Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Awards celebration for outstanding Home-Start volunteers

STAFF, volunteers and supporters came together earlier this month to celebrate the amazing achievements of several volunteers at local families charity Home-Start Wessex.

Michelle Dixon was given a special award for 20 years of service with Home-Start. Michelle joined the charity in 2001 as a volunteer playworker. She went on to become a preschool team leader and then a coordinator in 2006. Michelle was promoted to Senior Coordinator and Training Lead and played a key role during the pandemic in finding innovative approaches to continue training volunteers. She has personally coached over 500 volunteers enabling over 2,500 children to have a better start in life. 

Sarah Gardiner was recognised for her 10 years of service as a volunteer supporting families in the local area, and Nicki Gibbons was given a two-year volunteering award.

Sarah said:

“I have enjoyed all of the families I have worked with, and I have learnt such a lot. It’s not just us giving, it’s us learning too.”

Peter Grigg, CEO of Home-Start UK, came to present the awards at a special afternoon tea. Addressing the guests, Peter said:

“There are so many pressures that families face. What Home-Start can do is give time. Precious time to spend with families who really need it. That’s what makes a difference. There is something really special and magic about Home-Start. You find really clear values around humility, humanity and humour. Families that we work with have so much going on in their lives that something you just need to get on the floor, play with the kids and have a laugh. It’s in that moment you can make a real difference for families.”

Chris Thomas, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Home-Start Wessex, said:

“It’s amazing what’s been achieved over the last year, especially in the shadow of the pandemic. I’ve had the privilege of seeing our staff and volunteers in action and you all have such compassion, professionalism and great commitment to what you do. It’s going to be challenging twelve months ahead, but I know we will be a leading light in family care and support in Wessex.”

Kathy Fryatt-Banks, Chief Executive of Home-Start Wessex, added:

“The reason why we’ve come so far over the past few years is that every single person who works or volunteers for Home-Start is 100% committed, dedicated and passionate about what we are doing. That is what makes a big difference to families. They know that we’re there for them, we’re non-judgemental, and all we want to do is help them bring up their child in the best way they can with the resources we’ve got. 

“We know we will support over 300 families this year, the highest number we have ever supported. We support those families for six months to make sure they are on the right path. I want to thank everyone who has supported us and funded us, especially all those volunteers as they are the ones on the road, helping families, as we couldn’t do it without them.”

The event also celebrated the generous local businesses who came together to support the charity during their 25 for 25 campaign.

Caroline Pope, Community & Corporate Engagement Manager at Home-Start Wessex said:

“When we launched into our 25th anniversary year, I came up with the idea of getting 25 businesses to all give us £800, so we could help 25 more families. Luckily, local businessmen Shan and Steve jumped on board and helped make it happen.”

Receiving a gift of thanks for his contribution, Shan Seewooruthun from Amirez Developments said:

“For us, it was an honour to support the campaign. We would like to say well done to all of you for putting your time and effort in, helping make local families’ lives easier. We know the money really does go to local children and is used in the best way.”

Caroline also thanked Kate Ware from The Bath Works, who not only supported the 25 for 25 campaigns but also went on to run a January sale, donating an additional £4,700 for the charity. 

Guests at the event included Peter Grigg, CEO of Home-Start UK, Chris Thomas, Chair of the Board of Home-Start Wessex Trustees, Kathy Fryatt-Banks, Chief Executive of Home-Start Wessex, other Board of Trustees members and volunteers, Shan Seewooruthun from Amirez Developments, Steve Wells from DWP Housing Partnership, Kate Ware from The Bath Works and Andrew Diprose from Dorset Biz News.

Since 1995, Home-Start Wessex has helped over 3,500 local families and supported over 10,000 children in Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch, the Purbecks, Blandford and Cranborne and into the Wiltshire and Hampshire borders. Their amazing volunteers offer friendship, practical support and emotional advice to families who are facing difficulties, including poor mental health, postnatal depression, disability, domestic abuse, bereavement, isolation and multiple births. 

Yet their service is in more demand than ever. If you can commit to 2-3 hours each week to help transform the lives of young children and their parents in our community, please get in touch with No special qualifications are necessary, and full training will be provided. Find out more at


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