WITH the top four priority groups having now been offered a Covid-19 vaccination, there is growing hope for a pathway back to normal life, but that achievement would not be possible without an army of volunteers who have supported the roll out.

Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium has been used as a vaccination centre from the start and the hard work of the medical professionals has been backed up by a group of volunteers organised by Burton Albion Community Trust staff.

More than 80 volunteers signed up to make sure that the most vulnerable members of society got the jabs they needed to help ease the crisis in our hospitals and to save lives.

Whether it’s organising parking, escorting people through the procedure or making cups of tea and offering a friendly face, the team has been universally praised for their efforts.

Ruth Adams, from Draycott-in-the-Clay, was vaccinated in January at the Pirelli Stadium and has nothing but praise for the community trust’s work.

“From the moment we arrived it couldn’t have been done better and they couldn’t have been more helpful. The whole thing was so well done I can’t fault it.”

Indeed, Ruth was so impressed that she rang BBC Radio Derby to praise the operation on air.

One of the volunteers at the Pirelli Stadium is Gary Blinkhorn, who retired after 35 years in the police force on December 21. Having celebrated his 66th birthday he was looking to do some volunteering work alongside his partner Judith Langston.

Both signed up to be volunteers and now Gary is on car park duty while Judith is in the tent looking after people after they have had their jab.

Gary said: “It’s a great team effort really starting with the Chairman Ben Robinson at the top of the football club and including all the community trust staff, all the NHS professionals, the volunteers and the people coming to be vaccinated as well. Paul Gaskin (BACT Community Engagement Manager) has been a star, giving such good leadership – and all the trust staff.

“I was here on Christmas Eve afternoon and it was lovely, not raining, and we were doing the over 80s and we were playing Christmas music. I tell you what, it was one of the best Christmas Eves I have ever had in my life. It was more rewarding than any midnight mass as you could just see the look of relief on the faces of people when they got to the gate.

“People open windows as they leave the car park and say ‘thank you’ as if we have given them the jab, it’s amazing.”

Gary is delighted that he chose to volunteer at the Pirelli Stadium.

He said: “This seemed the perfect thing to volunteer for to try and give something back and support the NHS with all the sacrifices they have made over the last year.

“I will certainly carry on, there’s a lot more to do and we want to see it through.”

Matt Hancock, Head of Community at BACT, said: “We are immensely proud of the volunteers who have worked so hard to make this vaccination programme at the Pirelli Stadium such an amazing success story.

“Working alongside the BACT staff, our NHS colleagues and the wider Primary Care Network, it has been a great team effort.

“The top priority groups contained a lot of people who had not ventured out for months due to fears of Covid-19, but the volunteers were able to reassure them and guide them through the process. That takes patience, understanding and compassion – all of which have been shown in abundance by the volunteers.

“I want to thank everyone of them for their efforts on this incredibly important task.”