Volunteers are recognised for starring roles

Robert Cohen (left), who volunteers with the youth development team, was among those recognised

Robert Cohen (left), who volunteers with the youth development team, was among those recognised

A "good year for volunteering" at Jewish Care was celebrated at its awards ceremony, at which 37 groups and individuals were honoured for their contribution to the charity.

Improved support and recruitment strategies have seen Jewish Care increase its volunteer army from 2,500 to 2,800 over the past two years.

There has also been a renewed focus on matching people to areas they are best suited to. "We find them things they really want to do rather than ask them just to pitch up," explained volunteering and community development head Sonia Douek. "We are only taking people if we can find them a role."

The recruitment of a dedicated youth officer three years ago has resulted in the involvement of more young professionals. For example, young volunteers run the Sunday Club, offering activities and parties, every month at the Rela Goldhill care home.

Colin Chadwick (right)

Colin Chadwick (right)

More emphasis has been placed on training, so volunteers start prepared. "It's good for people to understand the clients and the ethos and to give them some skills," Mrs Douek said.

"It's been a good year and it's just as well because money is tight and we need to recognise that there are different ways of providing care."

Colin Chadwick is an example of a volunteer who has taken on a key role within the organisation.

Six weeks before head office staff moved into the Wohl campus in Golders Green, the IT manager left. Mr Chadwick stepped in, acting as a consultant to staff and a mentor to Richard Munns, the deputy director responsible for IT at the time.

His expert advice enabled a smooth transition process and he continues to help in maintaining a comprehensive risk and disaster recovery programme.

"It is hard enough to find paid consultants at short notice to complete a piece of work to the full satisfaction of an organisation," Mr Munns said.

"For us, finding Colin was a real godsend in that he understood the organisation and its intricacies and the need for us to continue business as usual in the light of a major structural move.

"Traditionally, we see a paid - and expensive - consultant as the preferred option. Having Colin taught us that not only is this not always necessary, but that sometimes a volunteer's commitment will be greater."

At the ceremony, outgoing Jewish Care chairman Stephen Zimmerman noted that the Big Society idea was not new to British Jewry.

"This concept is deeply embedded in the very soul of our community," he said.

    Last updated: 3:56pm, July 14 2011