GRANT DUGDALE – AN EMOTIONAL LINK WITH THIS PLACE
Volunteering alongside vulnerable people was an obvious choice for Grant Dugdale. His career in social care & a lifelong passion for Hearts gave him the right tools to thrive at Big Hearts. This volunteer experience proved to be one of the most rewarding he ever had.
“During all these months, I never felt alone.”
I’ve been volunteering for the Football Memories project for about six years. With the pandemic, I worried that everything would stop overnight, and I wouldn’t hear from anyone in ages. It’s been quite the opposite really.
Right at the start of the first lockdown, I got involved in making phone calls – to check on older people. They were so glad to hear from someone linked to Hearts. It was a nice feeling. Some of them subscribed to the Memories at Home packs, so they stayed connected with the outside world. I took every opportunity to help. A few months later, I took part in getting Christmas presents for disadvantaged children.
I thought I’d miss the other volunteers, but we actually go to continue seeing each other every month… on Zoom! We’ve become quite friendly over the years, so it feels good to catch up and talk about Hearts like we used to! Now the meetings are back ‘in-person’ at Saughton Park. I’ve put my name down for the next one! I haven’t seen them in 15 months, yet I never felt alone. I still feel so much part of the group.
“The big difference is that emotional connection.”
As a former social worker, I have a lot of experience working with people who have dementia. I even ran a reminiscence group in a care home. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to volunteer with Big Hearts and their memories project. I wanted to use my existing skills, but in a relaxed atmosphere. Volunteering is an opportunity to help other people most in need.
I could be volunteering for any other charities. The big difference with Big Hearts is that I have an emotional connection with the place. It’s my Club, the Stadium and the team I have loved all my life. I was six years old when I attended my first Hearts’ game at Tynecastle! There’s a part of me that will always be linked to this place. I’m proud to use my love for Hearts to help the good work across the community. Being a Big Hearts Volunteer is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
“I’d happily volunteer every single day of the week.”
When I got invited on my local radio station in East Lothian, it felt amazing to play my part and promote the great work we do to support people with dementia. I was so excited to share what I was doing with the Hearts’ charity.
Once a month, I’d take the afternoon off work and go the Stadium. At the Football Memories group, you’d find yourself in great conversations with a lot of other folk. Talking about football feels so natural. I enjoy hearing stories from the older generation, who got to support iconic Hearts players from the 1950’s – players my own dad used to tell me about. As a registered volunteer , I also get to share my own stories. Sitting with other people and talking about Hearts is something I would happily do every single day of the week!
I will always remember this specific time when an older chap came along with his wife. We chatted for a while. Then his wife turns to me and says: “He doesn’t speak all week, until he comes here. It’s so great to see him speak again.” It struck me. It’s more than a chat. It does change lives. This lady got to have her husband back for a few hours and share happy memories with him again. Being a volunteer is getting to be part of this. It’s a real honour.
– June 2021