Jewish volunteers are highly prized


The director of the Jewish Volunteering Network hopes the upcoming JVN awards will encourage more people to offer unpaid help to communal charities at a time when government funding cuts have increased the need for their work.

JVN, which has 5,000 volunteers to match with charities, will distribute 13 awards at the awards ceremony at Finchley Synagogue.

"People give [their time] because they want to give, but people also like to be thanked," said JVN director Leonie Lewis. "Awards are a simple way of recognising someone's contribution."

Ms Lewis said JVN was particularly trying to reach younger people and was working with youth organisations such as JLGB, as well as with Lead, part of the Jewish Leadership Council, to find suitable opportunities.

She said skilled volunteers had been taking prominent roles where charities were forced to reduce staff costs because of government funding cuts.

At children and families charity Norwood, volunteer manager Jennie Wharram said volunteers last year contributed more than 180,000 hours, equivalent to a £2 million contribution. The charity has around 700 regular volunteers and also receives corporate support amounting to more than 4,000 hours annually. It recently appointed a young persons' leader to help match the charity's needs with those of potential young volunteers.

At Jewish Care's volunteer awards this year, chairman Steven Lewis said: "The organisation was founded on many entirely volunteer-led services and was a response by community members to situations people found themselves in. Without their commitment, Jewish Care as we know it today would probably not exist." It has about 3,000 volunteers, providing an estimated £9.25 million worth of support.

Manchester welfare organisation, The Fed, said its last annual report recorded 39,160 volunteer hours valued at £270,000, equating to the salaries of 19 full-time carers. Diane Richardson, south Manchester office manager, said it "could not survive without them. They're involved in almost every aspect of our work".

As part of the JVN honours, JC readers were asked to nominate volunteers for the People's Choice Award. The winner will receive £500 to be donated to the volunteering department of their chosen charity.

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