Nettie Keene celebrates 50 golden years volunteering for Jewish Care

18 Feb 2022

Dedicated volunteer and grandmother of four, Nettie Keene, is celebrating 50 golden years of volunteering with Jewish Care. Nettie began volunteering at Jewish Care’s Redbridge Jewish Community Centre in February 1972 as a hairdresser, and half a century later she is still volunteering as a telephone befriender and at the Sunday Socials. Nettie will be turning 88 on Tuesday 22nd February and will be celebrating her birthday with friends and family.

Since Nettie began volunteering at Jewish Care, her roles have ranged from being a day centre volunteer coordinator, The Young One’s and Sunday Socials Committee member, volunteering at the Salt Beef Bar and Ladies that Lunch, and in the office helping to coordinate hundreds of Jewish Care’s Meals on Wheels that have been sent out to older people in the community over the years.

Nettie lives in Clayhall and grew up in Ilford. She had a hairdressing salon in Newbury Park, and she and her late husband, Leslie lived above the salon when they were married in 1958. They moved to their family home in Clayhall in 1965, where they brought up their son’s, Danny and Saul.

Saul, who was a dedicated youth worker and volunteer, sadly passed away in 2008 at the age of 40. Since then, Nettie has been tirelessly fundraising for the centre activities in his memory. Nettie established The Saul Keene Award for Excellence at Jewish Care’s annual MIKE youth leadership awards in Redbridge annually, which she has presented, along with her son Danny, in recognition of the achievements of future young leaders in the community.

Nettie has always loved to get involved with all events at Jewish Care’s Redbridge Jewish Community Centre (RJCC), including being part of the RJCC choir at the annual Jewish Care Sing Off and participating in the inter-generational Great Jewish Bake Day. She was up dancing at the recent Sunday Social earlier this week and since the pandemic began, Nettie has embraced technology and is a regular on the Zooms for Jewish Care’s Redbridge Jewish Community Centre and on JC Presents.

Initially, when volunteering was suggested to Nettie in 1972, Nettie said, “I will give it a month!”

Talking about volunteering today, Nettie says, “I don’t know where the years have gone but I'm still totally involved and I can’t wait to get back to volunteering in person. Volunteering is so satisfying and it really is the greatest thing I’ve ever done. You give so much but you get so much out of it too. It’s greatest thing I’ve done. I would encourage everyone to do volunteering.”

Richard Shone, Jewish Care’s Director of Community Services, Volunteering and Social Work, says, Nettie is an inspiration to us all. She always has Jewish Care at the forefront of her mind; whether it’s supporting us raising money, offering her service at all our functions, keeping in touch, participating on the Zooms and befriending.

“Nettie really is a treasured member of the community and I can’t express enough our gratitude to Nettie for all that she has done and all that she continues to do for our members. Her focus on the needs of our members, her fellow volunteers and even the staff is second to none. Nettie is a leader of people and a shining example to us all. We wish her a very happy golden anniversary of volunteering.”

Danny Keene, Nettie’s son adds, “My mum is my hero and inspiration. She’s gone through so much with my late father, Leslie, passing away 2004 and Saul passing away in 2008. Nothing defeats my mother, she a strong determined lady, she’s selfless and amazing. Before Covid she’s always been so busy, she connected virtually and now she’s still getting out and doing as much as she possibly can again. She’s always looking to help others and I don’t think she’ll ever stop volunteering. We are all so proud of her!”