Orkney Islands Council is proud of its workforce – many of whom will be your friends, neighbours or relatives - with over a quarter of Orkney’s working population employed with the local authority.
A closer look at some of our 2,700 staff has revealed a treasure trove of community-spirited and selfless individuals.
Despite only scratching the surface, we have already found many Council staff who are giving their time freely and willingly to benefit others. Those who are – outwith their local authority jobs – helping others to lead better and safer lives, improving the communities we all live in.
They don’t just ensure that vital services continue to operate at all times – they also go the extra mile through volunteering or charitable work at home and away.
We want to share some of their stories with you.
“It’s a nice feeling knowing you have given someone a bit of happiness”
Joyce Gray has given more than 30 years’ service to the Council in various roles – and in her spare time she can be found at the sewing machine or with knitting needles in hand creating treasures for those less fortunate overseas.
It’s a family affair as Joyce’s mother, Hazel, is something of a knack-handed knitter and also a regular contributor to the Blythswood Shoe Box Appeal and any other good causes where a hat, socks, scarf or blanket may be required.
Joyce, who turns 60 soon, is a generational Orcadian dating back to at least the 1500s – with North and South Isles blood running through her veins – “Orcadian runs through my bones like the writing in a stick of rock!”
She began her lengthy career with the OIC within the Orkney Museums and Heritage Service, starting out as a clerical assistant before being promoted to museums assistant and then education officer. From there she moved to become an administrator and thereafter assistant project officer for the Scapa Flow Landscape Project Scheme. She has been a clerical assistant with the Criminal Justice section within Orkney Health and Care, for the past 11 years.
Joyce said: “I learned to knit before I started school and I can mind my gran sitting on the edge of the chair at her hoose in Finstown and teaching me how to knit. Although I can knit, it doesn’t grow fast enough for me (no patience) so I tend to do sewing and crochet.
“I can’t remember how it all started as my mum and I have been doing this for so long, about 14 years. I think I saw an advert for the Christmas Shoe Box Appeal and was moved by it, so I started buying naked teenage dolls from charity shops. I don’t feel sympathetic for dressed dolls, but naked ones need TLC, so I buy these and knit/sew clothes for them. Often my mum gets `mum, how much knitting have you got on the go?’ and she will say ‘what are you wanting done now?’ and she will knit loads of clothes while I make things on the machine.
“I turn the shoe box into a bed by making a mattress, pillow and duvet. The dolls are then warm for their journey to wherever they are going, and they have a bag of clothes to go with them along with a brush and some mittens, gloves and hat to fill the box up.
“As well as boxes for kids (boys get an action man in their boxes) we do boxes for other age groups and folk will get a hat, scarf and gloves knitted by my mum and other items such as soap, cloth, combs etc. For the ladies I often add a sewing kit as I have so much `treasure’ in my sewing box.”
Joyce is supported in this charitable venture by Council colleagues.
“Sometimes I put a poster up appealing for things and once when I wanted to make up sewing kits I was given so much cloth, threads, material, buttons and fasteners on my desk and needle cases from colleagues in Orkney Health and Care I managed to make up 14 kits.”
Joyce has made some extra special items to treasure.
“I have crocheted one large blanket which is a family one. It is made from wool from friends, colleagues, charity shops and best of all from my gran and son-in-law’s gran. They have now both passed away so its lovely to have something made from a contribution from so many folk.
“With so many bits of wool left over from this project I crocheted around 18 baby blankets over the last few years. Every time I think that will do, I seem to get given wool from someone and of course that’s a fine excuse to start another one. Folk are very kind and it’s not unusual for me to come in to work and find balls of wool, sewing stuff, craft materials or naked dolls on my desk donated by lovely colleagues.”
When not crafting for the less fortunate, Joyce enjoys a plethora of treasures right here on our doorstep - archaeology, history, wildlife, looking for the Northern Lights, heritage, snorkelling, walking, searching for groattie buckies, crafts, architecture, art and old buildings.
The boxes are delivered to McAdie & Reeve for onward distribution to the Blythswood charity – and Joyce and Hazel’s handiwork will end up being opened by a child or adult at one of their recipient areas overseas.
Why does Joyce go the extra mile for others?
“I like to think that someone somewhere will enjoy opening their box and have something that gives them pleasure. I think at a very rough count between mum and me we have made up around 200 + shoeboxes and we also send out boxes of knitted jerseys, hats, mittens, scarves, socks and crocheted blankets which all get put into a big box and sent to Blythswood.
For the moment, Joyce isn’t in need of any donated wool as she has so much already!
“I can’t ever see us getting through it all! If folk want to knit or crochet squares however, I would be more than happy to sit and sew these up for sending.”
She would encourage others to get involved.
“It’s satisfying to be able to do creative work that others benefit from. When we are sitting cosy in our homes, fed and watered and safe, it’s a nice feeling knowing you have given someone a bit of happiness.
Also, it doesn’t cost too much money. Wool can be bought from charity shops and a cotton dressing gown for a couple of quid can make lots of dressing and bedding for dolls. It’s fun.”
Find out more about the Blythswood Shoebox Appeal >