Unsung charity heroes took the spotlight at a celebration evening held at Shearer's Bar in Newcastle. Certificates were presented to Children North East volunteers who had shown impressive levels of dedication in helping young people facing a range of issues. Certificates were awarded by former TFM Radio presenter and People's Postcode Lottery ambassador, Judie McCourt.
The majority of recipients who had given 50, 100 and 200 hours of volunteering were young people from Youth Link projects in Sedgefield, County Durham, Tynedale and Blyth in Northumberland. Children North East is currently setting up a further two projects in Newcastle.
Others receiving certificates represented the charity’s ‘BU’ mental health training programme, the West End Youth Enquiry Service (WEYES) project in Newcastle and the Families Plus service which has been supporting vulnerable families for 30 years.
Children North East volunteers are generally of a similar age to those who need help coping with problems such as low self-esteem, poor mental wellbeing and health and educational difficulties. Their unpaid dedication is all the more amazing when one realizes that it can take a year to reach 100 hours of volunteering.
Judie McCourt said: “Children North East volunteers do such a rewarding job; they're absolutely brilliant role models and it is great to see them recognised.”
Leanne Dunn, who has more than 200 hours of voluntary one-to-one mentoring, said: “I specialise in young people aged from 11 to 18. We talk through any of a range of issues that could include bullying, health problems and self-esteem. I find it very rewarding. I like helping people and it also helps me build up my own skills.”
Support from players of People's Postcode Lottery – who together with their sister lotteries in Sweden and Holland – is the world's third-largest private charity donor – is vital for funding for the charity's volunteer programmes.
Judie McCourt said: “Every week 250,000 tickets play with People's Postcode Lottery and every single ticket benefits charities where our players live. Children North East has received over £345,000 over the past five years."
At the Children North East volunteer event there was also a special award in memory of fundraisers Margaret Lawson and the late Olive Cook from Hebburn, South Tyneside. The two incredible ladies – who were well into pensionable age – loved nothing better than dressing as cowgirls to collect for Children North East in Newcastle's Bigg Market. Olive Cook died late last year after the pair had collected more than £1 Million for charity.