National Volunteers Week: Mike Roach, turnstile operator and stadium works

To celebrate National Volunteers Week 2017, we’ll be featuring just a small number of our volunteers on our website.  We’ve asked them to describe the roles they undertake, what they enjoy and what they would say to encourage others to get involved.Mike Roach

We spoke to Mike about his variety of volunteer roles at ECFC.  Mike, who is retired, has been volunteering at the Club for over 10 years in several roles.  He explained how he first got involved and the things he enjoys.

How Mike got involved as a volunteer

We asked Mike how he first got involved in volunteering at Exeter City.  He said: “I was working as a Support Worker for Fulfilling Lives [an organisation aimed at enabling independent living for adults].  Once a week I would bring of a group of 5-7 adults with learning disabilities to SJP to help with maintenance and cleaning around the stadium.  It was a group known as the ‘Grumbleweeds’. It was very positive experience for the group, with the club being very supportive and encouraging. It really helped the adults with their confidence and social skills.

‘I got to 65 and decided to retire. This was a bit of a shock to the system after working for 50 years and I really missed the structure of work.  After my experience with taking the Grumbleweeds to SJP, I had become familiar with the jobs needed in the stadium and had worked closely with staff, particularly ground staff, so I decided to continue to help. I found the volunteering helped me come to terms with no longer working. I was really welcomed and the jobs I undertook around the stadium were clearly valued.”  Mike spoke fondly of Dacre Holloway, the Club’s (volunteer) stadium manager who sadly passed away in 2008. “I worked closely with Dacre and he gave so much as volunteer stadium manager. I felt it was important to carry on volunteering as a memorial to him.”

Now 70 years old, Mike spends two days a week doing jobs at the stadium.  He explained what this involves: “If the team have played at home on the Saturday, I will do cleaning in and around the stadium, including Exec 100 club, turnstiles, players’ entrance.  If the team has been away, the cleaning is more likely to be inside the St James Centre with cleaning match day reception and hospitality areas.”

Turnstile operator

And it is not just week days around the stadium that keep Mike busy. “On a match day, I’m a volunteer turnstile operator in the IP Office Main Stand” explained Mike.  ”We all meet from 1.30pm and the turnstiles open at 2.00pm and stay open til 3.15pm.”  When asked what the job involved Mike replied quick as a flash: “Mostly making score predictions as people come in and getting them wrong!”  More seriously, Mike said the role was one he really enjoyed as he was often the first point of contact for someone on a match day.  “It is really important to be welcoming and helpful.  Attitude and approach is very important when welcoming someone to the game”.

Favourite moments

Mike has been a City fan since he was 8 years old.  He met his wife of 50 years, Jan, at SJP and had his retirement party in the St James Centre.  He said moving to do more volunteering as he retired was a natural thing to do. What is his favourite part of a being a volunteer?  “When in the stadium during the week, the club get lots of visitors or passers-by who have been visiting Exeter and want to see the stadium and take photos and the like.  Me and my fellow volunteers will offer if they want to see inside the stadium and a lot say yes!  We show them the stands and dressing rooms and if we can, we’ll put a pack of material together – old programmes and fixture posters for them to take away and remember us by.  It’s great to see people feel so pleased by the welcome they receive.”

Asked if being Trust owned influenced his decision to get involved, Mike replies positively yes.  “City always been a big part of my life, particularly through my working life in youth work which often involved contact with players to meet young people at youth clubs for example.  But being trust owned has led to a feeling that every volunteer makes a difference and there’s a greater sense of engagement with the club.”  Mike sums it up when he says: “The Club is a way of life.  It’s quite simply a labour of love.”

Encouraging others to volunteer their time

As he gets so much from volunteering at City, we asked Mike what would he say to encourage someone to get involved as a volunteer. “Come along, try it and find a role that suits you.” replied Mike.  “Someone will show you around, you’ll soon get to know people. It is great to be part of a team, you feel valued and accepted.  It’s been great for my confidence and for being social and meeting people”.

Mike went on to explain how he had been working with a young man on Wednesdays at the ground.  The young man, who has learning difficulties, is a big City fan and he helped with the jobs around the ground. “This really helped to build his confidence and independence.  Since helping out at the stadium, he has gone on to become a match day steward in training.  He has just completed his NVQ to be a steward and is awaiting his results.”  Mike smiles, he’s seen the difference volunteering can make to a young man’s life.

At the very end of our chat, Mike mentioned in passing he was also one of the founder members of the Senior Reds and now volunteers helping to plan and organise events such as talks with ex-players.  He wants to build the connection between the Senior Reds and Football in the Community and the Junior Grecians so there is a path for life for Grecians!

So retired, but not with his feet up!

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