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Club News

Thank you to our young volunteers

Q&A with Isa and George

7 December 2020

Since our reformation in 2002, volunteers have been central to the achievements of The Dons Trust and AFC Wimbledon, and today we focus on two young Wimbledon supporters that have made vital contributions in recent years.

It’s now 18 years since we went overnight from professional football league club to an amateur side competing in the CCL. Even though we have since risen back up the pyramid to League One, and moved into our new home in Plough Lane, the people who devote their time and energy to the club day after day remain as crucial as ever to our every success.

The Club and Trust welcome all volunteers, young and old, and the jobs our volunteers do simply cannot be overstated – ultimately enabling us to punch above our weight continually on and off the pitch. And it can be a rewarding experience for the individual, too.

At Kingsmeadow there were, on average, more than 50 volunteers on a matchday, covering everything from turnstile operators and golden goal sellers to programme sellers. Similarly, the Dons Trust currently works with over 50 volunteers in roles spanning Dons Trust Board, Diversity and Inclusion, the Junior Dons, fan engagement and the Dons Trust elections.

Here, we look at the work of two of our young volunteers ­– one at the Club and one with the Dons Trust – who have each been volunteering for a number of years. It outlines the incredible work they have been doing – and the benefit it gives them.

Isa Dabrowska (pictured presenting Joe Pigott with the Junior Dons Player of the Year Award) volunteers on the Junior Dons working group as an administrator, reporting to group lead Jane Lonsdale, while George Jones primarily volunteers in the club shop where he reports to retail manager Mat Haylock. We asked Isa and George along with Jane and Mat about their experience of volunteering – and particularly how their jobs have changed during Covid and in the absence of matchdays.

Jane said: “Isa joined the working group a few years ago now and has been doing a fantastic job for the Junior Dons. Isa has grown in confidence over the years and has developed her skills while in the role. She is now pretty much autonomously running elements of the JDs offering, including Christmas and birthday cards, and providing content and design for the JDs newsletters. She has had to adapt how things operate during coronavirus restrictions and managed to collate the players’ signatures so they could be pre-printed on cards ­– also helping with the logistics of getting new cards printed and distributed. She is doing a fantastic job and the Junior Dons would not be getting the club service they do without her help and support. Thank you Isa.”

Mat said: “George has been an absolute Godsend this year. I’m friends with Stuart Deacons and Stu gave me a heads up during the first lockdown that George was struggling a bit, as AFC Wimbledon is his life and it had all been taken away, albeit temporarily. Having suffered with my own mental health for years I can always relate to other people who struggle, so I gave George some tasks relating to the new online shop that would be going live soon ­– for example researching how other clubs charge for shirt printing and postage. What I got back was really impressive. Knowing that my own mental health would be hugely challenging, working seven-day weeks at Centre Court, I had a chat with him, and we agreed that we could help each other stay well. George helping me by covering if I needed a day off and I helped George by letting him get a lot more involved in running the shop.”

“The fact that George has worked nearly the same long hours as I have and all on a voluntary basis is remarkable. His dedication and passion for the club is there for all to see and his knowledge is unrivalled; he was able to help countless fan who had queries regarding season tickets and debentures, which also took some of the pressure off the office staff who were working in the back of the shop.

“The shop has been doing incredible business this season and I honestly would not have coped without George and, of course, all the other volunteers who gave up their time and continue to do so. Thank you somehow doesn’t seem to cut it, but I am full of appreciation for everyone who’s helped out.”

Thank you George and Isa, and all our volunteers who have contributed to the on-going success of the Club and Dons Trust.

Below is a Q&A with Isa and George on their roles and why they have so much passion for AFC Wimbledon.

Isa Dabrowska

How old are you Isa? I’m 21.

What does your volunteering role with the Junior Dons working group involve?

I am responsible for getting birthday cards for our Junior Dons (JD) signed by the players of both the men and ladies first teams, and then sending the cards to each of the JDs with a personalised letter. I also create two newsletters each season as well as organise both the Christmas cards and the JD Player Of The Year (POTY).

How long have you been in the role? About two and half years.

How did you end up volunteering in this area - what appealed to you?

I noticed that the club was looking for volunteers for the Junior Dons and didn’t have to think twice about applying. The admin role seemed perfect for me as it involves things I’m good at and enjoy, while doing it for the club I love.

What do you enjoy about the role and volunteering?

The fact I’m doing something positive and there is a good team of JD volunteers. Also, the fact it’s engaging young fans who are the future of the club. It makes me smile whenever I see a post or e-mail from a parent / carer because the JD was very happy to receive their card signed by the players, or because they enjoyed another JD experience, such as meeting the players or going on a tour of the stadium after a match.

How has volunteering helped you?

The biggest thing has been how much I have grown in confidence, especially with communication skills, which is something I have always found difficult. As a child, I was too scared to ask a player for a signature but now when I go to get cards signed I’m talking to the players, something I never thought I would have the confidence to do.

How does volunteering fit in with your wider work/life?

It fits really well. I normally write the birthday cards during my free time in the evening and then post the next morning on my way to work. When it comes to the longer jobs, such as putting together the monthly birthday list and the newsletters, then I will work on those on any days off as well as in the evenings.

How has the role changed since Covid struck?

The biggest change has been that the player signatures in the cards have had to be pre-printed rather than hand signed. This isn’t the Wimbledon way, but the cards will be back to being hand-signed by the players when possible. The other change was when it came to the Junior Dons Player Of The Year.  Normally, two JDs would have been selected to present the winning player with the trophy, on the pitch, before the last home game of the season. Unfortunately, this year we could not do that and we had to wait until August where it was a socially distanced presentation to give Joe Pigott his JD POTY trophy.

What are the things you really enjoy about the role?

It’s difficult to single out one thing. I really enjoy creating the newsletters as well as going down to training to get the cards personally signed by the players as this means each card is unique and that little bit more special.

Would you encourage others to volunteer? Definitely! It doesn’t matter how or where, volunteering is a great opportunity to gain experience and do something positive, while also helping the club or another great cause.

George Jones

How old are you George?  I’m 23

What does your volunteering role involve? I’m retail assistant.

How long have you been in the role?  I started helping out in the shop in 2016.

How did you end up volunteering in this area? 

I helped out at the 2016 play-off final pop-up shop and have stayed involved since then. It’s great working in a team whilst volunteering and having tangible results from what I’m doing.

How has volunteering helped you? It has massively helped my mental health and has helped me develop skills that I have been lacking, such as communication. 

How does volunteering fit with your wider work/life?

When I was younger I volunteered around school/ uni and now I give it more time. Volunteering is great because there is something you can do regardless of how much time you can commit.

How has the role changed since Covid struck

It’s massively changed. The number of online orders received has increased dramatically and with no fans attending matches we’ve lost a major source of shop revenue. However, the pop-up shop in centre court was brilliant for helping raise funds and I think has massively increased the club’s profile in the town.

What are the things you really enjoy about the role?

Helping to raise money for the club while interacting with the fanbase and helping ensure a high customer satisfaction rate.

Would you encourage others to volunteer?

Yes, I’d encourage others to volunteer. Definitely.  Regardless of if you can only do match days or a couple or hours a week, whatever it is. It’s great for your mental health, personal development and helps the club out as well.


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