Buckinghamshire Women in Charity Awards – Outstanding Volunteer Award

The Outstanding Volunteer Award recognises individuals whose efforts have made a significant difference to people’s lives - read the stories of the winner and highly commended.

The Women in Charity Awards were established in 2021 to raise awareness of and celebrate the many inspirational initiatives led by and involving women in the county. Announced on International Women’s Day (8th March 2021), the Awards recognise the outstanding work and effort in four categories: Outstanding Leadership, Trailblazer, Outstanding Volunteer and Young Charity Woman of the Year.

Winner of Outstanding Volunteer:  Shanthi Priyalatha-Wortmann, Director, Women’s Cultural Arena
Shanthi is the founder and Director of the Women’s Cultural Arena as well as being the driving force behind the Community Fridge in High Wycombe which provides families with access to food, including fresh produce from the community allotments that Shanthi coordinates.

Shanthi volunteers many hours each week co-running the Community Fridge in High Wycombe, where many new guests have registered to receive food support during 2020. Shanthi secures access to food that would otherwise go to waste and has sourced extra refrigeration and storage to cope with the increased demand. She both works on and oversees community allotments which provide fresh produce to support the ambient goods in the donated food parcels.

Her energy and enthusiasm to help others and increase their well-being is infectious, her ability to connect with people from all communities is a credit to the organisation and her dedication is impressive. She is recognised as being selfless in all that she does.

The Women’s Cultural Arena benefits from Shanthi’s knowledge and skills in Human Rights, Culture and Higher Education. Shanthi and her co-director will be running art classes in 2021 to inspire others to embrace nature and connect through art.  She also plans to get others growing and learning about the link between food, health and mental health. Shanthi has a track record of other volunteering too: as school governor and as a member of Black and minority ethnic groups.

Shanthi Priyalatha-Wortmann photo

Highly commended: Fiona Phimester, Volunteer Fundraiser, Macmillan Cancer Support

Fiona is a wife and mum of two who began fund raising for Macmillan over 10 years ago. She runs a food business, selling delicious homemade meals prepared in her Kitchen.

The amazing support and care that Macmillan provided for Fiona’s mum, who sadly lost her fight at the end of 2010, inspired Fiona to become a true fundraising advocate. In 2010, Fiona held a bacon butty morning in her kitchen to support Macmillan.  Each year since then, the bacon butty morning has become bigger and better. Supported by a ‘Green Army’ of friends and family, what started as a few sandwiches sold in Fiona’s kitchen grew to a 4-hour extravaganza in Cottesloe School canteen.

Fiona’s other fundraising ideas include taking part in Macmillan Mighty Hike events, village curry nights and cake sales. She persuaded local schools to run ‘wear it green’ events where the children would pay £1 to wear something green.

Fiona hoped to raise £100k by the 10-year anniversary of her mum’s death. She was nearly there when the pandemic hit, scuppering her plans. But Fiona was undeterred; when the Macmillan Mighty Hike was cancelled, Fiona got her Green Army to do a 22-mile sponsored walk locally. She organised a Curry Take Away night and then two yoga events with people enjoying outside Yoga followed by a cream tea. Finally, her Pizza Take Away night pushed her fundraising total over £100k. She has more events in mind for 2021 and beyond.

Photo of Fiona Phimester

Highly commended: Sue Severn, Chairman, Watermead Parish Council

From the start of the pandemic, Sue’s leadership was invaluable in rapidly setting up and running a group of volunteers to help the vulnerable, elderly and those in isolation as we all faced lockdown.

Sue was the driving force behind ‘The Watermead Volunteer Army’ – a Community Group providing services such as prescription collections, grocery shopping for the elderly and those in isolation.

In addition to being a full time Parish Clerk, Sue not only managed the Watermead Volunteer Army but also the food delivery programme set up by Kelvin providing food and care parcels, and other support and assistance for those in the local community. Sue organised weekly food donations and was at the heart of sorting donations, buying fresh meat, customising parcels according to need and then delivering them.

Under Sue’s dedicated leadership, Watermead Volunteer Army merged with Berryfields Parish volunteers to form the Roman Park Community Trust. Its aim is to restore dignity to families and others in need. Sue and her team, in partnership with many local organisations and companies, raise funds, collect food and obtain grant funding for projects to improve life for local residents. Projects include food parcels, prescription and shopping collection services, free confidential advice services, provision of refurbished laptops to school pupils and initiatives to combat social isolation and loneliness.

Sue remains at the heart of it all and was nominated by the community as a way of saying thank you to her and her band of volunteers.

Photo of Sue Severn

Special mention: Grace Willis, volunteer for Autism Early Support

Grace Willis is a busy working mother with young twins but, despite her hectic schedule, she is a voluntary Fundraising Ambassador for the Buckinghamshire-based charity, Autism Early Support. Grace recently turned windfall apples into a windfall for the charity.

Autumn 2020 was a bumper year for apples. Noticing the wastage on her daily school run, Grace decided that all these unwanted apples could be turned into cash to raise funds for Autism Early Support. Together with a team of mothers from her children’s school, Grace picked unwanted apples and collected donations of apples from gardens and orchards. She then secured funding from a charitable trust to cover the cost of turning these apples into juice. This meant that all proceeds from sale of the juice went to the charity. Grace sold the juice to family and friends as well as through local pubs, delis and farm shops, raising over £6,000 for Autism Early Support.

Further reading:

Photo of Grace Willis

Updated on December 6, 2021

Image courtesy of St Francis's Children Society