A driver, a team of lunchtime helpers, a group of charity shop workers, a listening line, and a JT reporter, were rewarded last week when Leeds Jewish Welfare Board acknowledged its unsung heroes.
The trophies, presented at a special community centre ceremony, gave a nod to the Welfare Board’s 200 volunteers who spend more than 22,000 hours annually, giving help, support and a welcoming smile but above all making a difference to people’s lives.
Hosting the event was Helen Lewis. The winning workers were told they were not only the lifeblood of the Leeds Jewish community but a source of tremendous inspiration.
Addressing a band of over 100 volunteers on the Board’s register, chief executive Liz Bradbury said the best gauge of any community is the way it looks after its vulnerable, and listed volunteering gifts as those of understanding, patience and dedication. She told the helpers: “You are all special; the work you do for the Board is tremendous and truly life-enhancing.”
She reminded the volunteers that those who set up the Welfare Board 140 years ago truly understood Tikkun Olam, a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness. “Thousands of our community have been helped by the Board and by our volunteers and continue to be so.”
She said: “Small or large acts of kindness can change a miserable, depressed day into one of sunshine, love, joy and even forgiveness,” she said. “Being human is what makes our lives worthwhile.”
Up for grabs were eleven awards for unsung heroes across a wide range of categories. Handing out the trophies was president Russell Manning who told the volunteers that so many things have happened since the organisation was founded in 1878. There had been “huge events and changes”, he said, including the relocation from the Queenshill Day Centre to the present building. “But here we are 140 years on, incredibly thriving and doing as well as we have ever done before,” he added.
“Part of that success is the engagement of loyal volunteers who help us and commit to what we are doing — they are absolutely incredible.”
Ms Bradbury added that to ease the suffering of others and to be of service is to be human and, because of the volunteers, someone will gain a friend and enjoy a conversation, someone will have been served a meal with care and compassion, and someone will know there are people in the world who care.
Those in the line-up to lift the coveted trophies were the team of helpers at the Welfare Board charity shop, as well as young volunteer Lara Bush, lunchtime volunteer Roselyn Manning, and community centre volunteers Freyda Stoller, Fiona Levi, Hazel Ruben, Fenella Conway and driver Gary Enkin.
All had shown true dedication to the organisation, commented Ms Lewis, and made a huge difference to people’s well being.
And there was even a nod to the Jewish Telegraph when reporter John Fisher scooped the special engagement award, offered by Ms Bradbury, for “spreading the good word” and raising awareness about the Board’s many achievements, projects and activities.
(Words By John Fisher)