We held our annual Volunteer of the Year Awards ceremony at Halsway Manor on Friday 7th June 2019.

A big thank you to all who volunteer (not just in 2019!), to those who nominated a person or a group and to everyone who was able to join us for the event.

Here is our report

Volunteering charity Engage has again been celebrating the wonderful contribution that volunteers are making in their communities across Somerset West and Taunton and this year was thrilled to be able to bring the now traditional two awards ceremonies together in a historic location: Halsway Manor.

As previously, the awards were timed to coincide with National Volunteers Week, which is traditionally celebrated during the first seven days in June.

Katrina Midgley, Engage Chief Officer said:

“We are extremely grateful to Halsway Manor for allowing us to hold the awards ceremony in this beautiful building. It has made the event even more special for all the volunteers.”

This year’s awards continue to reflect the area (Taunton Deane or West Somerset) where the volunteers donated their time.

As in previous years, Exmoor National Park sponsored an Environmental Award for volunteers in the West Somerset area.

This year’s award went to Exmoor’s Historic Signposts volunteers, who were nominated by Charlotte Thomas.

Tony Jones for Age UK Advisors and Cllr Hazel Prior Sankey (L)

100 people volunteered to help with this project, which was prompted by the concern of local communities about the state of some signposts. The volunteers were drawn from 31 parishes and between them surveyed and painted over 200 signposts, thereby helping both residents and visitors to enjoy the local environment.

Charlotte was present at the ceremony and delighted to be able to give representatives of the volunteer group their award in person. She said:

“Although the funding for the project has come to an end, volunteers are still working hard and continuing to commit time and effort into making sure that the signposts are maintained in the future.”

The Group Award for the Taunton Deane area went to Age UK Somerset’s Information and Advice Volunteers who were nominated by Kate Barrington.

These volunteers visit older people in their homes and help them to complete the complex and often lengthy paperwork needed to claim the benefits they need.

Kate said:

“They deserve special recognition exactly because they don’t stand out… they will travel to the older person’s home to complete the forms which takes a couple of hours or more each time and then they go, moving on to the next case. They quietly go about their volunteering role with no fanfare.”

WS Advisors and Cllr Janet Lloyd

The West Somerset Advisers, nominated by Susan Clowes, received the Group Award for the West Somerset Area.

Susan, who described them as “My advice team”, said:

“The team have faced a very difficult time due to the loss of County Council funding. The volunteers have supported the staff who have been on short time working. The job they do is rarely recognised as our type of volunteer work goes under the radar.”

These volunteer groups received their awards from Mayor of Wellington, Councillor Janet Lloyd.

Tony Jones for Age UK Advisors and Cllr Hazel Prior Sankey (L)

The Age UK Somerset’s Information and Advice Volunteers went on to receive the overall Volunteer of the Year Award for Taunton Deane and were presented with an engraved silver plate by Chair of Somerset West and Taunton Council, Councillor Hazel Prior-Sankey.

The Individual Award for the Taunton Deane Area went to Denise Poole, who set up the Wellington running Club. Denise was nominated by Michael Sharpe of Taunton Running Club, who said:

“At the beginning of 2019, Denise organised the club’s first Couch to 5K programme and 72 people turned up on the first night.”

Michael added: “Denise has a presence that claims respect. Her organisation skills and enthusiasm are people focussed, always putting others before herself.”

Richard Seale, who volunteers behind the scenes at the Regal Theatre in Minehead, was named as the Individual Volunteer of the Year in the West Somerset area. Richard was nominated by Ray Tew as his work to maintain and improve the electrical systems within the building, as well as monitoring health and safety needs, enables the theatre to continue running.

Ray said:

“Many of the roles within the theatre have immediate impact and recognition but Richard’s work goes on quietly year in, year out without fanfare or celebration. His quiet, undemanding devotion to the slow development of the theatre has gone unsung for too long and is in danger of being taken for granted.”

Elaine Ross (for Richard Seale) and Cllr Benet Allen (L)

Sadly, Richard was unable to receive his award in person but was represented by Elaine Ross, on behalf of The MATA Regal Theatre Company Ltd.

Denise, and Elaine (on behalf of Richard) received their awards from Mayor of Minehead, Councillor Sandra Slade.

Richard went on to be awarded the overall Volunteer of the Year award for West Somerset, and the engraved silver plate was presented to Elaine Ross by Deputy Leader of Somerset West and Taunton Council, Councillor Benet Allen.

Engage and The Regal Theatre will formally present the award to Richard later in the year.

Updated 16/6/19