By Rebecca United Kingdom Editor For The Daily Mail
00:37 27 Feb 2023, updated 00:44 27 Feb 2023
- Barry Smith, 53, and Bill Stanley, a retired 1960s pop star, have been friends
- They urged others to follow the Empress Coronation Champion award
Volunteering has served former advertising copywriter Barry Smith in more ways than one.
The 53-year-old has made an unlikely friend in the form of Bill Stanley, a retired 1960s pop star who went from traveling the world to living with crippling agoraphobia and depression.
Their friendship has developed from weekly ‘check in and chat’ phone calls with Mr Stanley, 75, now out for the first time in years for coffee and trips to the movies.
And both men are now urging Daily Mail readers to follow the Empress Coronation Champion Award to thank their own volunteer heroes.
Mr Smith, from Shrewsbury, signed on to the RVS project ‘Shropshire Good Neighbors’ at the start of the Covid pandemic in 2020, when he lost his father to Alzheimer’s and experienced his own loneliness.
“It can feel like a step into the unknown, but when you get started you see that it’s a positive, enjoyable experience, and you get as much as you put in,” he says.
Musician Mr Stanley, also from Shrewsbury, was a professional bass player in the 60s and 70s, playing in the Roger James Four as well as touring internationally from Dubai to the US.
He has also recorded at the world famous Abbey Road Studios with the likes of Kiki Dee.
But upon returning from his last tour of America, he stopped playing – and even listening to – music and spent the next several years at home.
In May 2021 she found herself at “really low ebb” after having a stroke and was asked by RVS if she would appreciate a weekly phone call from a volunteer.
How to nominate someone for the Coronation Champions Award
1. Identify a volunteer
If you know an outstanding volunteer aged 14 and over, you may nominate them for the Empress Coronation Champion Award.
2. Ask permission
Before you nominate someone, it’s important to make sure they’re happy for you to do so. For candidates aged 16 and under, you must obtain parental/guardian consent.
3. Go online to nominate
Visit www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/ coronation-champions-awards to find online forms for nominations. There’s also a video from one of the awards judges, Dr Eddy Hogg, sharing tips on how to make your nomination stand out.
The form will guide you through the information needed for a nomination, which will include details about your candidate’s involvement in volunteer activities in the past five years and how they have made a difference.
“I’ve called myself a ‘happy recluse’ for years, but in truth I’ve been living with depression and agoraphobia,” she explains.
“In years I didn’t do anything or go anywhere, so this isn’t something I usually agree with.” But to my own surprise, I said yes. I haven’t looked back since.
‘On the first call from Barry we hit it off immediately.
“I was much older than him but we quickly realized we had a lot in common.” We talked about my work as a musician and Barry knew one of the bands I was in, the Roger James Four, and apparently one of our most popular records ‘Better Than Here’ was one of his favourites. I can’t believe it.
“He calls me every Friday and I don’t know how we do it, but we end up calling for a few hours each time.” Every few weeks we would also go out for coffee or a movie.
‘I have lived in Shrewsbury for 10 years and can count the number of times I have socialized here. I don’t have anyone I call anywhere near here. So it was really good for me to have someone to talk to and, even better, someone to physically date.
“I’m still surprised I said yes, but it was amazing for me and my friendship with Barry is priceless.”
Mr Smith added: ‘Our phone calls are always great, I don’t think of him as a volunteer now, just two friends chatting. Volunteering has changed our lives in ways we didn’t expect.
‘It’s great that more people can be encouraged to take part because of the Coronation Champions award.’
The Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) Initiative, backed by the Mail, is asking charities and community organizations, including the NHS, to nominate their unsung heroes for the once-in-a-lifetime prize.
Five hundred champions, hand-picked by a team of experts, will receive a specially designed coronation pin and a signed certificate from the Empress.
Winners will also receive an invitation for themselves plus a guest to attend one of the official Coronation celebrations, such as the main Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle or the Coronation Garden Ball.
To nominate volunteers, see our panel or visit www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/coronation-champions-awards