A common theme that comes through in our Spotlight features is about the sense of community that exists in Harrogate. That sense shows itself in many ways; the support and encouragement that the indies receive from local residents who value who they are and what they offer. Or the way the indies themselves make their own contribution to the town as places to meet, socialise, be entertained, shop, play, heal or relax.
Now looking to capture some of this spirit is GoodGym. It’s a nationwide scheme that combines getting fit with doing physical work in the community while at the same time tackling social challenges such as loneliness and isolation. One of the founders looking to set up the scheme is Karen Weaver, the chief executive of Harrogate and Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service (HARCVS) who explains how the scheme will work.
She says: “We want to build a community of runners who will run somewhere to do good. It might be to a house, a community centre or a park to do some DIY, decorating, gardening or even defrosting a fridge.”
GoodGym provides a running coach who will also act as a co-ordinator and organiser, ensuring the runners have tasks to perform. Runners pay a £10 monthly membership fee and in return get feedback on their progress as runners as well as a t-shirt.
Karen says: “This is a community initiative. We want people who will commit. They might be involved on a regular basis or they might dip in and out.
To launch GoodGym, five founder members and 100 runners are required. So far, Harrogate has 14 founders and 160 runners signed up. The third requirement is to raise £35,000 over three years to cover set-up costs, a running coach and other expenses such as DBS checks. Raising the £35,000 to get Good Gym engaged is where indies can bring their own brand of support; through sponsorship, crowdfunding, fundraising or even helping to identify sources of funding. Or it might just be by raising awareness.
Karen says: “Every little helps. There’s a strong social element to all this and we know people are interested but we can’t get people running until we have raised the £35,000.”
Her three fellow founding members are North Yorkshire County Council Director of Health and Adult Services Richard Webb, who was the first to hear about the scheme via a Twitter post, Robin Lavin from North Yorkshire Sport and retired teacher Jenny Godfrey.
From her own perspective as HARCVS chief executive, Karen says she is interested in anything that gets people volunteering, especially among the younger generation. She points out that loneliness is a very real issue in Harrogate and that the GoodGym scheme can help by securing commitment from the willing volunteer runners.
She explains: “Harrogate has loads of wonderful volunteers who are in their 60s, 70s and 80s and we need youngsters. It’s a win-win situation, get fitter and help someone.”
“The commitment comes with being matched with someone who needs support. It might be a rainy night in November but if you’re matched with someone you need to be committed. And actually, that person becomes your coach as they’re getting you out and running.”
She is also keen to highlight the lateral thinking about how GoodGym could benefit the town as a whole where one in four people are aged 65 and over – which is 5% higher than the national average – and nearly 20,000 residents live alone. She points out that runners would need a place to start and finish and to keep their possessions while running and helping. This could mean bases and routes that go in and around the town centre where runners can socialise afterwards.
Anyone interested in joining the scheme can go to the web page for GoodGym Harrogate or can email Karen at Karen@harcvs.org.uk. She and her fellow founders also spread the word through their own networks but ideas and contributions are welcome to get the scheme off the ground.
Karen says: “We are tapping into the local community in a way that appeals. Go for a run, dig a flower bed.” As she says, it’s a win-win situation.
GoodGym Harrogate website: www.goodgym.org/proposals/harrogate
All photos courtesy of GoodGym