Real Lives: Jim’s always out to lend helping hand

Fiona Hyslop presents Jim Sanderson with his award. Pic: submitted
Fiona Hyslop presents Jim Sanderson with his award. Pic: submitted
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Jim Sanderson has won the volunteer of the year award at an event hosted by Voluntary Sector Gateway, West Lothian.

Born in 1960 in Armadale, a village with a strong community spirit, Mr Sanderson attended Armadale Academy and enjoyed taking part in sports, particularly football and golf.

After leaving school in 1976, he helped out at Armadale Thistle FC, beginning as a ballboy but going on to fill a wide range of roles. He also worked at the local golf club, maintaining the greens and helping wherever he could. Work was seasonal, offering little stability, but he always landed roles in the community to see him through the year.

He went on to volunteer at the local children’s club, becoming a valued member of staff and helping young people build their confidence and creativity.

Laura Stephen, development worker at Armadale Youth Space, praised Mr Sanderson’s work and enthusiasm. She said: “Everyone that came to the children’s club had great respect for Jim and valued his input and opinion very much. At one point the group was temporarily moved into portable cabins but he helped see that events continued to run smoothly. He is very committed indeed.”

Altogether, Mr Sanderson has contributed more than 30 years of voluntary work in West Lothian.

He said: “I had supportive parents who instilled in me the importance of helping others. I was privileged to grow up in Armadale, a village whose people I have always found most kind. It’s from those people that I learned the value of kindness.”

He continues to work at a Friday evening drop-in centre aimed at arming young people with skills and self-esteem vital for entering further education and work. He has arranged numerous pool competitions and spent time encouraging youths to identify their strengths and use them wisely – as he did.

He said: “I enjoy meeting new people and helping with as many different projects as I can. The reward lies in seeing a difference in people’s lives. I also enjoy chatting and meeting new friends, from young people to parents to local councillors.”

Mr Sanderson is now helping the children of those he initially assisted when he started voluntary work. Their parents still remember him fondly and are keen to reminisce with him at the end of the local youth club’s events. He is a trusted adviser in community centre staff training and has assisted in the development of modern counselling services.

He now works teaching young people to use computers, having been instrumental in founding the community centre’s Youth Space initiative.

He said being named volunteer of the year was a surprise.

“I couldn’t believe it when I won the award,” he said. “I’m really thankful. I’ll keep helping in the local community as long as I’m needed and able to do so.”