Celebrating volunteering in Runnymede and Spelthorne – Volunteer Awards 2023

We had a fantastic night on Monday 5th June at this year’s Runnymede and Spelthorne Volunteer Awards which were hosted and jointly held with Royal Holloway University, with over 300 people attending.

Congratulations to all of our impressive winners. We heard wonderful stories of people making how people care for one another in our communities reflected in the large number of nominations we received.

Solette Sheppardson, VSNS CEO, said, “Tonight is more than recognition. It’s a coming together of minds highlighting good work by good people.”

Initially there were seven awards but given the strength of the nominations the judges made the decision to give two awards in the Impact Award category, one for an individual and one for an organisation, and two awards in the Inspirational Award category. An additional award for Environment Champion was also created.

Special mention was also made for Ari Zoides – a posthumous award. Ari founded the Tea Boat Project, This community project on the river by Staines Bridge provides a floating café while seeking to inspire and rejuvenate the local community, improving the natural environment and providing opportunities that enthuse and engage people from less privileged circumstances. All work is carried out by volunteers from the local community, local firms and businesses and long-term unemployed in collaboration with Jobcentre Plus (Department of Works and Pensions). The project is not only a testament to Ari’s vision, but also to his ability to inspire and drive volunteers to achieve great things.

Here are our winners:

  • Volunteer (individual) who has made the most impact: Jason Lane, Spelthorne Parkies – supporting people living with Parkinson’s and their families
  • Volunteer Team that has made the most impact: Village Centre volunteers from Engelfield Green, which offers services such as a community fridge, café, child contact centre and baby basics
  • Young Volunteer: Matthew Neathey, Staines and Egham Sea Cadets
  • Inspirational Volunteers:
  • Ari Zoides, Tea Boat Project
  • Lizzie Wayland, Elevate Life and Little Lights
  • John Martin, White Lodge
  • Long Service Award: Lesley Windle, SCAN (Spelthorne Committee for Access Now)
  • Fundraiser Award: Jane Cawsey, White Lodge
  • Health and Wellbeing Award: Mel Connolly – Local Conversation Stanwell
  • Volunteer Team Award: Citizens Advice Runnymede and Spelthorne Court Desk Team, supporting some of the most vulnerable in society who find themselves in court facing homelessness, repossession, debt and other issues
  • Environmental Champion Award: Neil Maitland-Walker, Spelthorne Litter Pickers

A big thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate the volunteers who make such a difference to our communities.

Runnymede and Spelthorne Volunteer Award Winners 2023

Jason Lane, Spelthorne Parkies

Winner of the Individual Impact Award: Jason Lane

Jason set up the Spelthorne Parkies support group over 10 years ago to support people living with Parkinson’s disease. The group has over 60 members and Jason coordinates all the exercise sessions and social gatherings and is the main point of care for anyone joining who has the condition or any family members of a suffered that needs advice or support. The group runs a yearly retreat for people with Parkinson and their partners which is also attended by neurologists, a psychologist, a speech and language specialist, and a personal trainer. 

The Village Centre - Engelfield Green

Winner of the Organisation Impact Award: The Village Centre – Engelfield Green

This includes the Village Centre’s cafe, community fridge and kitchen, baby basics and child contact centre. For the community fridge, volunteers go over and above to give their time, even on bank holidays, cooking meals and delivering locally to those in need.  They go out in the evening, come rain or shine to collect food from local suppliers to take back to the Village Centre to weigh in and prepare for sessions the following day. They take the time to chat with visitors so that for many, their visit to the fridge has now become a social highlight to their week. It is also a good opportunity to identify those who need extra help and who can then be signposted to other resources locally. Volunteers have recently started running cooking classes for children during the school holidays, where they prioritise vulnerable families from the Forest Estate in Englefield Green.

Volunteers give up their weekends at the Village Centre to run supported child contact sessions, to enable vulnerable children to spend time with family members. The volunteers set up the sessions, welcome families upon arrival and help those parents who struggle to interact with their children. Some parents are meeting their children for the first time, so our volunteers are instrumental in helping parents navigate through what is a very emotional and stressful time.

Baby Basics volunteers sort through donations, and lovingly make up Moses’ baskets and new-born bundles for families not able to provide for their new-born babies.

The Cafe team promotes a buy one give one free scheme, and volunteers chat with visitors, many of whom are struggling with additional needs and are feeling down. The Café provides free meals to users of the Runnymede Foodbank. All visitors to our Cafe are greeted by volunteers, who ensure everyone gets a chat and help if needed. They are signposted to other local resources such as Care in Egham or the CAB.

