THERE are more than 140 volunteer groups in Chester offering a range of services from homeless accommodation to collecting and compiling environmental data.

The vast majority of these groups are part of Chester Voluntary Action’s (CVA) network, an organisation who act as a platform for the groups and promote volunteering opportunities on their behalf.

As part of National Volunteers Week, CVA organised a volunteer fair where 17 groups exhibited the opportunities they offer to the general public.

Team leader Clare Harrison said: “Volunteering helps people to keep their skills and to learn new ones.

“If people have been made redundant, or are having difficulties in their life, volunteering can be a great way of finding out what area they can move into.”

The organisation is currently working on building up a ‘skills partnership’ between local businesses and community groups.

Graduate trainee, Iain Barr, who is working on the project, said: “Firstly we assess the needs of the community groups, and find out where the gaps are in their skills.

“Then we approach local businesses, through networking events, to see if they can offer support or expertise.”

The service that CVA provides is understated but vital.

Eric Fletcher, manager of Record, a biodiversity information service said: “We owe our success to CVA, without a doubt.

“Record is an environmental charity, but through the links that we have made through CVA, we have been able to link with social charities.

“We can now go to ‘hard-to-reach’ groups and give them access to the environment.”

Chester Aid to the Homeless (CATH) spoke of the volunteers they need and the ones they provide.

Activities officer Danielle Marsh said: “We have volunteers doing everything from working in the kitchen in the mornings to running educational and art-based activities.

“The homeless people themselves go out and volunteer as well.

“It’s a good way of them meeting new people. It gets them back into a routine, it’s good for them because of the situation they are in.”

Chester Voluntary Action will be holding ‘Waste Not Want Not’ recycling event on Wednesday (June 22) at Wesley Church Centre, St John Street from 10am to 3pm.