By Chris Slavin
Long-serving volunteers and new recruits combined to help get the stadium ready at a work weekend that summed up what AFC Wimbledon is all about.
Held on one of the hottest weekends of the year, 64 volunteers, plus a devoted organising team, toiled away at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, rather than basking in the sunshine elsewhere or enjoying a summer day out.
Supporters of all ages completed a variety of jobs to spruce up the ground in time for pre-season, but what makes so many people want to give up their time for free?
We spoke to volunteers of all ages at the weekend about why they do it and a selection of photographs are in the gallery above.
Father-and-son Matt and Ed Hewison have been work weekend regulars for many seasons. Matt first took his son to a Wimbledon game back in 1996 and it started on a high with goals from Efan Ekoku, Robbie Earle, Oyvind Leonhardsen, and Vinnie Jones earning a 4-2 win against Sheffield Wednesday.
As well as recalling that memorable win, Ed outlined why he has been coming back year after year to help out.
"I've been attending the work weekends with my Dad for about eight years now," he said. "I also do the mail-outs for the club as well. I just want to do my bit really. All the volunteers help to keep the club going by doing a wide variety of jobs throughout the year. The turn-out this weekend again shows the commitment of our supporters to help their club. We have a great fan base with supporters prepared to give up their weekends for the club. Our reward for attending is a lovely lunch!"
Matt added: "You see so many familiar faces here, supporters who do this every year, but there are people I haven't seen here before too. It's very important that we get younger volunteers helping out too. We have a lot of older volunteers, some of them even older than me! We need people in their teens and 20s to come down and help, so that the future of the club is in good hands. It is good for their CVs because the work that they do is valuable."
John Pullin's support for Wimbledon spans five decades and he enjoys giving something back to the club he loves.
"I started helping out at the work weekends last year," said John. "I don't have a lot of money so this is a way that I can contribute to the club. It gives me something worthwhile to do for the club and there is a great spirit here among the volunteers. At AFC Wimbledon the supporters want to contribute in any way that they can and this is ideal for people like me. I really enjoy it because it gives you that feeling that you belong to the club. I've been going to the Wimbledon games since the 1970s when we played at Plough Lane and I've only missed about 10 games in the last seven seasons."
Edward Halls has put in plenty of hours to help his beloved Wimbledon for a number of years and he believes that these events show it is a unique club.
"This club is different - the fans here make it so special," said Edward. "We all do it for the love of the club. We enjoy giving something back to our club and I've been helping out as a volunteer now for seven or eight years. Everyone works together to get the stadium ready to play the matches and I'm looking forward to the new season."
The work weekends started not long after the club bought the ground in 2003 with a Stadium Management Group formed to organise maintaining facilities.
Tom Adam, who played a key role in our purchase of the stadium back then, was at the forefront of setting this up and he attended once again at the weekend with his wife Margaret, who has also made a vital contribution in organising volunteers ever since.
Paul Sparks has also been an integral part of the organising team for the work weekends. He summed up the collective spirit that gets so much work done and why so many supporters come along to help out every year.
"I've been helping to organise this event for nine years now and it's my way of giving something back to the club," said Paul. "Kudos to those supporters who volunteer on a match day, but I want to see the games. What is four days in a year? I give up my time on work weekends to help make the stadium spick and span. We've probably had another 15-20 names added to the volunteer database for this. It's been good to see new faces here and I've shown a few of them around the stadium, they've been able to take a look at things behind-the-scenes, including the dressing rooms. Whether people come along for an hour to pull up some weeds or turn up for all four days over the two work weekends, we appreciate it.
"Margaret will always be the leader, who else would be so good at persuading people to do jobs that they don't want to do! I've kind of taken over from Margaret on the organisational side of it: sending out e-mails to volunteers, letting people know about the event, and liaising with Tom Adam. On the day I give the list to Margaret, who delegates all the work. Eileen (Samuelson) prepares the food, along with my wife Karen, and Sandra (Lowne) also helps out. Everybody pitches in to make it run smoothly.
"There have been a lot of jobs to do this weekend, including cutting back the foliage in the car park, mowing the grass, and painting the terraces blue inside the stadium. A lot of rubbish had also been accumulated behind the stands and the TV gantry. Volunteers have been chipping in to tidy up the stadium. We have a great volunteer base with supporters doing so many jobs throughout the year and it saves the club a fortune."
AFC Wimbledon thanks all of the volunteers that helped out at the weekend. The second work weekend of the summer will be held on 30 June/1 July. If you are able to help, whether for a few hours or for a full day, please e-mail the club or ring the office on 020 8547 3528.