Look Who's Won A Volunteering Award!

Celebrating Central Bedfordshire’s volunteers

Hundreds of people turned out on Tuesday night (4 June) to celebrate the inspiring achievements of Central Bedfordshire’s volunteers.

The fifth Cheering Volunteering awards and celebration evening took place at the Grove Theatre, in Dunstable.

The annual event began in 2015 to thank the many volunteers and voluntary organisations across Central Bedfordshire for the often-unheralded work they do to help others in their community.

And they have grown each year since then, with the judging panel this year particularly impressed by the quality of the entries.

It was organised by Central Bedfordshire Council, working in partnership with the Volunteer Centres as part of Central Bedfordshire Together, and sponsored by Ringway Jacobs, Grand Union Housing Group, ProLogis, Jeakins Weir and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Before the ceremony began, people attending the event enjoyed a showcase of volunteering opportunities from organisations across Central Bedfordshire.

And then it was on to the event itself, with the hundreds in attendance watching seven awards being presented as well as a host of great entertainment.

The winners and highly commended in each category were:

Young Volunteer of the Year: Winner – Emily McCabe (volunteer with Aldwyck Housing Group); Highly commended – Junior Ambassadors from The Bedfordshire Junior Dignity Network; Ella O’Flynn (Volunteer with the Bedford & District Cerebral Palsy Society)

Volunteer of the Year: Winner – Janet Burgess (volunteer with St John’s Hospice); Highly commended –Stephen Foley (pharmacy volunteer); Pam Johnson (Carers in Bedfordshire)

Volunteer Group of the Year: Winner – Home Start Voluntary Group Dunstable; Highly commended – Salvation Army Debt Advisors Team; Pam and Dave Sainsbury (feeding the homeless in Dunstable).

Outstanding Contribution: Winner – Kayleigh Dalton (Domestic Abuse Victim Support Advisor); Highly commended – Dianne Foyle, Volunteer for Luton & Dunstable Hospital; Pam Brown, Volunteer for Luton & Dunstable Hospital.

Lifetime Achievement:  Winner – Clare Kilby, Volunteer for community of Stotfold. Highly commended –Jonathan Payne (Supporting communities of Upper Caldecote, Northill and neighbouring villages); Jo Blair-Stuart (Chair of Trustees at Families United Network).

Sports Volunteer of the Year: Winner –  Rotary Club Leighton Linslade. Highly commended – Sarah Blackburn (Houghton Hall Casual Joggers); Ian Smith (Ampthill Town Cricket Club).

Panel’s Choice Award: Winner – Alex and Jackie Vickers (The One Big Christmas Team at Ampthill Baptist Church). High Commended – Mary Cheshire (Conservation volunteer with Greensand Trust); Cognitive Stimulation Therapy Volunteers (helping people living with dementia in Leighton Buzzard and Arlesey).

Tom Jones impersonator Billy Lee compered the awards as well as belting out some crowd-pleasing classics, with additional offerings by talented local young artists – Claire Wilden and Lana Tookey.

The ‘Inspiring Volunteering’ small grants scheme, with a total funding pot of £5,000 to help local voluntary and community sector community projects, and to start new projects involving volunteers, saw seven voluntary and community organisations receive grant awards ranging from £100-£1,000. They are:

Shefford Greenspace Conservation Group - £250
Barnardos - £250
Caddington Scout Group - 105.70
Houghton Regis Hub CafĂ© - £920
The Greensand Trust - £450
Sorted Bedfordshire (counselling project) - £300
Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire - £840
Central Bedfordshire Council’s Chairman, Councillor Cllr Brian Saunders, attended the evening in his ceremonial role and said: “What an amazing and inspirational event to be part of. I would like to congratulate not only the award winners and those who were highly commended in each category, but all of the other nominees and everyone who had a part to play in the evening.

“Volunteers are the glue that holds communities together, so it was very fitting to celebrate their achievements during national Volunteers’ Week.”

Janet Burgess with Cllr James Jamieson, Leader of Central Bedfordshire Council

Volunteer of the Year: Winner – Janet Burgess from Houghton Regis 

Janet received her award as Central Bedfordshire’s ‘Volunteer of the Year’ at this week's (4 June) fifth annual ‘Cheering Volunteering’ awards ceremony held at The Grove Theatre, Dunstable.

Jan has volunteered at Sue Ryder St John's Hospice for almost four years beginning as a receptionist but was soon chosen to be lead receptionist, overseeing a team of approximately 35 other volunteers. Jan's duties are in front of the house, meaning she deals with patients, visitors, doctors, nurses, staff and other volunteers both in person and on the phone. Her citation read: “Her empathetic and compassionate personality allows her to deal with delicate situations in a caring yet professional manner. Her organisational skills are second to none!”

Jan and a committee of volunteers are organising a Country Fayre in the summer to raise funds for the hospice. She has been contacting organisations for donations, sponsorship and raffle prizes and due to her professional, friendly approach has been very successful.

Leigh Chapman from St John’s Hospice, who nominated Jan for the Award said: “Jan has gone far beyond what is expected of her in her role with us and nothing is ever too much trouble. I also think she would be the last person to expect to be nominated for this award, let alone receiving it.”

 Emily McCabe and Martin Trinder from Council for Voluntary Service

Young Volunteer of the Year: Winner – Emily McCabe from Houghton Regis

Emily McCabe's citation read: ‘Emily is an inspirational young person who has used her own life experiences to help others overcome their challenges. She is lead volunteer with Aldwyck Housing Group who offer specialist support and homes for young people, those with disabilities, those who are vulnerable and older people. She, like many young people, was facing confidence issues which she systematically set about addressing through training and work experience. Emily has been volunteering more than three years and now manages six volunteers at a youth project in Houghton Regis. Emily and her team have managed to deliver over 40 accreditation programmes around confidence-building to 40 young people based in Houghton Regis. She works every Friday night in Houghton Regis to help other young people.’

Hafi Rahman Youth and Anti-Social Behaviour Intervention Officer with Aldwyck Housing Group, who nominated Emily said: “Emily was suffering with low self-esteem, so I wanted to give her some responsibilities, enough that she felt comfortable. She did work experience and took courses to give her skills and confidence along the way. She’s worked very hard as a volunteer, and taken on lots of responsibilities, including delivering fantastic courses to other young people. She’s a changed person and it’s been a privilege to see her shine and I’m delighted that her dedication to others has been rewarded in this way.”

To find out more about Cheering Volunteering, as well as the grant scheme, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/council/stronger-communities/awards-event.aspx

This report supplied by Central Bedfordshire Council
Photos: joannacrossphotography.co.uk