Winners of our Volunteer Awards announced!

26 Feb 2019

Volunteers from across the country have been honoured by the Churches Conservation Trust in our annual Volunteer Awards, hosted at The British Library and supported by the Marsh Christian Trust.

The seven award categories recognised those who had made an outstanding contribution to their local church and community, illustrating the astonishing range of activities and events that take place across our 353 churches.

The seven categories were awarded as follows:

  • Volunteer of the Year for the North

Fel Birk, Christ the Consoler in Skelton-cum-Newby

  • Volunteer of the Year for the South East

Helen Saddleton, Area Volunteer in Essex

  • Volunteer of the Year for the West

Mary Szuster, St Cuthbert’s in Holme Lacy

  • Volunteer Team of the Year

Friends of St Bartholomew’s in Lower Basildon and Friends of Milton Mausoleum

  • Fundraising Volunteer of the Year

Teresa Brown, Holy Trinity in Privett

  • Young Volunteer of the Year

Roisin Ryan-Self, St Peter’s in Sudbury

  • Digital Volunteer of the Year

Jessica Clarke

Each winner was awarded £500 from the Marsh Christian Trust and attended an awards ceremony held in the British Library to celebrate their achievements.

Colin Shearer, Director of Regions at the Churches Conservation Trust, commented:

‘I am always so inspired by the time, work and commitment that our 1,800 volunteers across the country give to the Churches Conservation Trust.  It isn’t an overstatement to say that we simply wouldn’t work without them – they are the life and soul of their beautiful churches and we are incredibly grateful for all that they do. Our annual awards are a fantastic chance to acknowledge those individuals who go above and beyond, and to celebrate their achievements with our volunteer community.’

The winning volunteers were awarded for the following reasons:

  • Volunteer of the Year for the North -  Fel Birk, Christ the Consoler in Skelton-cum-Newby

Fel has regularly given his time to Christ the Consoler in Skelton-cum-Newby for the last 15 years, opening and closing the church daily since he lives nearby to the estate. After vandalism in the church which led to the removal of the wall safe, this volunteer used his initiative to place a temporary donations box in the church which he emptied himself each day. His dedication to the care of Christ the Consoler is truly admirable.

  • Volunteer of the Year for the South East  - Helen Saddleton, Area Volunteer in Essex

Helen joined two years ago as the first Area Volunteer in Essex for a number of years. She has since made a huge contribution to the understanding of maintenance issues at the five churches she supports. She visits the churches four times a year, making detailed reports that allow small problems to be identified and solved before they turn into larger issues. She has forged excellent relationships with local volunteers and provides an important additional tier of support for them

  • Volunteer of the Year for the West  - Mary Szuster, St Cuthbert’s Holme Lacy

Mary has lived in the big house next to St Cuthbert’s Holme Lacy for her whole life and actively cared for it throughout. This year she is moving away, but has offered to continue acting as key holder and care taker for the church and churchyard, as she has done for decades. In fact, it is highly unlikely that anyone visiting the church has not seen her on her lawnmower in the churchyard or cleaning the inside of the church. This year, she organised a display of home-made poppies for the centennial service marking the end of the Great War. St Cuthbert’s without her is impossible to imagine.

  • Volunteer Team of the Year
    • Friends of St Bartholomew’s in Lower Basildon

The Friends of St Bartholomew’s have been going from strength to strength. In 2018, they complete their clock restoration project for which they raised over £10,000. They were a great help in supporting the West Region’s Trustees Tour, hosting a volunteers celebration event for over 100 people at the church in May. Throughout 2018 they hosted 14 events at the church, while keeping the churchyard beautifully maintained and writing a comprehensive plan to sustain the church in the future.

  • Friends of Milton Mausoleum

The Friends of Milton Mausoleum were founded only three years ago to bring their historic building back into community use and have already raised over £10,000. They are a willing and determined team, and their efforts have recently been rewarded by the arrival of electricity in the building, thus enabling future events to be held all year round. The team have been chosen as a good practice model and have given assistance to other volunteering teams

  • Fundraising Volunteer of the Year  - Teresa Brown, Holy Trinity, Privett

As Volunteer Event Coordinator and Tower Captain at Holy Trinity, Teresa has always been an important part of the day to day activities of the church. In 2018, she went above and beyond in her role when she led the community in organising a fundraising flower festival at the church which raised £9,500 for urgent repairs to the North Wall of the church. She organised the committee members, flower arrangers and stewards to put together 28 flower displays across the weekend which were seen by over 500 people.

  • Young Volunteer of the Year  - Roisin Ryan-Self, St Peter’s in Sudbury

Roisin has been an event steward at St Peter’s in Sudbury and has recently taken on the role of Communications Officer. She has brought considerable experience from her day job at a marketing agency along with a fresh approach to how the church can promote itself on social media. Her efforts have helped to positively influence local perceptions of the church and she has struck the balance just right between encouraging new audiences while continuing to engage more traditional users. Largely thanks to her work, the church has been announced as a finalist for the Norfolk and Suffolk Tourism Awards in the Marketing Category.

  • Digital Volunteer of the Year  - Jessica Clarke

The Churches Conservation Trust has been given the opportunity to promote its historic churches on the Google Arts and Culture platform. In order to take full advantage of this opportunity, they needed volunteer support to research, organise and compile multiple digital ‘stories’ and exhibits. Jessica's support has enabled us to not only complete the project, but also to get the data into the right format for Google to accept it. She has also developed user guides for other volunteers to follow in the future and has overcome all technical issues with diligence and determination. Without her, the project would not have been such a success.

Read more about volunteering at the Churches Conservation Trust.