Wise words and worthy winners: a night of celebration to reward and applaud Norwood’s ‘lifeblood’

12 September 2019

On Tuesday 10 September, 250 people gathered at an elegant ballroom in north London to discover who had won Norwood’s Volunteer Recognition Awards 2019 (VRAs).

Before the gongs (actually engraved glass trophies) were handed out, Norwood’s joint president, Nicola Mendelsohn CBE, told the room: “Our volunteers are the lifeblood of this organisation and we are beyond grateful for the vital part you all play in keeping Norwood’s heart beating.”

Over the course of the evening, there were many life-changing tales to be told. The winner of one award, Michael Scott, who facilitates Shabbat and Jewish festivals in one of Norwood’s residences, said: “I’ve been doing it for about 22 years and I can’t even say I volunteered. The home had just opened and someone from my shul phoned asking me if I’d go along, and I couldn’t think of a good excuse not to. Twenty-two years later, I’m too polite to stop going.”

The winner of the Charity Retail Award, James Fleming, had been volunteering for a similar length of time, though his own reasons were somewhat different: “When I started [at Norwood’s Golders Green shop], I was very ill. Volunteering gave me a routine. If I’d stayed at home, it wouldn’t have been good for me so volunteering for Norwood has been beneficial for me, too.

The evening’s Fundraising Award went to Douglas Silas, a lawyer specialising in special educational needs cases. Douglas, who is physically disabled and uses a wheelchair, has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds over the years for Norwood, taking part in Norwood’s international challenges on a specially modified recumbent trike. When he undertakes his 10th Norwood Challenge this autumn in Israel, Douglas will, for the first time, be accompanied by his 20-year-old daughter Talia, who was with him at the VRAs and said simply: “He’s the best dad in the world and I’m so proud of him.”

Perhaps the biggest cheer of the evening came at the end of the ceremony, with the presentation of the Special Commendation Award to the staff, volunteers and trainees of Sara’s Kitchen, the social enterprise, training centre and unique working café at the heart of Norwood’s Kennedy Leigh Family Centre in Hendon.

The evening’s host and the chair of the VRAs committee, Rachael Davis-Stoller, closed the event saying: “It is the combination of dedication, better ideas, higher bars and turning occasional visits into regular ones that makes Norwood such a magical organisation. Every little change and every extra effort we put in makes the ordinary extraordinary. It is this that turns an impact on a life into a change to a life, both for the people we support and the people who volunteer.”


Community Award – Kenton Synagogue

Charity Retail Award – James Fleming

School Award – The Henrietta Barnett School

Unsung Hero Award – Peter Gibson

Young People Award – Sharankann Karunanithy

Lady J Award – Michael Scott

Corporate Partnership Award – Bayer

Fundraising Award – Douglas Silas and Norwood’s Challenge Ambassadors

Outstanding Contribution Award – Sharon Green

Special Commendation Award – Sara’s Kitchen

The Volunteer Recognition Awards in pictures

Fundraising Award winner Douglas Silas and his daughter, Talia

Charity Retail Award winner James Fleming with, from left, host and chair of the VRA Committee, Rachael Davis-Stoller; Norwood honorary life president, Carol Sopher; and Jennie Wharram, head of volunteering and trading

Michael Scott receives his Lady J Award from Lady Amélie Jakobovitz’s daughter, Esther Pearlman

The Sara’s Kitchen team receive their Special Commendation Award

– ENDS –

Norwood volunteering

Norwood relies on about 1,500 volunteers who give their time regularly to support our work. Hundreds more support our events and fundraising activities.

People choose to volunteer for Norwood for so many reasons, but they all have one thing in common: an understanding of how important it is to support our work in their communities.

There are many ways that people can help support Norwood’s work. Whatever their skills or interests, we are bound to have something they will enjoy doing.

Anyone wishing to apply to be a volunteer can call Norwood’s volunteering team on 020 8420 6926 or email volunteering@norwood.org.uk.

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