AS MANY as 36,000 Christmas cards in support of the MRI scanner appeal have now been delivered to local shops thanks to the input of four offenders sentenced to do unpaid work under the community payback scheme.
When tasked with the challenge of counting, folding and packing 36,000 cards and envelopes into 3,000 boxes, organiser Lisa Gray quickly realised that the job was too big to be completed by MRI scanner appeal volunteers in an evening or two.
Help was found from the council’s criminal justice unit who assigned a squad to assist with the Christmas card project.
Over four days Shane Odie, Dell Smith, India Lockyer and others, all placed on a community payback order imposed by Lerwick Sheriff Court, had the cards folded, packed, stacked and even delivered to the NHS headquarters at Montfield.
Unpaid work officer with the SIC’s criminal justice unit, Julie Halcrow, said charitable work was one of the main focuses of unpaid work alongside work for voluntary organisations and individuals who are infirm or elderly.
“The British Red Cross, Clan Charity shop and the Shetland Community Bike Project have been very accommodating in relation to community payback,” she said.
“They are always very pleased for the help received and in turn the participants enjoy the work they are tasked to do, with some going on to volunteer after their unpaid work hours are complete.”
A community payback order is the main community based sentence available to courts in Scotland. As part of the order, offenders can be told to carry out between 20 and 300 hours of unpaid work, and they can be imposed by a sheriff as an alternative to either a fine or a prison term.
Halcrow said: “Unpaid work not only benefits the community but also helps rehabilitate the individual, who will learn new knowledge and skills that can lead to paid employment and reduce further offending behaviour.”
She said on average around 35 individuals are being sentenced to carry out unpaid work every year. In 2018, 2,750 hours were completed across Shetland, ranging from painting and decorating churches and community halls to clearing litter from beaches and coastal walks.
“All individuals who are subject to a community payback order (…) are encouraged to make use of other activities for personal development around employment skills, daily living skills and building self esteem and confidence,” she added.
After completing the mammoth task, one of the offenders, Dell Smith, said: “It was really nice to be involved and this didn’t feel like work at all”, while Shane Odie also said he had enjoyed having been part of the project, adding that going for an MRI scan to Aberdeen was very inconvenient.
MRI Scanner fundraising manager Derek Hart said the team did a fantastic job with humour and dedication.
Lisa Gray also praised Shetland Farm Dairies for agreeing to deliver packs of cards to rural shops as part of the company’s daily delivery of fresh milk.
The Christmas cards are being sold in packs of 12 for £4.50. Each pack contains cards with four different images donated by local photographers. There are three different packs giving a total choice of 12 images.
The cards can also be bought online at https://shop.shetlandmriscannerappeal.com/collections All proceeds will go towards the MRI scanner appeal.
Any community or organisation which believes it could benefit from unpaid work is asked to contact the criminal justice social work team on 01595 744446 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org