Volunteer Manager of the Year

Ann Birney, Inner City Helping Homeless, Dublin

Ann Birney as the volunteer coordinator for Inner City Helping Homeless is the heart and soul of our charity. Despite being retired after 40 years in the Central Bank Ann does more hours weekly for ICHH than many people do in full time paid employment. She is the person in ICHH that everyone can turn to and rely on, from both the outreach volunteers to all of us on the management team. Ann has an unbelievable work ethic and attitude that puts ICHH and the volunteers above everything else, even herself.

ICHH has a hugely diverse volunteer base of about 220. We have men and women from 18-75 from all walks of life and Ann treats them all as individuals and tailors her support to the volunteers’ individual requirements. For example, while many of our volunteers interact via email/text to let ICHH know their availability each week there are a couple of our more senior volunteers that need the human touch so Ann rings them weekly to have a chat and see what their availability is for that coming week.

Ann is currently working with her volunteer assistant on several volunteer retention ideas to ensure that each and every volunteer feels valued and understands how important the time they give to ICHH is.

Majella Fennelly, SVT Activity and Wellness Hub, Laois

The SVT Activity and Wellness Hub comprises of a steering committee of five, a committee of 25 adult volunteers, and a group of 40 Youth Sport Leader volunteers. The SVT Activity and Wellness Hub is a group that links three communities in a rural area of Co. Laois – Stradbally, Vicarstown and Timahoe. The SVT Hub promotes physical activity in the three areas while also ensuring the health, wellbeing and social needs of the communities are reflected.

Majella is employed as SVT Co-ordinator for 20 hours per week – but these 20 hours are just the tip of the iceberg; Majella always goes the extra mile for the benefit of local participants.  She makes it her business to get to know her volunteers very well and identifies individual strengths and talents and puts those strengths and talents to excellent use within the group.  Majella, through her association with Laois Sports Partnership, Laois County Council, Sport Ireland and Mental Health Ireland, is very aware of available training, and is constantly organising courses, workshops and guest speakers for her volunteers, which greatly contributes to the personal and professional development of those who give up their time for the benefit of the community.

Many volunteers have been recruited to the SVT Activity and Wellness Hub over the past two years as they have been so impressed by Majella’s positive attitude and welcoming nature at events. Everyone is welcome and due to Majella’s spirit, the SVT Activity and Wellness Hub volunteers have now become more like a family rather than a committee.

According to Kathleen who nominated her “Majella loves reaching out to local groups to find out ways we can better work together and make the best use of the limited resources available. Since beginning her role, Majella has strived to make the most of the facilities we already had in the community, finding new ways to use these such as using the canal for kayaking, running walking events in the woods etc. Stradbally, Vicarstown and Timahoe are now better places to live because of Majella.”

Sara Murphy, Victim Support at Court (VSAC), Dublin

VSAC is a voluntary service that provides court accompaniment and support to victims of crime. Sara manages the Victim Support area in the Criminal Courts of Justice which deals mainly with murder and rape trials. Sara is known and loved by all the court services, most of the gardai and the legal profession within the court. She has been instrumental in creating what’s described by most visitors as a ‘little sanctuary’ in the Victim Support area of the court for victims of crime, their families, witnesses, friends and family support staff. Her reassuring, non judgemental and caring attitude puts the injured parties at ease as soon as they meet her.

She has developed good relationships with family liaison officers and other members of the Gardai who know that they can call her at any time to organise pre-trial court visits for families, book in with the service or drop in for a cuppa and chat. She is as much a friend as a manager to all the volunteers and other staff members of the service and ensures that everyone feels comfortable and confident with what they are doing. She is always available to talk things through or step in to support the volunteers or clients if needed. She keeps everything in the Victim Support area of the court running smoothly and efficiently.

Sara’s supportive, warmth and empathetic nature, as well as her knowledge of the court system, led to her being offered a part time role managing the volunteers in the Criminal Courts of Justice and helping with training of new volunteers.