Volunteer Ireland
Connecting Communities Through Volunteering

Volunteer Manager Awardees 2020

We are so proud to announce this years winners in the Volunteer Manager Category. This year we are celebrating three outstanding volunteers in each category.

Read each of their inspiring stories below.

Fiona McCaffrey Jones and Mary McCrystal, Truagh Development Association, Monaghan

Fiona and Mary manage Truagh Development Association’s rural social enterprise, the Community Services Programme (CSP) based at the Blackwater Valley Lifelong Learning, Cultural, ICT and Peace Centre in a rural border area in north County Monaghan.

Fiona and Mary completely changed the focus of the CSP in a very short time frame, between 13-17th March, when the Blackwater Centre closed and all services had to cease. It wasn’t easy for them and they were scared like the rest of the country but they set about ensuring the safety of the CSP staff and recruiting a huge team of volunteer drivers in order to deliver thousands of freshly prepared meals and care packages to older and vulnerable cocooners in north Monaghan.

Prior to the lockdown in March 2020, the CSP delivered around 40 meals per week to older people in the community as well as all their other services. Since 18th March the CSP has produced and delivered over 5,000 hot meals and delivered more than 4,000 care packages to older and vulnerable people in the community.

The pair supported their volunteers from recruitment through training through to empowerment and community engagement.

Nicola Yau, St Joseph’s Shankill, Dublin

Nicola Yau has, in two short years, transformed the volunteer and community programme at Saint Joseph’s Shankill. At the end of 2017 there were just fewer than 30 volunteers attending on a weekly basis covering roles in reception, entertainment, day care and some supporting staff in one of the lodges. She has tirelessly developed the programme through her creativity and passion and this is evident in the feedback from both staff and volunteers, in how they feel supported.

Volunteers are at the heart of the group’s commitment to providing holistic, person-centred, supportive and palliative care to people living with dementia. Currently there are over 160 volunteers actively involved in one of the 30 new volunteer roles that Nicola has been developed since she started work here in November 2017.

Nicola has created a designated area for volunteers, called the volunteer hub, which is colourful, full of origami butterflies and where people can work from (there are 2 desks and PCs) and store their belongings in one of the volunteer lockers.

Nicola never asks someone to take on a role that she hasn’t participated in herself. She leads by example and supports the staff to support the volunteers. All the staff team were educated in how to engage and include volunteers.

Nicola communicates regularly with the volunteers by text, emails phone calls and zoom meetings. She also sends a newsletter to all called the ‘Butterflier’, and every volunteer receives a card in the post for their birthday.

Rachel Fitzpatrick, Friends of the Elderly, Dublin

Rachel is in charge of a whole host of volunteers, usually visitation, friendly callers and shop volunteers. However through COVID-19 she was thrown into a role which required recruiting, training and supporting a whole new host of volunteers, alongside the existing team of regular volunteers.

Rachel had to go out on the road and work from a different location as the organisation took up services from Meals on Wheels that were cancelled due to their volunteers being older people themselves. She recruited, Garda Vetted and trained callers and drivers who would drop dinners and hampers to those most in need. Every day she coordinated the new volunteers and drivers to get vital practical help to desperately lonely and isolated older people around Dublin.

She lead the expansion of the Friendly Call Service and adapted the programme so volunteers could do their role safely from home if needed. She also added over 200 members to the lists to get calls each day and coordinated and supported the volunteers to take and make vital and sometimes very difficult calls to those struggling to cope with cocooning and the fear associated with COVID-19. Her support to the new and older volunteers was second to none and she was on call for every concern or worry that crossed their minds.