Volunteer Awards recipient offers a wake up call to others

31 Jan 2019

Comedian and script writer, Ivor Baddiel hosted The Betty and Aubrey Lynes Annual Volunteer Awards evening to celebrate just some of Jewish Care’s 3000 inspiring volunteers. Award winners, ranged in age from 15 – 97, were honoured at a dinner at ceremony held on Thursday 20th January at the organisations Betty and Asher Loftus Centre in Friern Barnet.

Welcoming guests to the event, Jewish Care Chairman, Steven Lewis said, “This evening is an opportunity to thank not only the award recipients but the thousands of Jewish Care volunteers – young and old, from all walks of life. who have given so much of themselves and their time this year to make Jewish Care a caring community organisation an engage so many amazing people in our community.

97-year-old Marie Joseph scooped one of two Unsung Hero Awards for ‘being a positive force within the Stepney Jewish Community all her life’. Despite moving to Essex, Marie continues to travel to Stepney every week to volunteer and is an active member of the Friends of the Brenner Centre at Stepney JCC group raising vital funds for the Centre. Marie began volunteering whilst she was a member of St John’s Ambulance accompanying community centre members on outings. Staff at the centre commented; “Marie still lights up the room with her energy and is totally committed, she is funny and is concerned for everyone. Stepney is richer for her involvement.”

Marie says, “I was very surprised to be nominated and to be given this award, there are so many volunteers and they’re all doing a great job. I love volunteering at Stepney. When I’m there with the members, we have a chat and a laugh, I get them a cup of tea and serve lunch. The people at Stepney are part of my life, they’re like family.”

Valerie Nead, a volunteer at Jewish Care’s Michael Sobell Community Centre, was awarded the second Unsung Hero award of the night. In presenting the award the 200 strong audience were told; “Valerie comes in with a smile and asks what she can do. She embodies the role of ‘here to help’ turning her hand to any role, facilitating groups, assisting with outings, creating programme ideas, befriending, someone to laugh and with. She is always prepared, welcoming and keeps everyone engaged, enabling everyone to take part and is so creative with ideas, trawling papers, radio and web to stimulate discussion on current affairs. She embodies Jewish Care values extending kindness to everyone. She is an inspiration to us all.”

After hearing she’d been chosen, Valerie said, “I never expected the award. I was so surprised and absolutely thrilled, it’s wonderful to be recognised.

“When I started volunteering I had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was in a dark place, but out of darkness comes light, the light being Jewish Care. I was feeling low and my doctor suggested I start going to the community centre. When I went in for lunch I realised that I wanted to do volunteering to help others and that’s how it started. I love dancing and getting the members singing and dancing. I got Tai Chi going and I love doing the discussion groups. Healthwise, I’m so relieved that I’m well for now.

“I hope other people will volunteer because it’s inspirational and I just want to do more and more. I hope reading this will give other people a wake up call.”

17-year-old Jasmine Spurling was the youngest to be presented with an Individual Volunteer Award in recognition of her commitment to the youth programmes held at Jewish Care’s Redbridge Jewish Community Centre. Jasmine is a former participant and now leader on the Centre’s MIKE (Motivation, Inspiration, Knowledge and Education) youth leadership programme. Jasmine says, “I’m happy and grateful to receive the award. I love volunteering and I enjoy being with the kids, I have a lot of fun and really I’m just as much as a kid they are!”

Staff at the centre commented; “Her dedication, enthusiasm, positive attitude, creativity and leadership skills has inspired and motivated not only the participants but also the team around her”.

Jasmine wasn’t the only MIKE leadership programme participant to pick up an award. The Young Person Group Award was presented to 10 proud MIKE volunteers from the ages of 15 to 17 who run Club Kef, an after-school club at Wohl Ilford Jewish Primary School every Monday, and the youth club at the community centre every Thursday evening.

Susan Schlaen, who began volunteering in 2016 as receptionist and befriender at Jewish Care’s Jack Gardner mental health residential home, has received the Outstanding Relationship Award. Susan was nominated by Stephen Turner, who is a resident at Jack Gardner House. He says, “We have developed a good relationship and go out and about to local cafes. Recently we organised a day trip to Canterbury and had a great time. Susan makes me feel valued, she communicates and listens in a caring way and I always feel comfortable in her company. She creates and helps me to join in community activities and meet new people, raising my confidence. She offers me support and helps me to enjoy life more.”

Susan who was previously a resident at Jewish Care’s Sidney Corob House mental health residential home, says, “It’s wonderful to be given the award. Volunteering helps me to overcome some of my own hurdles and gives me the opportunity to help others. I really enjoy befriending and being a receptionist. I’d like to thank everyone who supports me especially Norma Christie at Jack Gardner House, my carers, my sister, nieces and nephews, who all do so much.”

