Volunteers engage communities and tackle loneliness through station adoption

Monday, 1 June 2020

A group of Beeston residents are sharing how volunteering at their local railway station has boosted their wellbeing.

The Friends of Beeston Station group is helping to raise awareness of East Midlands Railway’s Station Adoption Scheme as part of National Volunteers’ Week.

The group want to share how volunteering at their local railway station has made a difference to their lives.

Station adopters do a range of important roles: they make sure the station is welcoming; keep an eye out for any unusual activity; report any faults and issues; and maintain planters and gardens. They make a huge difference to every single passenger.

Beeston Station was adopted by the group in 2017 when they met with the shared purpose of wanting to improve access. However, it was the emotional impact of feeling part of a group of committed volunteers that has driven the team forward.

Sarah Hampton, the secretary of group, said being a station adopter has become very important to her after she realised that retirement could bring a lack of purpose with it.

She said: “I wouldn’t have identified myself as lonely or lacking connections when I retired four years ago, but I hadn’t really thought what endless unstructured time might be like – I need meaningful things to do.”

Sarah found the focus of being part of the station adoption group helped to turn things around.

She said: “I worked in social care for 35 years and realised I missed that sense of purpose and feeling of achievement. I thrive on projects and getting things done and so being part of the group gave me a focus and sense of status – it made me feel useful again. I’m not the only one. Many of our volunteers feel the same. Being part of the group has rekindled a sense of purpose for us all and has helped us to make new connections and friendships. It’s a lovely group to be part of”

The group has achieved a lot in the past three years. They have: upgraded the look and feel of the station as it had been neglected for some years; ensured essential maintenance has been done; worked with the local MP to get funding to improve access; and picked up litter and created new flower beds.

Sarah said she realised how much the group had engaged the community in their work when she forgot to pay for an item in a local shop.

She said: “I forgot one thing and went back to the till with it and explained to the shop assistant that I needed to pay for it, she replied, ‘Don’t worry love, if you try to shoplift we all know where to find you – down at Beeston Station.”

“It’s lovely doing something that makes a real difference to the local community and I would encourage others to think about adopting their local station.”

Trish Roberts -Thomson, who is the Chair of the group, said helping out at the station has enriched her life.

She said: “Friends of Beeston Station group is now a significant part of life, as are the new friends I’ve met and work with. I’ve probably had more laughs over gardening than I’ve had in my life before!”

Donna Adams, Community Engagement Manager at East Midlands Railway, said: “We love working with station adopters across our network and are very proud to have them as part of our team -they make a real difference to their communities.

“The Friends of Beeston Station are a great example of what a committed group can achieve and have made a real difference.”

Get involved

We welcome station adoption at the EMR-managed stations around the network. To see which stations we look after and more information visit our website www.eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk/stationadoption