Community Volunteering Award Nominees

Wendy Lewis – Free2B-Me Online LGBT Community
After recently leaving her post as a community worker at Bradford’s Equity Partnership due to loss of funding, Wendy has continued her work supporting the LGBT community in the wider district and beyond in a voluntary capacity by setting up an online resource and magazine centre via, in the main, the following facebook page:

At a time when all charities are suffering, Wendy’s online community is aiming to keep communication channels and information sharing going and, in a short time, has amassed almost 100 contributors.  She is continuing work that she was previously paid to do, but now on an unpaid basis.
It is always topical and is needed to ensure that information is available to support members of the LGBTQ+ communities of all ages, races and religions.  Maintaining an online presence ensures this is accessible where most needed and to those who most need it at a time when reference to “different” or same sex relationships is once again so controversial in schools, particularly in Muslim areas, many of which are in our region.
The community is a closed community and effectively moderated, again voluntarily, so that anyone can access its information services and, if necessary, can be signposted to the more specific services they might require, whilst being certain their anonymity is protected.

Jacqui Drake – ‘Jacqui’s Million’ appeal
Despite her ongoing battle with cancer since 1993 and her terminal diagnosis with stage 4 malignant melanoma, Jacqui Drake has remained positive and has pledged to raise as much money as possible to benefit patients at Leeds Cancer Centre through Leeds Cares. She set up her ‘Jacqui’s Million’ appeal several years ago aiming to raise awareness and an astonishing £1 million for the Leeds Cancer Centre at St James’s Hospital, where she has been treated since 2009.

In August 2018 Jacqui reached a major milestone in her appeal raising an incredible £100,000 (10% of her target!). She has worked tirelessly putting on fundraising events, including an annual 80s night, and has also produced her own range of ‘Positivity’ merchandise, which she regularly sells in the Bexley Wing with all proceeds going to Leeds Cancer Centre. Jacqui’s most recent success was at her spectacular Greatest Showman Ball on Saturday 23 March. The event raised a phenomenal £31,500 for Leeds Cancer Centre through ticket sales, a raffle and an auction!

The first £110,000 raised from the ‘Jacqui’s Million’ appeal has been allocated to purchase ten scalp coolers. These innovative caps can work towards reducing hair loss for patients during chemotherapy and are not routinely funded by the NHS. A further £56,000 of Jacqui’s fundraising has been used to fund a specific nurse position for a 12-month period.

Susan Williams – Soroptimist International of Harrogate and District
Sue Williams is enthusiastic and shows leadership in helping make a difference in her local community. Sue is a member of Soroptimist International of Harrogate and District. In the summer of 2018 Sue became aware that her local library in Knaresborough was struggling to provide craft materials and educational toys used for children’s activities.  She brought a proposal to the Soroptimists to provide craft materials and educational toys for children’s activities in libraries across Harrogate District and Wetherby. The libraries have been through a very difficult time and suffered major budget cuts, with funding for activities for children slashed.

The underlying aim of the project was to remove any barriers which prevent children from accessing activities in the belief that, “ if we can get very young children into libraries and confident around books, this gives them a head start with reading and in turn provides a massive boost to their educational attainment”. Sadly even asking for a voluntary donation to cover the cost of crayons and glue can be enough to put off some of the most vulnerable families, which is why Sue wanted the Soroptimists’ support to make craft activities completely free.

Members of the Club contacted all the libraries in the Harrogate District and Wetherby area to find out if they were struggling to provide children’s activities and whether they wanted any craft materials. There are a total of nine libraries across the area and seven libraries very enthusiastically took up the offer. (The other two are very small, volunteer-led libraries, which do not offer activities for children.) The Club provided a small amount of funding to get the project started (approximately £180). Sue has worked diligently to contact other service organisations, such as the Lions and Masonic Lodges in the local area, to raise awareness and ask for donations. Over £1600 has been donated so far. Other grants and donations have been promised. The aim was initially to raise £450 so each library would get £50 for crayons and glue. This target has been massively exceeded and libraries have been able to use funding to provide inclusive activities for disabled children, as well as buying new toys and equipment. The Club has benefited too, working together with the Lions and Masonic Lodges, and also raising awareness in the local paper of the need to support our local libraries.

Sue’s enthusiasm and commitment to make a difference has had a spin off; Sue was asked if the Club could help out with the local Red Box Project, because as one of the librarians put it, ‘you are ladies who get things done.’ Needless to say, with Sue taking the lead, this has become a major project for the Club and we are learning so much about period poverty and how girls struggle, even in our supposedly very affluent area. Soroptimist International of Harrogate and District are working alongside other volunteers, and are contributing to the distribution and collection of Red Boxes across the district.

Rebecca Harland – Red Box Scheme
Rebecca started The Red Box Scheme for Period Poverty in the Selby  area  She has put boxes of sanitary products in most schools and colleges for students who cannot afford these items, which leads to missed days of education. She has set up collection points in quite a few shops and at various locations for donations, and has set this up on her own. She has had a few donations from the Selby Member of Parliament, Selby Masonic Lodge and Selby Soroptimists. Rebecca certainly deserves this award in recognition for her work for the health and wellbeing of young women in this community.