Edward Usick received the award for someone who volunteers and also receives a service. Edward, who lives at Jack Gardner House, volunteers in the post room at Jewish Care, as a Bingo Caller at Kun Mor & George Kiss Home at the Betty and Asher Loftus Centre in Friern Barnet and at Jami helping with administration. His colleagues say he is always committed and willing to learn and is caring towards the older members of the community he meets at work. The role has also given Edward confidence and he has enrolled in college and is a fantastic role model for others.”

Barry Freedman has won the Bringing Jewish into Jewish Care award in recognition of the way that he helps members of The Leonard Sainer Centre for people living with dementia to take part and celebrate all the Jewish festivals. Jewish Care’s Rachel Allen and Ildiko Klotz, say, “Barry’s love of music is contagious, he facilitates music groups and singalongs, mock Seders and lulav shaking and more. He helps members to express their Jewish identity and connect to Jewish traditions which often bring back positive memories.”

Jewish Care’s Redbridge Supportive Communities tea party group received recognition for their hard work and commitment in Local Management, nominated by Jewish Care’s Alison Smardina, she said, “Guests look forward to what for many is the only social occasion of the month. These dedicated volunteers are always there to listen and offer words of encouragement and support.  Hosts open their homes to guests and provide a lovely tea, being invited is something guests look forward to, the atmosphere is uplifting, guests enjoy being in such a warm friendly environment.

Special mention was also given to Ruth Green and Karen Whitely for a volunteer who also receives a service. Ruth and Karen organise tea parties in North West London. They have been friends for 40+ years. Ruth has Multiple Sclerosis, uses a wheelchair and has 24-hour care and Karen’s involvement enables Ruth to host, together they make a strong team and the happiness of their guests is what is most important to them.”

Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue were presented the award for an Outside Organisation that make a significant contribution to Jewish Care. The synagogue teamed up with Jewish Care in January 2015 to enhance the well being of members who are experiencing memory difficulties and isolation in the surrounding areas. The Memory Matters Club began and runs fortnightly at the shul, offering the opportunity for members to find a new hobby, revisit favourite pass times and build friendships as well as enjoy a three-course hot lunch with stimulating activities.

Angela Peters, London coordinator said the group of 18 volunteers were thrilled and delighted and added, “People tell us at the end of the day how much they enjoy it. We know they go home invigorated by the experience and we all do as well.”

For over 20 years volunteer Pat Stanton lead reminiscence groups as well as mentoring other volunteers to develop their skills to lead session. Pat was presented with an Outstanding Individual Award for her dedicated and long-term commitment to the organisation.

Special mention in this category was also given to Amy Woolf who has been volunteering for Jewish Care for over seven years, and in 2014 took part in the Jewish Care Lay Leadership Development Programme. She has become the Chair of JC Families, managing both JC Tots and JC Juniors committee, and sits on Community Services Committee and the HSC Consultative Committee, having previously volunteered there.

As part of Amy’s role as Chair of JC Families, she has helped to create an army of mini volunteers who are brightening the days of many of the residents and members in Jewish Care’s homes and community centres on a regular basis, as well as learning the value of volunteering.”

Sid Green and Pam Bertschinger are joint winners of the Innovation Award. Sid has been involved with fundraising at RJCC for many years and Meals on Wheels for 12 years. He has been coordinating and facilitating the Chaps That Chat group for three years, an informal social discussion group for men and the attendance has grown from 8 to 65 attendees. Alison Smardina says, “RJCC has not had this number of gentlemen through its doors for many years and this is a testament to Sid. The group encourages local people to leave their homes and meet others to make new friends and reconnect with people they have not seen for many years.”

Sid said, “I’m absolutely delighted, and the award would be for the 65 men who attend Chaps that Chat every month.”

Pam, who has volunteered for Jewish Care for 10 years and has been instrumental in the Memory Way Café for people living with dementia and their carers over the past 7 years, said, “When I am with people I can help I feel a sense of purpose and it’s hugely satisfying. When we hear how our Memory Way Café changes people’s lives it’s amazing to know I am having an impact. My life has blossomed more in the last 10 years than it ever has.”

Jewish Care’s Chief Executive, Daniel Carmel Brown, said, “I would like to congratulate and thank all those who have been recognised for their contribution, and also extend a huge thank you to all those volunteers who choose every day of the year to give their time to Jewish Care. We simply wouldn’t be the organisation we are today without their support. ”