Society Community Director Jacqui Robertson has become a victim of her own success this season in terms of the workload she’s created for herself. As a result, she has been concentrating in recent weeks on getting a team together to support what is left of this season's community activities and roll into next.
At the start of the season, Jacqui was challenged with getting a good cause or charity along to home games in order strengthen the links with the community, give the nominated group a chance to raise their profile and allow the fans to make a contribution to that 'good cause' by way of a collective handover of a signed football and top for them to take away to help with their fundraising.
She very quickly filled up the fixture list and started getting even more involved in an effort to ‘make a difference’. As a result of Jacqui's efforts to form a Community Group she’s delighted to announce that, to date, her team has grown in size to six.
Jacqui is now ably assisted by Holly, Karyn, Grant, Billy, Nicola and Anne. They all have specific tasks; however there is still room if anyone else is interested in joining the group. Jacqui explained "It’s very much a case of the more the merrier and if anyone wants to join us they should get in touch. I’m very grateful to those who have come forward and really look forward to working with them and seeing what else we can do to try and make an even greater contribution to local good causes and make the link between the Club, the Society, the Community and the people who live within it even stronger."
There have been many successes and buckets of tears along the way but she’s adamant that every hour that she’s put in has been very worthwhile. "Match mascots Eathan and Arryn spring to mind, the BHF day with Liz Ferme in memory of her Dad, Tayside Children with Cancer and Leukaemia, Ronnie McIntosh and his racewalk round the track all spring to mind but I’ve taken great pride and pleasure helping every single good cause we have had and I’m looking forward to doing what I can to help many more in the future.
"It all started working alongside the very professional and hardworking Professor Stuart Pringle of Ninewells and has snowballed from there. Stuart and his team returned this season and will very much be a part of next season too at their own request, a testament to how important the health initiative days have been for the local community.
"I love what I do and I love how we do it at Dens, we all donate to good causes but what makes each of those occasions special is that at half time when we are at home we are doing this together as one, a small gift from the Dundee support to people in our own community who have committed their lives to making the world a better place for us all.
"Jim Christie is someone I know very well through travelling together to the games and working together for the official website. I've always been a fan of Jim's work and he works hard and is the ultimate professional, so to have him help us to improve on our community manifesto by building the foundations of our collaboration with the Family Guys was brilliant. I could see that Jim was proud of his input and we were just as proud of him."
Jim said, "I started to get involved when I was asked to write the match reports. David Young approached me after I'd written reports on Dundee Mad for a couple of seasons. That brought it home to me how important the work of volunteers was. The website and reporting is all done by people who love the club and love being involved. After we went into administration in 2010 I realised that volunteers were going to be increasingly important. We couldn't just sit back and let paid professionals do all the work. There is too much, and we can't afford to pay people to do everything. We can't afford to ignore the talents that our supporters have. It's OUR club!
"It's struck me over the last year or so how approachable everyone is at the club. There is no problem going up to a director or one of the staff and saying you want to talk about something. Any ideas are taken seriously and there is plenty of encouragement to make things happen. I've loved every minute of being involved with the club and I've found it very rewarding. It's been a great laugh too!"
Brand new volunteers Holly Anderson and Karyn Donachie will be well known faces in the Bobby Cox where they are season ticket holders and they are the newest volunteers to join the Community team and will spend time helping out the charities within the Coxy where the charity information stands are pre match.
Holly and Karyn said, "We’ve both been Dundee fans all our life, our Dad made sure of that! We started going to Dens from around age 4/5, our Mum said Dad went too far and we became diehards, attending matches regularly and have been season ticket holders in the Bobby Cox, in the same seats, since it was built 12 years ago. Our favourite memories include promotion at Raith in 1998, Hampden Scottish Cup Final 2003, The 'Bonetti Era', The Alba Cup Final 2009 and generally being so proud of our team last year who had an amazing run to survive in the First Division after they were given a 25 point penalty by the SFL.
