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A day to reward volunteers

26 March 2014

AFC Wimbledon gives a bit back at Burton away day

The recent Volunteers’ Away Day at the Pirelli Stadium was the subject of a special feature in Saturday’s Cheltenham match day programme and we reproduce this below for any supporters that may have missed it.

Chief Executive Erik Samuelson has often said that AFC Wimbledon’s volunteer base is the envy of many clubs, and last Saturday the club took the chance to reward them for their efforts.

A hundred volunteers spanning different generations came together for the annual volunteers’ away day on Saturday, 15 March, at Burton Albion, which was generously sponsored by Iain McNay and Cherry Red Records. They represented a wide range of different volunteer teams, including Golden Goal ticket sellers, programme sellers, members of the merchandising and cash office teams, match day stewards, and volunteers at the annual stadium clean-up weekends.

But what makes so many people give up so much of their time for free on a regular basis all year round?

 As Communications Executive at AFC Wimbledon, it’s a question that has become easier for me to answer during the two years that I’ve been with the club. Having met volunteers of all ages during this time, I’ve always been struck by the passion they have for their fans-owned club. Yet again, this shone through during Saturday’s volunteers’ away day. Their love of AFC Wimbledon is the ultimate reason. 

  Our photograph above shows Gabriel and Katherine Jalloh and the other volunteers mentioned in this feature are pictured in the gallery.

certainly sums up the volunteer spirit. Golden Goals organiser Roger Dennis says that Michael is always the first of his team to sell-out of Golden Goal tickets on a match day, and when you talk to Michael it’s easy to understand why.Michael BriggsSeventy-year-old

“I decided that if you’re going to be walking around in a crowd, you need something that supporters can distinguish you by, and say ‘There’s the Golden Goal seller’. So I decided to wear a gold-coloured hat on match days. Everyone in our team has a bit of banter, and I sometimes give them stick because they don’t sell-out as quickly as I do! I often go into the Presidents Lounge, because you can guarantee that the visiting directors will hand over a fiver a time!

“I’ve been volunteering for about eight years now. I turn up when the club has stadium clean-up weekends during the summer, and I was there to clear the snow last season before the Port Vale match. I think we get so many volunteers because we’re a fans’ club. The fans can say that they are shareholders of the club and they really feel a part of it. I live in Crawley, and I know that Crawley Town have difficulty getting volunteers there on a match day, but we certainly don’t have that problem.”

to distribute leaflets about the club’s potential move back to Plough Lane.Katherine has been helping his mother Gabriel JallohAt the other end of the spectrum, 12-year-old

“All my friends at school support Premier League clubs,” said Gabriel. “But I started supporting AFC Wimbledon about four years ago and my first match was against Hayes & Yeading. I started helping Mum to drop off leaflets. I’m in the Junior Dons, and it was great that I got to meet the players on my birthday.”

Katherine added: “I supported Wimbledon in the 1980s and was at the FA Cup Final in 1988. I started coming back about five years ago. You really feel a part of this club. We have volunteered in helping to drop off leaflets about the new stadium, and Gabriel is now at the age when he can help out. It’s great that the young kids get birthday and Christmas cards signed by the players.”

certainly shows you what being a volunteer at AFC Wimbledon is all about. A Wimbledon supporter since 1969, Tommy said the rebirth of the club is what attracted him back – and he’s certainly shown his love for the Dons in more ways than one since.Tommy WoolgarMeeting

Tommy has served as part of the merchandising team in the club shop, been a programme seller, and helped with the pitch. Tommy, who is a self-employed carpenter from Monday-Friday, has gained a first aid qualification and now also assists as a stretcher-bearer if required.

“The fans own this club, but you feel even more a part of it by volunteering,” said Tommy. “When we left Plough Lane I stopped going for about 10 years, but I started going again after the club reformed and it just seemed like a natural progression.

“I turn up on a match day and first of all help out at the club shop. If the weather is bad I’ll also assist with the pitch. The hardest part of my volunteering has been when I’ve been called up as a stretcher bearer. On one occasion we had to carry off a Northampton player who had suffered an ACL injury. It was hard watching him scream on the stretcher. You just do it all for the love of the club and it’s a family atmosphere now.”

Finally, I talked to a volunteer who spends time scouring your very own match day programme for mistakes.

first got involved in volunteering as a steward on the supporters’ coach up to Manchester for the play-off final in 2011, but now he’s happy to leave that to Laurence Lowne. Proofing the programme for errors is a different matter though and Nicholas said that his 11-year-old son Archie also has a keen eye for spotting the odd ‘typo’.Nicholas James-Roberts

“I remember that there were comments on the WUP guestbook about a mistake in the programme and John Woodruff was asking if anyone wanted to help with proofing. I’m not one of the main proof-readers, but I’ve looked at about half the programmes this season.

“My son Archie often spots mistakes and has already seen one in the Burton programme today. Archie was born on 13, July, 2003, three days after AFC Wimbledon’s first friendly. I first took Archie to a match when he was about six. He was a bit disinterested at first, but now he’s keener than I am.”

With a volunteer base of 300 supporters and young Dons such as Gabriel and Archie offering to help out, AFC Wimbledon’s future appears to be in safe hands.

    Chief Executive Erik Samuelson is eternally grateful for such assistance and certainly does not take it for granted.

Erik said: “Iain McNay (Club Vice President and Cherry Red Records Chairman) is currently in America and he has asked me to thank all of the club’s volunteers for all their hard work during the past year. When I speak to officials at other clubs they’re always very envious of the number of volunteers we get and we’re very lucky in that respect.”

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