The collective Village Centre volunteering team are an incredible, welcoming, dedicated and friendly group of people who are inspiring others to get involved on a daily basis.

Matthew Neathey

Winner of the Young Volunteer Award: Matthew Neathey

Matthew has achieved the highest rank possible with the Staines and Egham Sea Cadets and became an adult volunteer when he turned 18, two years ago. He attends the unit two nights a week and support and delivers training every other weekend.

Since becoming an adult volunteer Matthew has taken every opportunity to develop his skills and qualifications including undertaking his Gold Duke of Edinburg Award and gaining various national boating qualifications to increase the amount of young people able to enjoy the Thames. As a drill instructor he has trained two teams who not only won the Surrey District drill competition but came third at the Southern Area Competition.

Matthew’s level of maturity and commitment to the unit has resulted in him now being second in charge at Staines and Egham Sea Cadets.

His drive and commitment are clear and have been passed to those younger than him as a role model and example of how hard work pays off and the importance of giving back to those who have given to you.

Lizzie Wayland

Winner of the Inspirational Volunteer (Female) Award: Lizzie Wayland, Elevate Life and Little Lights

Our inspirational woman has always had a passion for helping children and young people. In the last few years, Lizzie has worked with colleagues to develop Elevate Life which aims to support children and help them develop strategies to cope with anxiety, isolation, and other mental health issues. IN recent months activities have been expanded to include children of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees.

Lizzie also set up the toddler group Little Lights, and a breast-feeding clinic at the Revive Coffee Shop in Chertsey. The clinic is run with maternity nurses from St Peter’s Hospital and has offered support to new mums when they are at their most vulnerable. Little Lights does more than offer fun activities for children. It has built a fantastic community of parents who support each other through the challenges of parenthood. Lizzie looks after the children of this area from birth to secondary school and is always open to finding new ways to help people.

John Martin

Winner of the Inspirational Volunteer (Male) Award: John Martin

Our inspirational male is no stranger to White Lodge. Born with cerebral palsy, and losing his mobility as a teenager, he has been attending White Lodge since birth. For 39 years White Lodge has supported John and his family and has quite literally been his and their lifeline.

John goes to White Lodge 2-3 times a week for physiotherapy and day activities.  He is a keen volunteer and ambassador for the Lodge and visits schools and events to raise disability awareness which he loves!  John is passionate about volunteering his time to support the Lodge’s fundraising team, he attends quiz nights, school assemblies, corporate awareness events, fetes and any other events which might raise awareness and funds for White Lodge.  Having John tell his story from a service user point of view is very powerful and White Lodge is very grateful to John for his passion and dedication.

In John’s own words…”I literally can’t wait to get back out into the community to raise awareness of disability, especially into the schools and youth groups. I absolutely love meeting all the children, they ask the most direct and funny questions. White Lodge has quite simply changed my life, I dread to think of what my life would have been like without them.”

Lesley Windle

Winner of the Long Service Award: Lesley Windle, Spelthorne Committee for Access Now

Lesley has been working with SCAN (Spelthorne Committee for Access Now) for many of its 30 years filling roles that are absolutely necessary for the smooth and successful running of an organisation but that often go unrecognised.

Lesley is SCAN’s membership secretary and treasurer, having taken over the latter role from her late husband.  For a number of years Lesley has been active in producing monthly newsletters for distribution electronically and in hard copy to individuals and organisations borough-wide. The information may originate in the media/internet, specialised publications, or publications of support organisations.

The main recipients of the newsletter are disabled people who may not have a support network or for whom the internet is a mystery.  These newsletters pull together articles, news and information on matters relating to issues affecting disabled people and which can sign-post readers to amazing services and support that they would otherwise been unaware of.

Jane Cawsey

Winner of the Fundraiser Award: Jane Cawsey, White Lodge

The winner of this year’s fundraiser this year has literally walked through fire for their organisation!

Jane bravely signed up to the White Lodge Fire walk event in November 2022.  She wanted to raise money for White Lodge as her mother Mary has been attending for some time to receive therapy.  Both Jane and Mary where extremely passionate about raising sponsorship for Jane’s Fire walk and fundraised with real gusto and dedication.  White Lodge was totally blown away by the donations pouring into Jane’s page, resulting in a final fundraising total of £5071.00: £4971 in excess of the £100 target set.  Not only did Jane smash her fundraising but she was totally brilliant walking across the hot coals on the night. White Lodge is eternally grateful to Jane for the amazing amount she raised.

