Suffolk Libraries rewards its amazing volunteer champions for 2024!

June 4, 2024
June 4, 2024
James Powell

Suffolk Libraries, the charity that runs the library service in Suffolk, has been marking National Volunteer Week by rewarding the community heroes who volunteer to support the county’s library service.

The fourth Suffolk Libraries People’s Champions Awards was held at Suffolk Food Museum this week where the winners were announced across six different categories, reflecting the huge range and impact of the volunteering roles which support Suffolk Libraries in our communities.

The event was compered by Suffolk Libraries patron and former BBC Suffolk presenter Lesley Dolphin. Around 120 people came along to hear many moving and uplifting stories about the volunteers who were shortlisted with the winners then being announced and being presented with their certificates by a series of special guests.  

Suffolk Libraries currently has 1,262 registered volunteers who dedicated an amazing 35,500 hours of their time in 2023-24 in various roles including running the Home Library Service, supporting library Friends’ Groups or the summer reading challenges and many other volunteering roles in libraries.  

Diane Muirhead, Suffolk Libraries Volunteer Engagement Manager, said:  

“These awards help us to highlight and acknowledge the massive contribution of all our volunteers across Suffolk. We have volunteers of all ages who are all vital to the work we do in Suffolk’s communities and help us to reach out and do so much more to help people. It’s always very tough for our judging panel to choose the overall winners but our People’s Champions Awards are a way of paying tribute to our volunteers – they are all amazing!”  

The winners of the Suffolk Libraries People’s Champions Awards 2024 were as follows:

Inspirational award won by Samantha Potter from Kessingland Library

Sam runs the Sunday craft club for children. Her passion for learning and giving children the best start in life is evident in everything she does. Her craft sessions encourage the children to think about books they have read, family relationships, or emotions they feel. She supports parents with concerns about their children's development and makes everyone feel uplifted.  

Also shortlisted were Jen Evans from Kesgrave Library for her support for the library’s M-Powered menopause support group and Elaine Baldock from Lowestoft Library who is a Home Library Service volunteer.  

Innovation award – won by Steven Clay

Steven set up and runs the coding club at Southwold Library. He repurposed old laptops for the session which is attended by 8-12-year-olds who have learned the basics of computer coding, and become a focused and enthusiastic group of young people who are now much more engaged in the library.

Young volunteer award – won by Carl Conway from Brandon Library

Carl has been a brilliant, resourceful, kind and empathetic volunteer who has helped at the library for every Sunday for four years. Since the age of 12, Carl has supported the staff with everything from helping with shelf checks, to supporting the Lego Club and helping with social media content.  Carl has inspired other young people to volunteer at the library and was recognised last year with a Best of Brandon Award and has also completed his bronze and silver DoE award at the library. 

The quality of the nominations in this category was so high that the judging panel decided to also award a special commendation to the other three shortlisted nominees – Honey Coleby from Great Cornard Library, Abigail Brassington from Haverhill Library and Holly Caley from Felixstowe Library.  

Volunteers Choice – won by Heather Welch from Great Cornard Library

This award is for a member of Suffolk Libraries staff who goes above and beyond to support volunteers. Heather and her team are always open to ideas from volunteers and are so supportive of all their volunteers. One of the people who nominated Heather said, “I moved from London eight years ago and didn't drive. I lived next to Great Cornard Library so this was the first place I went with my two year old son. Heather was the first person I met. She introduced me to the other staff and the library activities and I became a regular. A few years later I was in the library when I got a phone call to say that I had cancer. Heather held me in her arms while I was crying. She looked after my son while I was regrouping. Heather is like that with everyone: caring, compassionate, softly spoken, helpful. What an asset to Suffolk Libraries.” 

Also shortlisted were Courtney Thorpe who works at Ixworth Library and Susan Hughes who works at Felixstowe Library.

Team award – won by the Voices for Gainsborough Community Library

Voices are an amazing group of volunteers who are constantly giving their time to enable the library to offer more to the local community. They run the library café and over the last two winters have provided free hot drinks and snacks to those hit hardest by the cost of living crisis. For the last three years the group have run a fruit and veg pop-up shop providing healthy produce from a local market at only £2 a bag with 50 bags now being sold every week. Over the last five years the group have raised an amazing £30,000 to create a new garden room at library which is opening this month.  

Also shortlisted were the Friends of Hadleigh Library, Friends of Capel Library and the Friends of Bury Library.  

Exceptional contribution award – won by Alix Brain from Great Cornard Library

Alix is involved in various volunteering roles at the library and is described as a fantastic and exceptional volunteer who has enhanced the library and benefitted all the people she has been involved with. She quietly inspires others with her care, the time she gives and her tireless support.  Alix’s support for the young people attending the library’s Blank Page workshops inspired two of them to volunteer for the library themselves. Last September, Alix also hosted an afternoon tea in her garden for friends and family - raising nearly £400 for Suffolk Libraries.  

Also shortlisted were Dee Jenings and her reading dog Ash from Southwold Library and Ian Denison from the Chantry Library cancer support group.

A Special Contribution Award was also given to former Suffolk Libraries Board member Colin Rockall who has also been a driving force behind the Friends of Lavenham Library for many years.

Suffolk Libraries would like to thank all those who gave up their time to present awards, including Debra Reay, Suffolk Libraries Chair; Hannah Bloom Director of Philanthropy at Suffolk Community Foundation; Hanna Reid, Chief Executive of Community Action Suffolk; Jason Joseph, Head of Mental Health Transformation at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Oli Drury, Head of Member and Customer Support at the East of England Food Co-op. 

Suffolk Libraries is currently recruiting volunteers to help run the new summer literacy campaign Reading Quest. Anyone interested in this and the various and rewarding volunteering roles on offer with Suffolk Libraries can visit our website.

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