Volunteers Awards shine a light on inspiring volunteers

04 Oct 2022

Comedian and script writer, Ivor Baddiel hosted Jewish Care’s Betty and Aubrey Lynes Annual Volunteer Awards evening, celebrating the charity’s 3000 inspiring volunteers. In Jewish Care’s first Volunteers Awards in three years, Ivor commented on “how fantastic it is to be back and to be able to pay tribute to Jewish Care’s staff and volunteers, who got many people in our community through the pandemic.”

This year’s 26 award winners were chosen by a panel of 11 judges made up of Jewish Care volunteers and staff from 120 nominations representing the broad ranges of ages from 12 to 101 and the breadth of roles of Jewish Care’s volunteers. They range from the 12 and 13 year old participants in the charity’s Bnei Mitzvah programme to the 101 year old volunteer Marie Joseph and member of award winning Outstanding Fundraising Team, Friends of Stepney.

Jewish Care’s Chair, Jonathan Zenios, welcomed 125 guests to the evening in the Wohl Synagogue at Jewish Care’s Betty and Asher Loftus Centre in Friern Barnet, saying, “The Volunteers Awards are a celebration of the successes, commitment, dedication, and love that our almost 3,000 volunteers bring to Jewish Care.”

“That Jewish Care got through the two years of the pandemic is in no small part thanks to our army of volunteers who made an enormous difference to people who almost instantly became physically cut off from their friends and family. Thanks to our volunteers, they were never alone and continued to be part of our caring community, connected through phone calls, food deliveries and gatherings online. As our homes and our Community Centres have reopened, our volunteers remain at the heart of our services and we thank you all for your dedication and commitment and all that you do.”

This year, saw the inaugural presentation of The Sonia Douek Award for Excellence in Volunteering. Sonia Douek, worked for Jewish Care for almost 20 years in the Volunteer’s Department at Jewish Care and was Head of Volunteering and Community Development until she sadly passed away from cancer in 2017. Sonia’s daughter, Michelle Weiner, presented the award to the winner Janet Foster.

“It is an understatement to say that my mum, Sonia Douek, was passionate about volunteering. What was truly inspiring was that she understood that finding the right fit for volunteers would mean an opportunity for them to grow, to feel empowered and rewarded and want to stay with Jewish Care for many years to come. Her vision for volunteering continues to shine brightly here at Jewish Care.”

Janet Foster, who won the new award, has volunteered at Jewish Care’s Brenner Stepney Community Centre since 2009. A Telephone Befriender Coordinator, a befriender herself, she is also Chair of Friends of Stepney Committee, who also won the Outstanding Fundraising Team Award.

“I feel honoured and privileged to be the first recipient of this award,” said Janet. “Sonia sounded so inspirational and I hope I can continue to do her proud by volunteering. It was so lovely to receive the award from Michelle.”

Angela Simmons, who volunteers at Jewish Care’s Ronson Family Community Centre at Sandringham, and has volunteered for five years, was the winner of the charity’s Unsung Hero Award. In their nominations, staff said, “Angela volunteers four days a week, making sure the members of are cared for, looked after and have the best day every day. We would be lost without Angela and can’t thank her enough for her time and love.”  

Angela said, “Winning the award was wonderful but when I wake up in the morning and think that I’m going to Jewish Care I couldn’t be happier. I absolutely love it to bits. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time.”

Winner of the Youngest Volunteer Award was the first canine award winner, Molly the Pets as Therapy Dog, who is almost five years old. Molly was commended for her patient and friendly nature and calmly received her Jewish Care collar tag award. Her owner, Susie says, “I love the impact Molly has on people and the interaction between them. Volunteering brings a smile to people's faces”.

Bringing the Jewish to Jewish Care, joint winners of the Distinctively Jewish Award were Marilyn Albert and Ruti Roche.

Ruti volunteers at Jewish Care’s Vi & John Rubens House. Staff say she is “committed to giving to others from the heart, bringing her Jewish knowledge to the residents, baking for festivals with them, table-top gardening, reading and praying with residents who are in their rooms, making the residents feel at home”.

