Bill on being a Local Group Organiser
Bill Andrews set up the West Sussex Local Voluntary Support Group in 2011. The Group runs regular events, cooking demonstrations and take part in a group clinic at their local hospital to support the newly diagnosed.
Shortly after my diagnosis I joined Coeliac UK and received a letter welcoming me to the Sussex Group, together with an invitation to an event with a gluten-free tea.
As a new Member I was made welcome and heard several stories of life with coeliac disease going back over the years. The friendliness I saw that day really impressed me. In 2011, I saw there was a gap in the area of support for people with coeliac disease as the Sussex Group had closed in 2008. I’d had the idea of setting up a virtual support group on Facebook, I floated my ideas before Coeliac UK, who wanted to start a group in West Sussex coincidentally.
Soon after setting up the West Sussex Local Group, we started a coffee morning in the only café in Worthing offering gluten-free products. Since then, the Group has organised fundraising quiz nights, food demonstrations together with popular coffee mornings and we have supported the local Awareness Week Walks at Abingworth.
Two years ago I was approached by the dietitians in St Richards Hospital, Chichester if our group would be interested in taking part in a group clinic they were organising for their coeliac patients. These clinics have proved successful and our group attends regularly. We have the chance to talk to Members in a friendly and secure environment and there is time to catch up with the suppliers and dietitians. Also we have the opportunity to promote membership of Coeliac UK to non Members that come along.
A former respected boss of mine used a phrase ‘live and breathe’, that is sometimes how I feel as a volunteer, it can be 24/7 and I say to my wife I am having a gluten-free ‘free’ day today, by not checking emails, not looking at all the ingredients on a new product I may see in the shops, whether I want it or not.
As a volunteer you do get to meet a lot of people who can give lots of local information and how to overcome issues with gluten-free baking. I think I’ve cracked croissants now and am quite pleased with the results as in the photo. Volunteering & baking, go on give it a go.
Interested in getting involved?
If you are interested in being a Committee Member or volunteering for your Local Voluntary Support Group, please get in contact your Local Group, or alternatively email the Volunteering Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.