Two Havering heroes lauded at ‘wonderful’ awards night celebrating London’s volunteers

PUBLISHED: 17:41 14 November 2017

Mary O'Driscoll of the Havering Volunteer Centre being presented with her Team London Award 2017 at City Hall by Dame Barbara Windsor. Photo: GLA

Mary O'Driscoll of the Havering Volunteer Centre being presented with her Team London Award 2017 at City Hall by Dame Barbara Windsor. Photo: GLA

Greater London Authority/Eleanor Bentall

Two of Havering’s most selfless unsung heroes have had their hard work officially recognised at a glamorous awards evening organised by the Mayor of London.

Amelia Dunn of Havering Mind  being presented with her Team London Award 2017 at City Hall. Photo: GLA Amelia Dunn of Havering Mind being presented with her Team London Award 2017 at City Hall. Photo: GLA

Amelia Dunn, who has volunteered at Havering Mind for 15 years, and Mary O’Driscoll, one of the founding members of the Havering Volunteer Centre, were presented with Team London Awards by former Eastenders star Dame Barbara Windsor at City Hall last week.

The awards congratulate Londoners who are active citizens in their communities making London a better place and improving the lives of those around them.

Now in their sixth year, the awards have already recognised the dedication and commitment of over 375 volunteers from across the capital.

Amelia has worked with Havering Mind since 2004.

The 79-year-old decided to help out at the borough’s mental health services after using them briefly herself back in 2002.

What started out as making tea rounds and bringing in sandwiches for the Mind staff soon progressed to her

And in 2009, Amelia had the brainwave to found the Havering Mind choir.

“It’s the best thing I ever did. The choir gives people who might be struggling a chance to socialise and it really builds their confidence.

Under Amelia’s tutelage, the Havering Mind choir has gone from strength to strength.

The team has gone from singing at Havering Mind events and care homes to performing live on stage at Hornchurch’s Queen’s Theatre.

And in 2015, the group even took the plunge and not only recorded a Christmas song, but published it straight to YouTube, where it remains to this day.

For Amelia, who says that working with people and hearing their stories is what keeps her young, the entire night was one big bonus.

She told the Recorder: “I went along but I really didn’t expect to win anything – it’s such a beautiful building and a glamorous night that I just thought it was a treat to even be there.

“And then they read out my name and suddenly I was walking up to the stage, and my knees went and it was like there had been a role reversal, Christopher Biggins and Barbara Windsor were on-stage clapping me!

“It was an absolutely wonderful experience.”

May O’Driscoll, a volunteer at the Havering Volunteer Centre, was also recognised for her outstanding work.

Mary was one of the founding members of the centre, often working alone for long periods of time, sometimes months, but always managing to welcome Havering residents and source volunteering roles for them.

She has worked with over 500 volunteers and is now a mentor to others who come in to help run the centre.

Shelley Hart, Havering Volunteer Centre CEO, hailed Mary as an invaluable part of the organisation.

She said: “Mary brightens the room with her presence and is very calm and friendly to all who meet her.

“She has made it possible for those seeking volunteering to overcome personal issues to achieve their goals and feel valued as volunteers.

“I feel so very proud of Mary and this award could not have gone to a nicer person. She is a beautiful person inside and out.

“Mary has been a volunteer at the Havering Volunteer Centre since its beginning and without her dedication and loyalty we could not have achieved all the wonderful things we do here.

“Well done Mary, and super congratulations.”

Speaking after the glamorous event, the Deputy Mayor for Education & Childcare, Joanne McCartney, praised all this year’s award winners.

She said: “Volunteers are an unstoppable force in our city and the work they do to improve the lives of their fellow Londoners is inspiring.

“Volunteering breaks down barriers and brings communities closer together, while giving people the opportunity to build their skills.

“The Team London Awards are a great way to recognise how volunteers really add to the life of our great city and I was delighted to meet volunteers of all ages and backgrounds at this year’s ceremony.

“Congratulations to everyone involved.”

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