My name is Ian, and I volunteer at Craigtoun Park near St Andrews, which began as the grounds for a big house, then became a public park with paying attractions, just after World War Two.
I had been injured, and hadn`t done much work for a time, so it was suggested that I try volunteering. I thought this was a terrible idea and only agreed to it to keep people happy.
I`ve always had fond memories of Craigtoun Park and, knowing it was a charitable trust, asked them if they wanted any volunteers. They were very keen, so I trudged-up there, not really knowing what to expect, and not thinking that I would be there for long. The directors were very enthusiastic about both the park, and anyone wishing to volunteer, and before long, I started to feel welcome, and a valued member of the team.
Almost immediately, I was not only driving `Puffin` Billy` (the tractor ride that carries passengers around the park) but also the `Rio Grande` miniature train ride that also carries passengers. It was clear that there was a strong sense of camaraderie within the squad, and if you did your job, and played fair with your colleagues, then they would be only too willing to welcome you onto the team, something that has made me very loyal towards them in return. During the Coronavirus lockdown, my colleagues were making sure I was alright, and offered their assistance if ever I needed it. I really can`t say any more about such excellent people, it speaks for itself.
Colleagues became friends, and knowing that I had support from good people gave me the confidence to deal firmly, but fairly, with some of the challenges that can arise from dealing with the public on a very hot and busy day. It also improved my out-of-hours morale, no-end.
It was not long before I began socialising with my colleagues, which has been an absolute hoot and a half. On more than one occasion, I have laughed myself hoarse whiles out with my colleagues. It`s been an absolute joy!
I have also undertaken gardening duties, and have helped Santa as one of his Santa `stand-ins` at Christmas time in the Craigtoun Grotto. Apparently, there is nothing in the rumour that I was chosen to be Santa as I fitted the costume! Again, I was initially reluctant to do this, but when I saw how happy all the families were, and to hear some of their truly heart-warming stories, of the kind that reaffirms your faith in human goodness, I soon found that I was getting as much out of being Santa as the children and their parents were visiting Santa.
I only turned-up at Craigtoun for a few weeks, and, at time of writing, am still there four years later. It`s been one of the best things that I`ve ever done, and it has been life changing.