Cynthia Sweeney, who has volunteered at Wakefield Hospice’s Donation Warehouse for over 15 years, last night won the prestigious ‘Volunteer of the Year Award’ at the annual Charity Retail Association Awards at the Harrogate Convention Centre.
The Charity Retail Association (CRA) is the primary membership association for charity shops in the UK, championing the impact that retail has within the third sector. The annual awards offer an opportunity to celebrate shops, campaigns and individuals who have gone over and above the line of duty.
There are more than 9000 charity shops which hold membership in the CRA, supported by an army of more than 180,000 volunteers, but it was Cynthia Sweeney of Wakefield Hospice who claimed the top prize of Volunteer of the Year for 2023.
80 year-old Cynthia began volunteering at the hospice’s warehouse in 2008, keen to support a local cause which was close to her heart after her sister had passed away and been supported by the hospice.
Despite the changing of management, staff, operations and even venue, Cynthia has been one of the few constants to remain a part of the Donation Warehouse, bringing her invaluable input to the organisation three, four or often five days a week, every week without fail.
Even through her own personal battle with cancer in 2017, Cynthia’s support has never waned, from sorting donations and looking after corporate volunteer teams through to going over and above by covering when staff are away and helping out of hours at market stalls. As Cynthia put it: “The warehouse team were amazing and I don’t think I could have coped throughout this time without their support.”
Indeed, when the Warehouse reopened following the Covid-19 pandemic, Cynthia was one of the first volunteers to return, assisting the Warehouse Manager with implementing safe ways of working – not just looking after fellow colleagues but ensuring stock could be sorted and funds could be raised to support the vital care provided for local patients and families.
On winning the award, Cynthia said: “I am still coming down from cloud nine. I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to have just been nominated and to have won the award is just amazing.
“I want to say a big thank you to all of the team of staff and volunteers across the organisation who do such an amazing job – this isn’t just a victory for me but a victory for the whole of Wakefield Hospice.”
Helen Knowles, Director of Income Generation at Wakefield Hospice said: “We are so very proud of Cynthia and absolutely delighted that she was awarded ‘Volunteer of the Year’, the most fitting tribute to mark the incredible impact she has had at our Donation Warehouse over the past 15 years.
“We are fortunate to be supported by over 200 volunteers across our retail department, from shops to warehouse to eBay, and we are so grateful for the invaluable contribution that all of our volunteers bring to Wakefield Hospice.
“With over 180,000 volunteers eligible for the Volunteer of the Year award from across the UK, we are so thrilled that Cynthia’s contribution to our local hospice here in Wakefield has been recognised in such a way.”