Ruti says, “I love planning activities around Shabbat and festivals, and try to make them as interactive as I can. I enjoy talking to the residents about their memories and recording their life stories as well as getting to know their relatives too. I really love volunteering, it’s so rewarding.” 

Marilyn Albert, recognised for her passion and unwavering support by staff and volunteers to support residents at Jewish Care’s Anita Dorfman House care home at Sandringham. She said, “I’m thrilled to receive this award. I enjoy my volunteering and it really means a lot to me to organise the services and the Kiddush with the residents for Shabbat and Yom Tov. I know that the residents look forward to it and I look forward to it very much too.” 

Winner of the Innovative and Creative Project was Lauren Olins, a regular volunteer at Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre leading a discussion group, she also works as a photographer. Lauren created the project to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, photographing members with their favourite teacups at home, including one who is shown with the teacup they brought from Germany.

Lauren says, “The project is about Britishness and a documentation of the people that the members are today. Though sadly the Queen has passed away, I’m hoping to continue to photograph members with their teacups. Going to the Centre is really the highlight of my week, being there is like a smile. All the staff are so positive and driven and the members are amazing people to be with.”

Pam Bertschinger shared the People’s Choice Award, which was presented by Jewish Care Chief Executive, Daniel Carmel-Brown. Pam instigated the setting up of Jewish Care’s Memory Way Café supporting people in the community living with dementia and their partners,10 years ago. She recently instigated a new group for alumni of the Memory Way Café, the Elevenses Café, for now single partners of those who were living with dementia. 

The staff who nominated her said, “Pam’s unwavering passion and dedication has helped over 100 families of those living with dementia to live well. She continues to be an inspirational example to her fellow volunteers.”

Pam says, “I’m feel very humbled and honoured to have been nominated and presented with the award. I love my work and the satisfaction of giving people my care, knowledge and empathy. It is incredibly satisfying and rewarding to be a volunteer.”

Joint People’s Choice award winner is Hermoine Goodman, who is originally from South Africa and has been volunteering at Jewish Care for 27 years. She volunteers every Thursday at Jewish Care’s Zalman and Ruchi Noé Centre at Sandringham for people living with dementia. Serving food, devising stimulating activities for members, from reminiscence and discussion to music and dancing, she is famous for her singalongs.  She began befriending on the phone from home during lockdown and continues to do so.


On winning the award, Hermi said, “I feel honoured and grateful to have received an award. The time spent with the members is the highlight of my week. I would encourage anyone to volunteer. There are so many benefits. It is so fulfilling and rewarding doing something worthwhile and having a meaningful purpose in life; it has enriched mine. The Jewish Care “family” has been such a special gift in my life.” 

Best Newcomer, Gerry Robbins, is an ex cab driver who retired in 2019 and now enjoys bringing the members of Jewish Care’s Redbridge Jewish Community Centre to and from the centre and stays to chat to members and help out. Gerry says, “I enjoy helping people and I look forward to going to the centre.

Ruth Klajman who is 21 and won the Young Volunteer Award has volunteered at Jewish Care’s Sidney Corob House for people with mental health needs, since she was 15 as part of Shabbat Walk. Ruth says, “I feel really happy and appreciative. I love being able to help other people and to be their listening ear. It helps people to know that there is someone in the local community who is thinking about them and values them and volunteering helps me to feel more fulfilled and to give back to people.”

Jewish Care’s Chief Executive Daniel Carmel-Brown, said, “I’d like to thank Ivor Baddiel for volunteering his time to host our awards this evening and helping us to create such a special atmosphere. I also express my deepest thanks to all of our volunteers and lay leaders for all that they do. When I spoke to one of our volunteers recently about their role, they told me they were so proud of their volunteering and they wouldn’t be the same person without it. I can honestly say that Jewish Care wouldn’t be the same without the dedication, commitment, love and care that our volunteers give each day.”

Volunteers Department Manager, Jo Selwyn added, “It was an honour to be amongst so many wonderful volunteers recognising their contributions to Jewish Care. They make a difference every day to our members, clients and residents’ lives and support our staff across all of our services.”   

If you would like to know more about volunteering at Jewish Care please contact Volunteer@jcare.org or 020 8922 2405.