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Surprise awards for inspiring Darlington volunteers

community peer mentor

Volunteers gathered at an awards ceremony hosted by the Community Environmental Care Agency, PIC: Stuart Boulton

Read the full article in the Northern Echo

Volunteers working with the town’s Restorative Hub and Community Peer Mentor Scheme were pleasantly surprised to be presented with awards on Friday.

Aaron Jack, chair of the Community Environmental Care Agency, established the Community Pride Awards in a bid to give something back to volunteers like those who helped him to change his life.

Mr Jack, 23, turned his life around completely with the help of a volunteer mentor after long-running issues with a neighbour left him suicidal, isolated and vulnerable.

He says the experience taught him a lot about the value of volunteers and the vital role they play in the community.

Following Friday’s surprise awards ceremony, attended by Police, Crime and Victims Commissioner Ron Hogg, Mr Jack hopes to encourage people across Darlington to nominate other volunteers and good causes for a Community Pride Award.

He said: “My mentor saved my life and I don’t think volunteers working in the community get enough recognition – they are integral to so many organisations - I’d love people to nominate anyone they think should receive an award.”

Jim Cunningham, who leads the Community Peer Mentor initiative, has worked with Mr Jack and was one of those to receive an award on Friday.

He said: “I wasn’t expecting this, it was a lovely surprise, but the nicest thing is having watched Aaron grow and change.

“This is down to his hard work and the great thing about this project is that we are there to encourage and empower people like him.”

Also receiving awards were Sally Forth and Andrew Hancock from the town’s Restorative Hub, which works to address community disputes and facilitate mediation between offenders and their victims.

Ms Forth said: “It is lovely to have the work we do recognised and, it’s especially nice that this is coming from Aaron and his organisation.”

Mr Hancock added: “I’m quite overwhelmed by it, I’ve known Aaron for a long time and am pleased to see him doing so well.

“Seeing him start his own organisation is so inspiring, especially knowing it will make such a big contribution to the community.”

To make a nomination in the Community Pride Awards, visit tceca.org.uk or call 0333 4050340.

Posted on Friday 20th January 2017
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