A COMMUNITY-minded volunteer who is a lynchpin staff-member of the 1803 (Hucknall) squadron of the Air Training Corps (ATC) has notched up 40 years of giving up his spare time as a youth leader.
ERNIE SOLLIS (62) was a young man when he first started helping out with the 1st Kirkby (St Wilfrid’s) Cub Scout pack back in 1971.
A retired control-room manager with Nottinghamshire police, his passion for working with young people also led to spells as a volunteer with the 2nd Sutton (St Mary’s) Cubs and the 5th Sutton (Open) Scouts group before he moved to the ATC organisation in 1988.
After starting with the 1300 squadron in Sutton, he took the job of warrant officer at 1803 Hucknall in 1991 — and retains the position to this day.
Ernie, of Welford Close, Skegby, said volunteering had been very enjoyable and that working with all of the hundreds of young people he had known had “made his life better”.
“I think it is the fact that all those people over 40 years have enriched my life,” he said.
“They are cheerful. They are there because they want to be there and they enjoy learning. A lot of them have gone on to good careers.”
Ernie began helping out at Cubs through friends at St Wilfrid’s Church in Kirkby.
A former Cub himself, he said he was “persuaded it was time to give something back, which I have been doing ever since!”
After moving up to the Scouts as a leader, Ernie took the boys on several camps, including one on a working pair of narrow boats on the Grand Union Canal and another to a camp in Kent during which he decided to take the Scouts on a spontaneous day-trip across the Channel to Boulogne, France on rough seas!
Ernie moved to the Air Training Corps on the recommendation from a friend, although he had no prior personal experience of the Royal Air Force (RAF), to which the ATC is connected.
Among his duties at the Hucknall squadron are teaching principles of flight and air navigation to the cadets.
“I am responsible for drill and discipline technically,” added Ernie, whose 35-year-old son, Andrew, was an air cadet himself. “But what I enjoy the most is the teaching, imparting knowledge on the young people.
“I try and make learning fun.”
Ernie attends two 1803 meets a week and carries out some weekend activities too. He is also involved in parades a few times a year, including the one on Remembrance Sunday in November.
He has been on camps with the cadets to Germany and Cyprus and has even been winched out of a helicopter in an exercise he took part in.
After totting up 40 years of service, Ernie, whose wife, Hazel, has also been a youth leader with Brownies and Cubs, says he would heartily recommend others to give it a go.
He said: “I would say give it a go and try to give it at least a year. I personally feel that you will enjoy it and get a lot out of it.
“It’s a commitment but it’s a worthwhile commitment.”
OUR PHOTO shows Ernie marking his 40 years as a youth volunteer — DISPIC NMAC11-3280-2.