Volunteering is child’s play

Lend a Hand: Crich Toy Library manager Ann-Marie McMillan and daughter Ailsa, twenty months, wait for a slice of cake from volunteer Liz Parker.
Lend a Hand: Crich Toy Library manager Ann-Marie McMillan and daughter Ailsa, twenty months, wait for a slice of cake from volunteer Liz Parker.

A CHARITY which supports families and provides toys for children across the county is seeking volunteers.

Eleven years ago mum-of-two Anne-Marie McMillan decided to set up a base for parents and children to meet, socialise and have fun.

Eighteen-month-old Matilda Orridge-Dubois enjoys her playtime as the Matlock Toy Library visits South Darley village hall as part of the Outreach scheme.

Eighteen-month-old Matilda Orridge-Dubois enjoys her playtime as the Matlock Toy Library visits South Darley village hall as part of the Outreach scheme.

Her vision became Crich Toy Library – a weekly gathering where children play with a wide range of toys, games, puzzles and interactive learning aids.

In 2005, the project expanded and Derbyshire Toy Library Network was established with bases set up in Matlock and Wirksworth.

The toy libraries rely heavily on volunteers to maintain the valuable service they offer to the communities.

Anne-Marie, 41, of Belper, said helpers can learn new skills, get involved with training programmes, meet new people and make friends.

She added: “It is good fun, we do have a laugh and you can see on the children’s faces that they are having a good time.

“We are a friendly group and we really strive to make a difference in people’s lives.”

The library offers over 1,000 toys and resources suitable from birth to young adults.

Toys include dressing up costumes, outdoor play equipment, art and crafts, musical instruments, puppets, books, CDs and DVDs.

The charity also aims to give children a chance to play with toys they would otherwise be unable to access.

It also practises green ethics and helps reduce landfill by encouraging children to share their toys.

Anne-Marie said: “Crich is quite a rural, isolated place and people do sometimes struggle to go to other places, so to have something close to hand is important.

“It is a social thing for parents to get together and make new friends.”

The Crich sessions run every Monday (except bank holidays) at the Glebe Field Centre, from 9.30am to 11.30am, and cost £2 per family to members.

A one-off lifetime membership fee of £5 is charged to families and carers to join Crich Toy Library.

The money pays for a wide variety of toys, one week’s toy hire, a craft activity, a healthy child’s snack – such as fruit and rice cakes – and hot drinks for parents.

Matlock Toy Library meets every term-time week on Friday between 10am and noon, in the activity room at the Matlock Surestart Children’s Centre, based at Castle View Primary School.

The Wirksworth group meets 1.30pm to 3pm on the first and third Tuesday of each month at Hannage Brook Medical Centre

Anne-Marie said they were seeking fun-filled volunteers of any age to join the team.

A range of volunteering opportunities is available, including meeting and greeting families, maintaining toys, preparing snacks, marketing and fundraising.

She added: “Volunteers are welcomed from all areas, whether they are retired with time to spare or thinking of a change of career and want some valuable experience.

“Toy libraries provide a valuable community service. “Parents, carers and children and childcare providers can try out new toys without spending a fortune and the groups provide a great place for making new friends.”

To get involved, contact Anne-Marie by calling 0845 009 3019 or email info@crichtoylibrary.org.uk

To find out more about the groups go to the website at www.derbyshire. toylibrarynetwork.org.