Home   News   Article

Highland Heroes: Vote for your Volunteer of the Year

By Leah Williamson

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
The nominees in this category are (from left, clockwise) George King, Ronnie Mitchell (seated) and Bill Whyte.
The nominees in this category are (from left, clockwise) George King, Ronnie Mitchell (seated) and Bill Whyte.

Bill Whyte

WE all need a friend like Bill Whyte!

A volunteer for Befrienders Highland for the past five years, Bill, from Invergordon, has made a hugely positive impact on the lives of those who are struggling with their mental well-being.

A nomination said: “Usually people in the eighth decade start to slow down and take life easy. Bill Whyte is the exception to that rule! His positive attitude and encouragement has led to several of his friends no longer needing the service, and one has even trained as a volunteer herself!

“He is a true Highland Hero! When a friend was asked what could be done to improve the service, his answer was simple – have more Bills!”

He has been volunteering for various organisations throughout his life, including Citizens Advice, and was enquiring about Befrienders Highland for a friend when he was invited to the Inverness office for a chat.

“That was five years ago and I’m still waiting for that chat! That’s how I became involved, by accident! But I’m very glad I did. I enjoy it immensely.

“I can meet a person and they’re very withdrawn but getting them to laugh and know there’s someone who cares is a big thing. To see the improvement in them and a spring back in their step makes it all worthwhile.”

Bill also delivers Christmas dinners and, with help from local councillors and volunteers, he helped set up a lunch club in Invergordon.

Bill was flabbergasted to be shortlisted: “I’m very chuffed, but it’s not just me, it’s for all the people at Befrienders Highland and the ones we support. It’s for them.”

Vote here

Ronnie Mitchell

WHEN Ronnie Mitchell’s son David showed his golfing talent despite being diagnosed with a learning disability, Ronnie knew he had to do something to support his son to fulfil his potential.

When David won a gold medal at the Special Olympics in Glasgow in 2005, he got to work.

Ronnie, pictured centre, established Highland Disability Golf Club which brings together golfers with disabilities to play and compete across the Highlands and beyond in tournaments with both able-bodied players and those with difficulties.

David also competed in the Special Olympics in Europe and took part in a charity event in Denmark where he played golf with goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel.

Other players at the Highland club have also enjoyed Special Olympics success and in many other competitions.

A nomination said: “Ronnie has dedicated himself to helping others with learning disabilities to take part in golf. Ronnie has taken them to five Olympics, one British Open, one World Open and six Scottish Championships. The last one he organised at Muir of Ord, the first ever time in the Highlands. Ronnie organises everything: transport, lifts, uniforms, awards nights and raises all the money required for the club to function.

“He does all this selflessly and that’s why I and countless others consider him a Highland hero.”

Ronnie said: “I don’t count myself as a hero. It’s just something I love doing. When David started playing golf that’s what got me going and it just goes on and on. We have a lot of great helpers at the club and we’re so proud of all our players. It’s a pleasure to be involved with them.”

Vote here

George King

THE longest serving volunteer at mental health charity, Mikeysline, George King has been praised for his dedication.

George, a business advisor at UHI Inverness College, joined Mikeysline in 2017 after losing a close friend to suicide. He has been volunteering for over five years at the charity manning the helpline and giving one-to-one support. He also helps Mikeysline network and liaise with the local business community, run charity events, and during Covid, he and his colleagues helped set up the You’re Not Alone helpline.

A nomination said: “Each person that George speaks to either by text or face-to-face is made to feel welcome and most importantly listened to with no judgement. He has a lovely gentleness, calmness and makes you feel at ease.”

Mikeysline text-based support offers five contact options, is available every evening and supports all young people and adults. Face-to-face support is offered at the Hive centres and the team can come to workplaces, sports clubs and other organisations to provide awareness sessions.

George said there are many benefits to volunteering, from directly supporting those in need, making friends, contributing to the community and receiving valuable training and experience to helping to raise awareness about the charity through fundraising and events.

George said: “I just enjoy doing charity work. Everyone should aspire in some way to give back when they can. I’ve been selling advertising for years and at Mikeysline I’m, in a way, selling life to someone who’s given up on it and that’s the greatest product in the world.”

He added: “I’m extremely honoured and humbled. I just hope I’m doing a good job for Mikeysline. I feel really honoured to be recognised.”

Vote here

Words from the category sponsor: Cairngorm Group joint managing director, Chris Dowling, was delighted to back Highland Heroes: “Volunteers are so important to our communities and for many people, make a huge difference to their lives.

“Not everyone can donate money to help others but volunteers generously donate their time and energy which is just as precious and has a hugely positive impact on communities.

“We’re delighted to support Highland Heroes and the volunteer of the year award which will go some way to say thank you to the countless unsung hero volunteers throughout the Highlands.”

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More