Jewish Care celebrate volunteers who make time

03 Jul 2017

Jewish Care presented awards to volunteers spanning eight decades, from 14-year-old school children and film students at Middlesex University to parents who volunteer with their babies and older people who use services at Jewish Care’s whilst also volunteering. The organisations recognised some of the unsung heros who make a difference at The Betty and Aubrey Lynes Annual Volunteer Awards ceremony on Wednesday 28 June.

Speaking at the Betty and Asher Loftus Centre, Jewish Care Chairman, Steven Lewis told guests; “Looking around the room is a reminder of the diversity of Jewish Care’s volunteers – young and old from all walks of life. This evening is an opportunity for us to recognise the breadth of volunteer’s contribution whilst knowing that this is just a snapshot of the work that goes on each and every day in the world of Jewish Care.   It is an opportunity to say thank you to every one of you here today and the thousands of others who have given their time this year”.

Comedian and writer Ivor Baddiel presented the awards for the fourth year running. He talked about his first-hand experience of Jewish Care volunteers when his father attended The Leonard Sainer Centre. “We need more people like you” he commented. “Without people like you, I fear for the future”.

The youngest award winners were twin sisters 14-year-old Talia and Katie Dimson. The girls along with their mum Jane were presented with a new award, The Sonia Douek Award for Innovative and Creative Projects, an award to remember and honour the work of Sonia who having worked at Jewish Care for almost 20 years, playing a transformative role in community development and volunteering.

Before the award was presented Steven Lewis commented; “Sadly, at the start of this year Sonia lost her battle to cancer. Her passing is a huge loss not only to her family but the whole community. We will never forget the impact Sonia has made. It is for this reason I am pleased that we will be remembering Sonia’s work and presenting the first ever Sonia Douek Award for Innovative and Creative projects”.

The Dimson’s solved the problem of what to do with beautiful party dresses that will no longer be worn by their original owners with a second-hand bat mitzvah dress sale raising £2,000 for Jewish Care and they are planning a second event.

On receiving the award Talia and Katie, pupils at Haberdashers School commented; “We think it is so important to for young people to get involved in organisations like Jewish Care. It is an honour to get the award especially as its in memory of an amazing person who did so much for the community”.

One of the oldest award winners of the evening, 84-year-old Sheila Lawrence was overcome with emotion on collecting her award for the service user who also volunteers award, commenting; “I had no idea I was receiving an award, I can’t believe I am being honoured this way”. Sheila is both a volunteer and client at Jewish Care. She attends the Connect@ group in Southgate and is also an “exceptional” volunteer at the Betty and Asher Loftus Centre. Described as someone with a “smile and a can do attitude who truly embodies the values of Jewish Care”.

Connie Stanton danced her way up to the stage to collect her unsung hero award for her 22 years of volunteering at Rubens House. Both Connie and her later husband John were members of the Pantaloons, an entertainment group who, over 15 years performed musical theatre shows for the residents at many Jewish Care homes. Connie recognised residents' needs for a variety of personal items and so started the 'trolley shop' taking care to make sure that it stocked what individual residents wanted.  Connie is committed to doing everything possible to make a meaningful difference to the life of individual residents.

 A group of young second year TV production students from Middlesex University were presented with the ‘Outside organisation group award’. The six students volunteered at Jewish Care to create a film about the importance of leaving gifts in wills.  One of the students, April Ha, 20, who lives in South East London and moved from the USA to London a few years ago, commented on the project and winning the award;

 “My team and I didn’t have a great knowledge of Jewish culture and we are from different countries including the UK, USA, Romania and Russia. We learnt a lot about the community and really enjoyed working with everybody. The staff, volunteers and members made us feel so comfortable and welcome.

 “Filming at the Michael Sobell Jewish Community Centre made me think back to my grandma who passed away not long ago, and it reminded me of how helpful some people are.I’m so thankful that there are facilities like this to help people grow old happily with love and with care.

 The Synagogue team at the Betty and Asher Loftus Centre won the group award for bringing the Jewish into Jewish Care, they prepare and officiate services for residents across the three homes on this site.

 Volunteer Malcolm Feiger spoke on behalf of the group; “We are a team with different attributes, some of us help with bringing people into services, others with the service itself. The residents get so much out of the services. When they see us on a Shabbat morning their faces light up. Without volunteers services wouldn’t happen. I don’t think we need acknowledgement but I do hope this award will encourage others to volunteer. It’s so worthwhile”.

 Other young winners were 17-year-old Rhianna Bongart and 14-year-old Jenna Morris. joint winners of the Young Volunteer Award.

 JFS pupil Rhianna has been volunteering at Jewish Care’s Redbridge Jewish Community Centre for 4 years and has participated in the MIKE youth leadership programme and volunteered at half term and Summerworld camps. Rhianna received an Above and Beyond Award for volunteering over 100 hours in the MIKE programme, which was awarded to her at RJCC the night before the Volunteer Awards.

 Nominating her, a colleague at the RJCC commented on how impressed they were with the patience and care that Rhianna displays working with young children with autism and ADHD, making the children feel comfortable and safe.

 Adele and Paul, Rhianna’s parents came to the ceremony with her and were extremely proud. Rhianna said, “It’s so nice to be appreciated. It’s good to give back what you have been given yourself and I love working 1 to 1 with children. I really want to do a job that makes a difference and I’d like to go into social work with children so this is also really crucial experience for what I want to do later in life.”

 On presenting the award to Rhianna, Ninette Levy, the daughter of the late Audrey and Betty Lynes commented; “Every year I come to this award ceremony it surprises me to see more new faces of both young and old but best of all is hearing stories of how the younger generation are getting involved”.

 Jenna Morris started helping her grandma, a volunteer in the Shop at the Betty and Asher Loftus Campus, in her school holidays. In January when she turned 14 she started volunteering every Sunday at Kun Mor & George Kiss home where she started a sing a long group. Staff at the home commented; “She brings joy to the residents and has transformed Sunday mornings at the home”.

 The last award of the evening was the second to be presented to Hannah Baruch. Hannah who lives in a Langdon home has been volunteering with Jewish Care for the last four years. She commented; “I was really surprised to receive two awards tonight. Volunteering has given me so much. Before I was so shy now I am showing new volunteers around. It has changed me”.

 Esther Lee who received a special mention for her work using social media to organise the Rosie’s Little Bubalas mum’s and babies group to sing with residents at Rubens House in Finchley, summed up the can do attitude of volunteers when asked how she finds time to volunteer when she is working in the week, teaching on Sunday, bringing up a toddler and moving house, her answer was, “Why not, I love it, you make time!”

Closing the evening, Simon Morris, Chief Executive of Jewish Care said; “I would like to add my congratulations and thanks to all those who have been recognised for their contribution as well of course extending a huge thank you to all those volunteers who choose every day of the year to give time to Jewish Care. We simply wouldn’t be the organisation we are today without your support”.