On Wednesday night, Centre 404 staff and volunteers headed to Voluntary Action Islington for The Volunteer of The Year Awards where we were nominated for Volunteer Team of the Year, Young Volunteer of the Year (16-25yrs old) and Older Volunteer of the Year (60+ yrs old).

Last year we had a wonderful night as our gardening team won Team of the Year and our Chair Jean Willson won The Pat Haynes Memorial Trustee of the Year award. All the volunteers had a wonderful evening and therefore we were excited to go again this year.

Upon arriving we were treated to a delicious feast of Mediterranean food with falafel, humus, pitta, baba ganoush, and other delicious bites and then sat down for Voluntary Action Islington’s AGM. The guest speaker was James Banks from London Funders who gave an interesting talk about volunteer engagement. He has been working and volunteering in London’s voluntary and community sector for over 15 years. Immediately prior to joining London Funders, James was Chief Executive at Greater London Volunteering, the regional membership body for social action charities in the capital.

After the AGM it was time for the awards which were presented by the Mayor of Islington. For our nominations in The Young Volunteer of the Year category, Samantha Dunne was nominated. Samantha has been volunteering with Centre 404 for the past year as one of our peer parent support volunteers where she helps other parents of children with a learning disability with filling out forms and offering support. In July she became a member of the family committee and a Trustee with us. It has been extremely valuable to have Sam on our board of trustees where she offers her opinion and aims to implement changes to help others in any way she can.

For Older Volunteer of the Year award we had two nominations, Greg and John. Greg has been volunteering with Centre 404 since August 2016. He volunteers as a Befriender at one of our Supported Living projects where we support 19 adults with learning disabilities as well as volunteers at our Friday Night Social where over 70 adults with learning disabilities attend every Friday. Greg is always really cheerful, positive and helpful: very hands on at managing entry into the event, as well as providing hospitality throughout the evening. As a befriender Greg provides support to our tenants at Leigh Road where he provides the extra social contact a person might be missing. Greg has been building relationships with the tenants, reads to them, does arts and crafts, and is always extremely proactive and helpful.

John has been volunteering with Centre 404 for over a year. He is 82 years old and comes in every Thursday for the whole day to help out with any given tasks. He is punctual, polite and an absolute pleasure to have. He sits in our reception area and is always extremely helpful to visitors and anyone in the community centre. In the past year he has helped out with research tasks, organising workshops and events as well as helping out at the events we have put on, where he has sold raffle tickets and at the quiz night helped with signing people in.  Whenever John has finished a task he will check it is done correctly and find out how he can be of any more assistance.

Finally for The Team of the Year award, our Friday Night Social Volunteers were nominated.

Liz, Head of Learning and Leisure wrote:  “I’d like to nominate all of the Friday Social volunteers for the Team of the year, as they regularly give up their Friday evenings to help out at Centre 404’s The Friday Night Social, which over 70 adults with learning disabilities attend, to ensure that others can have a good night out! As well as helping to manage entry into the event, which is a very busy task, they provide hospitality and ensure that everyone has a good time and feels safe and happy. They are on hand to dance with people who want a little extra support to get on the dance floor, or just to have a chat to those who don’t want to dance. Having volunteer support for the activity means we can open it out safely to a wider number of service users both from the local community and neighbouring boroughs. It means that adults with learning disabilities can access a safe activity on a Friday night in the community, rather than staying at home.”

The Friday Night Social is a fantastic event held weekly at Centre 404 and it is such a pleasure to have such wonderful volunteers who are so dedicated and who also really look forward to coming.

We had some wonderful nominations for the night and there was some strong competition. We didn’t win this year for the Older Volunteer or Team of the Year category but we didn’t come away empty handed. Samantha was commended as Young Volunteer of the Year award which was a wonderful achievement and it was a really fun night to spend with our volunteers.

Thank you to everyone who came and thank you to all our volunteers who consistently give up their valuable time for us. We would not be the same organisation without you.

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