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Honouring the people giving back to society
5:00pm Tuesday 22nd April 2014 in News
THE tireless and selfless efforts of ten people in volunteer and community work will tonight be honoured by Oxford’s Lord Mayor in a public ceremony.
Lord Mayor Dee Sinclair will present Certificates of Honour at the ceremony at Oxford Town Hall.
All but one of the recipients are involved in volunteer charity work, with the exception working full-time with the city’s homeless.
“It’s good to see the range of nominations,” said Mrs Sinclair.
“These are people who work under the radar.”
These are the only City of Oxford awards that the mayor is involved in and the council asks for nominations from the public for the annual awards.
The certificates are presented to local residents who have provided exceptional services to others in Oxford.
The successful recipients were chosen from public nominations by the Lord Mayor and the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevenson, supported by Kathy Shaw, chief executive of Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action.
SPEAKING UP FOR THE DEAF AND BLIND
MARGARET Simpson first became involved in charity work in the 1980s when she investigated whether her mother, who is profoundly deaf, should have a hearing dog.
Since then, Mrs Simpson, 72, of Headington, has been a speaker and fundraiser for Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, and has taken on a variety of other volunteer work.
- Margaret Simpson
These include chair of Oxtalk, Oxford’s newspaper for the blind, a trustee of the Oxford Association for the Blind, chair of the Fifty Plus Network – a local policy and lobby group for older people – as well as helping the Oxford Centre for Diabetes.
The latter was triggered by a surprise diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in 2006.
“That came out of the blue,” she said. “I’d had no symptoms.”
Mrs Simpson, right, who has two children and three grandchildren, started working as a specialised physical education teacher, before moving into educating prisoners in the 1970s, organising homes for mentally ill patients transitioning out of hospitals back into the community, and finding support housing for the homeless in Oxford.
Mrs Simpson, who retired in 2000, will be attending the ceremony with her mother, Joan Morris, who is now 94.
'EVERYBODY HAS A STORY TO TELL'
LESLEY Dewhurst began life as an English major at the University of London, then briefly worked as a theatre actress and stage manager, before moving into helping the homeless and other people in need.
The link throughout her varied career has been people’s stories.
“Everybody has their own story to tell, and I’m very curious about their stories,” she said.
Understanding them helps “improve their lives”, she added.
- Lesley Dewhurst
Mrs Dewhurst, 54, of South Oxford, who has three adult children, has been chief executive of the charity Oxford Homeless Pathways since 2003.
She is also a trustee of the national organisation Homeless Link, which lobbies on behalf of homeless people.
“Things are definitely worse for people in Oxford because of the economic downturn, welfare reform and the unaffordability of housing in Oxford,” she said.
“There are more people coming on to the streets and there are fewer people
REWARDING WORK WITH SAMARITANS
RICHARD Balkwill has listened to thousands of calls and has volunteered for more than 30 years as a Samaritan in Oxford.
Mr Balkwill, 67, from Tiddington, said: “The reward is feeling that you are giving something back. It is about really, really listening to what they say and how they feel.
“It can be very demanding and sometimes a raw nerve will be touched.”
- Richard Balkwill
The retired publisher, pictured, worked for Macmillan for 15 years and started volunteering for the Samaritans in 1984 after speaking to volunteers in London.
He lives with his wife of 39 years, Elisabeth, and is looking forward to taking his daughter Emily to the ceremony.
Mr Balkwill, who has also taught MA publishing students at Oxford Brookes, has four daughters and 11 grandchildren.
FRIENDLY FACE EASES FEARS OF LONELINESS
OVER the past four years, Jeremy Herklots has provided a critical role for the Oxford charity the Archway Foundation as treasurer and a trustee.
Mr Herklots, 77, has been able to draw on his self-taught IT skills, having once run his own business setting up computerised accounts systems for small companies.
“I’m a bit of a jack-of-all-trades,” said the Headington Quarry resident.
- Jeremy Herklots
Having started work as a submariner in the Royal Navy, Mr Herklots once helped run a small mining town in Guinea in West Africa in the early 1970s.
Archway, he said, offers a critical service assisting people who are lonely.
“Loneliness can verge on mental troubles like depression and things like that,” he said.
PHONE COUNSELLOR'S 35 YEARS OF SERVICE
JEAN White believes the strength of the Oxford Samaritans is that they offer people “a listening ear” which is “not going to judge them”.
Mrs White, 73, from Abingdon, has clocked up more than 8,000 hours as a volunteer phone counsellor for the charity over the past 35 years.
She first became involved after returning to the UK following a stint living in the US, and attending a speaker event held by the Samaritans.
“I thought, maybe this is for me, to do something for my community,” she said.
“We pride ourselves on not revealing anything about the people who phone us. We have all sorts of people, from all walks of life.”
It’s often difficult, however. “We have had people who have committed suicide,” she said. “That’s what you have to accept.”
The mother of two sons, who both live in the US, is retired, after working as an administrator in catering.
BETTER LIFE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
AMANDA Robson is to be awarded for her work in setting up and running the weekly youth group at South Oxford Adventure Playground.
Up to 40 children aged between 11 and 14 now attend the group, which is known as SOAPY.
- Amanda Robson
The mum-of-two, from Vicarage Road, said she was touched to have been picked for the certificate.
She said: “I do not do the voluntary work I do for recognition, I do it because I think the kids need something to do.”
The 51-year-old, who is a teaching assistant at St Ebbe’s Primary School, said she also founded the club because she noticed primary school children in South Oxford were being split up when they went to secondary schools.
She said: “It was an opportunity to give them a meeting place where they could just remain in touch with their friends who they had been at nursery school and primary school with.”
ON THE ROAD TO CLEANER STREETS
KEEN runner Paul Brackett, below, started volunteering for the Oxford Civic Society’s OxClean initiative after clearing up rubbish on his weekly runs.
The 54 year-old believes that eveybody should try to work to keep the neighbourhood tidy.
- Paul Brackett
He said: “It all fits in with my lifestyle. If everybody looked after their little space, it would just be a tidy place to live in.”
The cleaner from Blackbird Leys also runs the IWCA Athletics Club and helped to set up the Blackbird Leys Mile to encourage people to take part in outdoor sport.
A modest man, Mr Brackett finds his reward in “doing” and fits the Oxclean volunteering in with his offroad routes.
RESIDENTS GIVEN A CAMPAIGNING VOICE
Patrick Coulter has taken a strong role in local politics for more than 30 years and hopes to make a difference in the lives of Headington residents.
Mr Coulter, 70, from Stapleton Road, said: “It is just what I enjoy doing.
“I am a member of the Highfield Residents’ Association and it is here to improve the quality of life. We have been campaigning on traffic issues and improving the local environment.”
- Patrick Coulter
Mr Coulter, pictured, is one of the founding members of Headington Action, a community group which created the Headington Farmers’ Market.
He was a councillor in Kidlington in the 1980s and is married to Jane Coulter.
They have three children – Katharine, Johnathan and Tanya.
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