Involve started in 1975 as Maidstone Volunteer Bureau, with one part time member of staff and a management committee. The service aimed to match people in the community with local groups and charities seeking volunteers.
From 1988, under the management of Bridget Overton, the Bureau began to grow and develop and over time other complementary services began; a volunteer driving scheme for elderly and disabled people (now known as ‘Community Transport’) followed by Maidstone Carers Project designed to support people caring for a family member or friend with disability or ill health.
With an ethos of seeking out and responding to local need, this meant further progression. In the 1990s, Platform, a mental health service user forum, and the V Team, a supported volunteering project doing gardening and decorating for elderly and disabled people were developed. The core work of seeking and matching volunteers in the community continued to grow and Maidstone Volunteer Bureau was increasingly seen as the hub for community activity and information in the borough.
From 2005 onwards growth accelerated; Brighter Futures for Older People was initiated as one of a number of new projects across Kent to support independence for older people using volunteers, and the foundations were laid for the Council for Voluntary Service, originally called ’The Infrastructure Project’.
In 2006, under the leadership of Sue Towns Okorodudu following Bridget’s retirement, Maidstone Volunteer Bureau modernised with a change of name in 2007 to Voluntary Action Maidstone. A full CVS service , including an annual conference and lively Older Persons Forum, accredited by the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action in 2011 developed at this time. Volunteering services continued to flourish with the Kent Event Team and later Gateway Volunteers, providing a range of opportunities for the diverse community of Maidstone and the wider area.
Next came the Falls Prevention Service, which provided postural stability classes to help over 65s living across Kent who may have been at risk of a fall as well as the Macmillan Volunteer Service which runs across West Kent, which helps provide practical and emotional support for those living with cancer through the help of volunteers. In 2015, Voluntary Action Maidstone changed its name to Involve Kent, to better represent the geographical reach of its services and the changing nature of the work it does.