National Volunteer Award Profile - Coral & Grant Gifford
Husband and wife duo, Grant and Coral Gifford are joint winners of our National Volunteer Award for their services at Freuchie BC in Fife. Both come from a military background with Grant joining the club in 2015 after being medically discharged from the Army after 30 years’ service and Coral helping out since 2016 after serving 22 years herself, also in the Army.
As our first joint winners, we asked the Gifford’s what rewards they get from volunteering as a couple. Coral explained that: “After being in the army for so long we did spend a lot of time apart. It’s quite nice to work together as we work really well as a team. “ Grant agreed: “After spending so many years in the military both in different parts of the world for 6 months at a time it is now lovely to do something we enjoy together. The club was amazing to me when I left the military and anything I can give back is a pleasure.“
Hayley Napier a fellow member at Freuchie nominated the couple and was delighted to see them win the award together. The club has experienced a huge growth in membership from around 60 to 168 in the last 18 months and Hayley believes that this increase and in particular the growing youth section is a result of the Gifford’s hard work. “I nominated Grant and & Coral because of their commitment to the club and the work they put in which has seen the club go from strength to strength over the last few years. They work tirelessly day in day out to ensure the smooth running of the place all year round. The club has seen a number of renovations carried out recently- all of which would not be possible without them. They have formed great relationships with the parent council and regularly run events in line with them to raise money for both the school and club. The list of things they do could go on and on but it really wouldn’t have grown to become the brilliant club that it is without both of their dedication.
“The club has become more involved with different community organisations and we are now working with the local school and Active Schools to bring the kids into the sport next season. Without Grant & Coral encouraging members to undertake various training sessions with Bowls Scotland then this would not be possible.”
Both Coral and Grant were nominated on multiple occasions by club members, each time being selected as positive role models, excellent leaders and recognised for their contributions to the community. As president Grant assumes a leading role in making improvements to the club and safeguarding it for future generations, linking with local businesses and arranging social events for the community have helped see real growth at the club since Grant took on the presidency. “I realised very quickly that having the time to sit and engage with various agencies was going to help the club develop. I liaised with Stuart from Bowls Scotland and was able to see a clear direction I wanted the club to go. The green and the bowling were a top priority but there was also work to be done on the infrastructure to entice people into the club. We are only now in a position with the personnel qualified to offer bowling activities to the local school, which we are hoping will again bring in new members. We run various non bowling events as part of the community from Coffee Mornings to table tennis and various social functions organised by our amazing committee. Social and taster members have been vital and we now sit with 169 members. “
Not only hard-working and driven, Grant showed a heart-warming sense of humility in the nomination he submitted for his wife Coral, claiming that all the work he does would not be possible without the support she gives. “I nominated Coral as although I am the driving force none of this would have been possible without her support and commitment. Coral will ensure we comply with all the legal requirements, she is 100% the one who does all the running about when we were doing table service doing up-to 24,000 steps in a shift. She can be found in the kitchen preparing food or doing the cash and carry run, there is no job she hasn’t helped with and for her support and help I cannot thank her enough.” Coral and Grants relationship really demonstrates a ‘two heads are better than one’ approach with their teamwork leading Freuchie BC from strength to strength.
The COVID pandemic brought challenges to Freuchie like all other clubs across Scotland but the couple used their positions within the club to try to help and support as many people as possible. Coral explained that: “During Covid when we were not allowed to open inside, I made sure we had gazebos up, plenty of blankets and hot water bottles to make sure our members stayed cosy. The support from them was phenomenal. I think they all appreciated the amount of work that we put in to keep them supplied with refreshments.
“It’s been amazing watching the club go from strength to strength especially over the last couple of years through Covid. Many members had been stuck in their homes alone without any other human contact so seeing them interact again and knowing they are not alone anymore was definitely rewarding to me.”
Grant also highlights the community spirit and resilience through the pandemic as one of his best moments as a volunteer at the club: “The day we were able to open the club outside during the first lock down was unbelievable, the support we were shown from the local community and other bowling clubs will remain with me forever. The community spirit was outstanding.”
Hayley reinforced the efforts taken at Freuchie to ensure the community stayed connected during COVID saying: “During the pandemic they have strived to help the community, providing shopping delivery services to elderly & vulnerable people in the village. As well as this they have introduced weekly Covid compliant coffee mornings to ensure people can still get together and feel that sense of community.”
Hayley and the Gifford’s all commended the hard work of volunteers across the country as well as at their own club. Hayley said: “It is important to have a number of volunteers from all ages/backgrounds to help promote the club, promote the sport and maintain the club/green which in itself is a massive job. This year alone we had 27 volunteers turn up the day after the closing of the green to carry out winter maintenance. If we didn’t have this army of volunteers then this job alone could have take only a few members several days to complete. Volunteers also help to keep the costs at the club low to make the sport more accessible to the community.”
Coral picked out the same, end of season, moment as her favourite memory of volunteering at the club: “There have been many favourites however the day after closing the green, I was so proud to see we had 27 volunteers at the club helping do the green maintenance, hedge cutting and cleaning out the old clubhouse ready for the winter. It was just great to see so much community spirit.”
The couple received the award at a club event with Hayley and many other club members present with their trophy being presented by Margaret Halliday, Bowls Scotland Ladies’ President. On receiving the award Grant said: “To receive the award from Bowls Scotland was totally amazing. We are a small club in Fife and for myself and Coral to be thought so highly of was very humbling.” And Coral added: “I was actually quite emotional. It was very unexpected. I felt so privileged and extremely appreciated by the whole club.”
Congratulations to Coral and Grant on behalf of everyone at Bowls Scotland for receiving this thoroughly deserved National Volunteer Award!
Applications for nominations are open year-round, for more information or to nominate someone, please visit our volunteering page.