Special feature on the hard work of volunteers
Hard work, togetherness and the pride were all qualities that were evident again at the Cherry Red Records Stadium last Saturday.
However, this was a full week before Neal Ardley and his new-look side step out at the home of the Dons to face Premier League Watford for the Football Manager Cup.
A loyal band of volunteers, in many cases families, got together again to make Wimbledon’s current home pristine and ready for all visitors ahead of what could be an exciting season.
“We’ve been working in the hot sun,” said devoted Wimbledon season-ticket holder and volunteer Mark Lewis. “We’ve been painting the terracing blue, pulling up weeds, doing some jet washing and just mucking in – it is literally the next generation,” he added with twin sons Ben and Tom at his side.
“You can see from the hard work that they’ve done, the mess they are covered in and the bath they are going to need tonight from the paint stains – they’ve thoroughly enjoyed themselves! They know and they’ll be looking around at the stadium during the season saying that’s a part of the stand I helped to paint.”
Dons Trust board member Jane Lonsdale has lost no enthusiasm over the years for the big clean-up that it has truly become a regular family activity with her husband and two young sons also working away in the sunshine.
It’s all about volunteering at this club and the number of volunteers we have on a match day is phenomenal. We have volunteers who just come down to do work on these days or help out at the Junior Dons Christmas Party and all of this helps.” “There’s huge amounts of people here today,” said Jane. “We got loads done, there’s always jobs that need doing. The turnout is always amazing. I’ve been coming down since these days started.
Mark fully endorsed Jane’s feelings about the connection between family and club forged on days like these: “This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Since we’ve had a young family - and they are all season ticket holders here - we wanted to try and do things together with them and one of my sons was really keen to help out when he heard I was a volunteer.”
Our photo shows father and son Matt and Ed Hewison busy sweeping up in the Nongshim Stand and they too always try to make space in their diaries every year to get the stadium ready for another campaign.
Vice-chairman of the Dons Trust David Growns had been hard at work since early morning in the baking sun, pulling out weeds on the pavement on the entrance to the ground.
The pressure hoses have been popular in this sort of weather! All the seating and terracing is pressure washed down - we do that every season. We also cleared away areas of the car park, because we are re-doing the yellow lines and also work is being done on the grass to accommodate people coming to the Watford game.” “There’s been quite a number of people here today, I’m quite surprised at the turn out. It’s very hot working in this weather and lots of water is being taken on.
It’s always difficult to tell how many people turn up as they disappear to all four corners of the ground! There’s more people here than you can see and when they all come together for lunch time, you suddenly realise how many people you’ve got working on the ground!, “ added David on another remarkable turn out.
One person everyone is quick to acknowledge in connection with the day is organiser Margaret Adam. She is reluctant to take any sort of spotlight though and keen to just make the ground as pleasant an environment as possible for everyone.
“We get more and more people each year, which means there is less work to do,” said Margaret.
“My husband and I do everything together. I got stuck into this as Tom is on the stadium working group. We fell into it right from the go. Way back when we started I had about half a dozen people helping me on match days, but since then these sort of days have materialized and snowballed,” she added.
“Our connection with Wimbledon goes back about 55 years. As children we used to go to Plough Lane. I would go with my cousins and Tom would go with his brothers and unbeknown to us we were there at the same time as youngsters! When we became a family we had a break, but it was our son who actually reintroduced us to it. He came home one day and said he’d been to a cracking football match that afternoon and who was playing? Wimbledon! It is basically a family thing now, with even the grandchildren interested.
“There are lots and lots of families about, we don’t blow our own trumpets we just get on with it.”
At times it has meant doing some fairly unpleasant jobs, but Margaret just wants to make the match day experience for everyone who visits the ground an environment that they and their families will want to return to again and again.
“It’s become a hobby, our love for the club. Its lovely to come here and you can see families growing up and they have come and worked on the ground. It’s so satisfying, especially today and I was really gobsmacked with the contribution of the AFC Wimbledon under-18 squad.”
“It has become my second home and I shall miss doing it, if I have to give it up. The camaraderie of helping out on a match day is really good. We’ll do it until we can’t do it.”
There are many unsung individuals who share the same sentiments.
The club would like to thank everyone who volunteered their time and efforts over the two days to help get the stadium ready for another season.