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Suffolk Libraries rewards volunteer champions

Volunteer Engagement Manager Diane Moore with award winners Emma Fakes, Chloe Peck, Monica Ford, Charlotte Evans, Liz Ditton, Maggie Lusher (receiving the award on behalf of Gemma Southwood) and Mandy Grimwood

L-R: Volunteer Engagement Manager Diane Moore with award winners Emma Fakes, Chloe Peck, Monica Ford, Charlotte Evans, Liz Ditton, Maggie Lusher (receiving the award on behalf of Gemma Southwood) and Mandy Grimwood.

On Wednesday 20 November, Suffolk Libraries held its first ever 'People's Champions Awards' to recognise volunteers' vital contribution to the county’s library service.

The seven category winners were:

  • Young Volunteer of the Year: Emma Fakes, volunteer at Thurston Library
  • Dedicated Volunteer: Monica Ford, retired volunteer at Broomhill Library
  • The People's Choice award (for staff who support volunteers): Mandy Grimwood, Manager of Gainsborough Community Library
  • Volunteer Team: Kesgrave Library Community Group
  • Innovation: Gemma Southwood, volunteer at Kesgrave Library
  • Exceptional Contribution: Charlotte Evans, volunteer and Broomhill Library
  • Inspirational Volunteer: Chloe Peck, volunteer at Capel St Mary Library

The event was attended by around 220 people and compered by BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Lesley Dolphin, herself a member of Felixstowe Library friends group. An independent panel shortlisted several people for each award and selected the winners from 68 nominations made by staff and other volunteers.

Bruce Leeke, CEO of Suffolk Libraries, said: "We’re incredibly lucky to have an army of volunteers across the county covering a wide range of roles to support and enhance the library service. They support our staff, help us to raise money and organise events and are genuinely one of the chief reasons Suffolk Libraries has been so successful over the past few years.

"Although there are seven winners I’d like to pay tribute to all those nominated and every single one of our volunteers across the county and their contribution to their communities."

Winner of the Dedicated Volunteer award, Monica Ford, recently retired after an amazing 32 years of being a Home Library Service volunteer at Broomhill Library. She said of her volunteer experience: "I learned to be a bit more tolerant and understanding of people. It’s been enjoyable and I would recommend it, it’s just a nice thing to do."

1,170 volunteers make a contribution to our libraries in their own time, supporting staff in various ways including participating in community or friends groups, running the Home Library Service and helping with the Summer Reading Challenge.

Volunteers completed 4,771 days of volunteering or work experience last year. Volunteer awards have formed part of Suffolk Libraries’ AGM for the past few years, but this is the first year a special celebration event has taken place.

The awards were presented by Freddie Gathorne-Hardy, CEO of Christie's Care; County Councillor Paul West; David Sheepshanks CBE, former chairman of Ipswich Town Football Club, Sylvia Knights, Suffolk Libraries Board Member and member of Bungay Library Friends Group; Bruce Leeke, CEO of Suffolk Libraries; Jenni Carberry, Enterprise and Business Development Manager at the University of Suffolk and Corrina Hanley, Volunteer Manager at Suffolk Mind.