"We are really pleased and looking forward to helping out as we are now a community/supporters' club and, if everyone pulls together and does their wee bit, we can hopefully look forward to a happier future both on and off the park. Dad knew if he didn't influence us to like the Dees then we might have gone to school and become dreaded Arabs as they were doing well in the 80s and he couldn't let that happen!!!!"
Another new face is Anne Thom who is one of the busiest people we have ever met. Anne kindly offered to help with the admin side of things, where working from home suited her whilst helping out the Society along with the million other things she does in her life.
Anne said, "At the moment I'm a bit uncertain as to what I'll be doing, but I'm looking forward to supporting Jacqui and her great work, in whatever way I can."
Grant Cook was one of the first Society volunteers to offer a hand with the community health initiatives and has proven himself to be a talented writer, often writing for the match programme and the Society website. Grant has been an invaluable member of the team and one of the reasons the health initiatives have been bigger and better than we could have imagined.
Grant said, "I hadn't been volunteering at Dens that long when Jacqui asked me to be involved in the Community Initiative, and once she had explained her vision, it didn't take long for me to agree to becoming involved. To get the chance to help out some very deserving causes while helping the Dees was an opportunity too good to turn down. While everyone who comes to Dens has a chance to talk to these charities, I feel privileged that I have the chance to get to know these people, and some of them I would now consider my friends.
"With each visit I learn something, and i get to meet the people who really make a difference to the lives of others, and it is a humbling experience, and one I am grateful I have the opportunity to have."
Billy Naismith is another regular in the team and one of the Society volunteers who has shown a willingness to help out above and beyond the call of duty. Billy has become the meet and greet man for the charities and recently had a very important role looking after mascot and Duchenne sufferer Arryn Widd, a task which he excelled in.
Billy said, "It all started for me when the club went in to administration and the thought of Dundee not being around was just too much to think of. I volunteered at the start of the current season doing bucket collections, handing out team lines, being a point of information, selling merchandise etc for the Society. I then got to know Jacqui and the other members of the board and became involved with the community/charity side of things as well.
"I stared to meet lots of different people and became more aware of the various charities out there and to have the opportunity to help them in a small way is something I really enjoy. Having done so I have a renewed sense of loyalty towards all things Dundee and what the Society is trying to achieve for the community.
"I think that every charity is different but of equal importance to the community, not just locally but nationally as well. It is very difficult to pick a favourite moment but having had the privilege of meeting Arryn and his family with Action Duchenne, that is something that will stay with me and it really makes you feel humble when you see someone in Arryn's situation with a smile on his face. I enjoy it immensely as it makes me appreciate just how much sheer hard work goes in to, not only the Society, but the club as a whole. Not every club can boast of fans who really step up to the mark. It is rewarding volunteering on the Community squad and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. I have met some really good friends and that is a major bonus!"
Nicola Ironside, another Society volunteer has helped out with the Community health initiatives and recently helped out on the stand for Duchenne which charity leader Dean Widd was delighted with. Nicola said, "If I am being honest, I can't actually remember how I started volunteering at Dens. I think it was because I saw some friends doing it and thought I would tag along.
"I have never ever regretted the first day I said I would commit to helping out every home game. During my time volunteering, I have met many people, few of them who I could now not imagine my life without.
"Even little duties can make you feel special, make you feel like you're just that little bit more important, well it certainly does for me. I would never give up volunteering at Dens for the world, and never give up the people and the club who have become so special in my life, and I will always appreciate the opportunity!"
Each and every one of the volunteers who have been a part of the Community Health Initiatives this season, no matter how small or big their part, have been part of the bigger picture and part of perhaps one of the most rewarding periods in the club's history. After recent times we wanted to give something back to the community and repair relationships damaged by difficult times at the club. The feedback from each of the charities might not be in the public domain but has been entirely positive, making all of the hard work worthwhile. We know that this is a very small part of what our Community Club is about, but it has turned into a very important one. For this reason, every single one of our volunteers should be very proud.