Angie Furminger, volunteer manager at the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board (LJWB), talks to JLife’s Evangeline Spachis about her work within the organisation.
How did you originally get involved with the LJWB?
I became involved with LJWB a year ago. I’ve worked in the charity sector for many years and after taking a break for a while after redundancy I started looking for a new challenge. I came across the volunteer manager position through the Doing Good website (part of Voluntary Action Leeds). I researched LJWB and loved the ethos of the organisation as well as the diversity. I had never come across an organisation doing so much for so many in a community.
Has the LJWB helped you personally over the years?
This year has been a very difficult year for me personally. My mum passed away on New Year’s Eve while my dad was in hospital recovering from surgery after a brain haemorrhage. I’ve also had to deal with the difficulty of supporting my youngest child starting school and getting the right help for his additional needs. The LJWB has given me so much support, their care and compassion was truly astounding.
Can you explain the importance of volunteers to the board?
LJWB offers a huge range of services and support to our community members. Without the volunteers, the timetable of activities would be difficult to deliver as they offer a friendly face, help to set up and support the staff running activities. We offer a befriending service to support those who are lonely and isolated as well as the Arnie and Essie line which makes daily calls to those who need to hear a friendly voice. The range of support we can offer with the dedication of our volunteers has a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our community members.
What kind of areas does the LJWB especially help with?
I can honestly say that we support people with a huge variety of needs. We support the elderly, people living with dementia and those with learning and physical disabilities. LJWB also works with people suffering mental health issues. There is a Sunday group supporting children with additional needs and weekday playroom activities. There are many unique projects providing a range of activities to cater for every need: The Communications Project, providing IT skills for elderly members), singing, yoga, chairobics, wellbeing afternoon, tea dance, arts and crafts, life story, flower arranging, board games, quiz, bingo and many, more! We support from cradle to grave.
How can people get involved?
People can get involved with us in several ways. Volunteering is always available and there is something for everyone. Help us to fundraise by volunteering in our charity shop, TheWellFairShop. Do a sponsored event. Run a 10k or marathon. Help with our annual bag drop and collection. Be part of the daily Listening Line team. Serve lunches in The Vine. We’re always looking for new volunteers and we’re very good at matching people’s skills to opportunities, so if you’re interested in volunteering, please get in contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you tell us more about the volunteer awards?
The volunteer awards are an annual celebration of all things volunteering. This year the Lord Mayor Graham Latty attended to present the awards. We had 120 volunteers attend, including young volunteers from local high schools who’ve been working with us on some new innovative intergenerational projects. Given for a range of volunteering achievements, this time we were able to recognise awards for ‘Unsung Hero’, Going the Extra Mile’, Special Recognition’, ‘Volunteering Team’, ‘Befriender’, ‘Youth Volunteering-Community’, ‘Youth Volunteering-Intergenerational’ ‘Fundraising’ and ‘Outstanding Contribution’. The awards afternoon was an opportunity to recognise all our volunteers but also to celebrate the kindness and generosity of the community.
To you, what makes the LJWB and Leeds Jewish community special?
There is no other organisation quite like LJWB. We are unique. The ethos of community support runs through everything we do. There is a level of positivity I have not encountered in the workplace previously and this makes coming to work an enjoyable experience. The people within our community work together to support each other and this is truly inspiring.
Tell us about your highlights?
There have been several proud moments in my first year. I was thrilled to be part of the team that got our intergenerational projects off the ground. Watching young people working with older community members to support the development of IT skills has been extremely rewarding. Both the volunteers and community members have benefitted from this. Our young volunteers told us that they learn new ways of interacting with older people and that this has helped them change perceptions of older people. The older members of the group have learned new skills and felt empowered. I am also proud of our volunteer awards as it was a wonderful way to bring so many people together to thank them for their hard work and dedication to LJWB.
What do you do to relax?
I have five children so if I’m honest I don’t think I know what the word relax means! I spend lots of time being a taxi and coordinating the children’s many demands. I have just taken up running and this gives me a chance to have some ‘me’ time. I am in training for the half marathon in Tel Aviv in February 2019, as someone in the office managed to persuade me that it was a good idea! It gives me an opportunity to take on a personal challenge while raising money for LJWB to support the fantastic work we do. I also love reading and spending time with friends.