hard work and commitment of our community volunteers, because this award is very well deserved. John and Martin ensure that all of our customers get a warm welcome when they visit Portway and even with 50,000 annual disabled visits alone they have been able to provide additional personalised support to those who need it. Both are wholly committed to the centre and are excellent role models on how participating in sport and physical activity can have a positive and tangible impact on health and well being.”

The volunteer team at Portway do a lot of meeting and greeting, but the role has evolved of late and they actively support many of the groups who use the facility. Sandwell Visually Impaired group (SVI) especially benefit through a Buddy Scheme to support their gym experience, which includes setting the treadmill up, guiding them to the cross trainers, getting around safely and providing basic support for disabled individuals.

This helps them to familiarise themselves with the gym and use new pieces of equipment and many of the SVI users have subsequently asked Martin and John for help with different and progressive exercises and they both find it really gratifying that visually impaired users trust them to do this.

Tony Averis, Development officer for Sandwell Visually Impaired, adds: “We’re thrilled for Martin and John too, because we at SVI could not take the advantages of all that Portway offers without their dedication to the role of community volunteer.  Quite simply, the highly successful Gym Buddy Scheme wouldn’t be where it is today without them – and having developed to a regular Tuesday and Thursday session it’s fantastic to see visually impaired people fully accessing the gym and the equipment and really enjoying and benefitting from each visit.”

Martin was born with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (which affects mobility and coordination) and is a wheelchair user who applied for the volunteering role after several visits to the gym. He said he was so impressed with the facilities he wanted to put something back in to the centre. Martin has improved his strength and fitness significantly; giving him increased confidence and self esteem, and after months of targeted leg exercises has achieved his goal of walking around the whole gym on sticks. Many family and friends thought they would never live to see him get out of his chair.

John, now retired, lives on Newbury Lane very close to Portway Lifestyle Centre and has been in the role since it opened in 2013. He is a real advocate of the benefits of physical activity and the positive impact that it has. He’s a real community champion and has many other roles including the local church, and library – using his time there to continually promote Portway’s facilities locally. John will go out of his way to encourage local people to use the facility and will ensure that all new customers are properly welcomed.

John and Martin have also helped with the launch of the 60+ multi-activity club, which continues to grow with over 30 people attending every week. Additionally, it’s become a real social hub for the participants with many of them also returning to use the gym with other group members.

Portway is a centre of excellence for people with disabilities and one of the very few ‘Excellent’ accredited Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) facilities in the Midlands. By complying with the ‘IFI Mark’ standards Portway Lifestyle Centre publicly delivers on its commitment to quality of service to disabled customers, plus inclusion and equality for all members to participate. The IFI Mark is fundamental in addressing inequality in physical activity; reaching inactive populations and raising awareness of the benefits of exercise, as well as creating demand.

Pics show l to r: Ash Rai, Martin Floyd, John Totney.

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