Mel Connolly

Winner of the Health & Wellbeing Award: Mel Connolly

This award recognises an individual or group who are helping to keep their community active and healthy, either through activities they offer or work they do to promote healthy living or active lifestyles.

Mel Connolly has gone above and beyond to engage with and inspire residents to be healthy and socially connected. She is a qualified personal trainer and volunteer as project administrator for the Local Conversation Stanwell project.

Mel started cricket in the park for school children in 2019 and through the participation of teams at the English Cricket Board and the Lawn Tennis Association, she was able to train as an activator and run tennis and cricket sessions with equipment and support from both organisations. The Aces and Dynamos junior cricket groups now play at Ashford Cricket Club and this person is key in promoting, encouraging people to sign up as well as running the sessions every week from spring through to autumn.

During lockdown Mel started up a small walking group every Friday morning, where older residents and friends/family/dogs were encouraged to get out, have a walk and a chat and even pick litter as they went. Recently, Mel completed Mindful Walk Leader training through the Surrey County Council Wellbeing Partnership and has incorporated mindfulness techniques into allotment sessions with children and older people’s groups. As well as encouraging and leading residents in physical fitness as a volunteer, Mel coordinates the weekly Hobby Hub at Lord Knyvett Hall, a friendly craft group which helps to reduce isolation, teach new skills, and encourage mental wellbeing and increased social opportunities. She initiated a pen pal scheme between local primary schools and care homes, ran outdoor exercise classes for teens and organises an annual Easter Scavenger Hunt which involves a walk of over 1 mile around the neighbourhood. During holidays Mel runs park play and games sessions for children and families including football, pop up tennis, cricket, limbo and the group is always adding to its equipment to allow more people to join in and keep developing skills and having fun. Mel is described as unstoppable, her energy is to be admired and her ability to welcome and inspire others, keep having innovative ideas that motivate the community, is worthy of recognition.

Citizens Advice Runnymede and Spelthorne Court Desk Advisers

Winner of the Best Volunteer Team Award: Citizens Advice Runnymede and Spelthorne Court Desk Advisers

We are all aware that we are living in challenging times and many of the most vulnerable in our communities are struggling to deal with issues of homelessness, debt, and money management. Some find themselves in the devastating position of having to attend court to go before a judge in a housing repossession hearing. These people are facing absolute crisis.

Thanks to Citizens Advice Runnymede and Spelthorne help is available and that is why this year’s team award goes to their Court Desk Team of Charlie Tomlins, Trevor Woolley, and David Chatterton.

As Court Desk Advisers, Charlie, Trevor, and David, specialise in housing advice and attend the repossession hearings at Staines Court to support people summoned to appear before a Judge. Anyone attending court can meet with one of the advisers before their hearing. The advisers will explain what is going to happen in court, assess the case and outline the options. They can also represent the client in court if they wish.

Charlie, Trevor, and David go above and beyond to reassure clients and help them through the process, helping people find a way forward both in the hearing and afterwards. They keep up to date in their own time with the ever-changing legal frameworks of housing and debt advice in order to be able to give urgent immediate advice at a critical time for clients.

Their service is so valued by clients, local authorities, and the judges that when there was a proposal to extend court sessions to clear the backlog of cases following the Covid pandemic, the judges refused to do so unless the team could be there to support clients.

Neil Maitland-Walker

Winner of the Environment Champion Award: Neil Maitland-Walker

The category for environment champion was not included in the original call for nominations. When considering nominees, the Judging Panel felt that there was one person who could not go unrecognised. They were particularly struck by the passion that came across from this person’s citation.

Spelthorne Litter Pickers and Surplus to Supper have some 950 volunteers but one stands out. Neil has been litter picking all his life, going out in all weathers, pretty much every day. He  attends practically all the group litter picks (only missing theme if he has committed to volunteer for Surplus to Supper).

Neil is described as one of the most courteous gentlemen you might ever meet, and he always graciously thanks other members of the group for their efforts and offers words of encouragement. He is a true legend within the group with several members asking if there is any way that he can receive recognition for what he does. He is truly inspirational. The Group is currently collecting litter as part of the ‘Great British Spring Clean’ and – to-date – Neil has collected more than double that of any of the other 950+ volunteers in the group.

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