Volunteer up for national award

A committed volunteer who devoted 10 years to serving a charity she helped set up has been shortlisted for a national award.

Wednesday, 9th November 2016, 11:31 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 15:21 pm
Lesley Stephenson with Tom Hammill.

Lesley Stephenson, from Berwick, will join two other finalists from across the UK in the running for the Volunteer of the Year title at the national awards ceremony organised by Headway – the brain injury association.

The accolade will be presented at a ceremony at The Dorchester Hotel in London on December 16.

Lesley, 65, helped set up Headway North Northumberland, a charity that supports individuals affected by brain injury and their families, in 2006 when her close friend’s husband, Tom Hamill, suffered a stroke and was left with a severe brain injury.

Tom’s brain injury occurred around the time Lesley’s own mother had suffered a series of strokes and was living with her daughter for support. Close neighbours, the two families supported each other.

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Having identified a gap in local support services, Lesley agreed to put her banking and accounting experience to good use and joined Tom’s new Headway North Northumberland charity as treasurer.

Each year, Lesley organises and runs a tea-room project at Kelso Races, which this year raised more than £800.

Recently, Lesley arranged a Berwick to Eyemouth walk with staff from the local Santander branch, which raised around £1,500. Other outings have included taking service users to the Farnes.

Lesley also organises a monthly activity day for brain injury survivors and their families to take respite from their daily challenges and enjoy an outing together where they can make friends and meet like-minded people.

In addition, Lesley also works closely with local stakeholders and is constantly searching for funding opportunities to ensure the continued survival of the charity.

“I’m still a bit overwhelmed by such lovely recognition,” said Lesley. “It feels strange to be praised for doing something we all enjoy so much.

“For many of our members, brain injury can put a wide range of stresses on their plate. We have had tremendous support locally over the years, and I’d like to thank all the volunteers and local businesses that have helped so considerably to keep our vital frontline services running for people affected by brain injury.

“Our group members are just amazing and the trips provide a chance for members to socialise and build up confidence after brain injury. We all have a great time and everyone gets something out of it. If these activity days can offer respite, even if only once a month, from their life challenges after brain injury, it is all worth it.”

It was fellow volunteer, Sarah Young, who put Lesley forward for the award.

“Lesley has a big heart and is the driving force behind the local charity,” said Sarah. “She seeks no reward for her efforts other than to see the joy and pleasure Headway members gain from taking part in all of the wonderful events she organises. For many service users, the charity’s activity sessions are the highlight of their month and these days simply would not happen without the indescribably selfless commitment Lesley throws into everything she does with the group.”