Anne is area’s top local hero

Orbiston Centre manager Irene Gibson, right, and colleagues.
Orbiston Centre manager Irene Gibson, right, and colleagues.

Motherwell woman Anne Rowan’s personal story of triumph through tragedy made her the worthy overall winner of this year’s VOSCAR awards.

It’s the scheme which recognises people in the community who go the extra distance to shine as volunteers and make a real difference to their communities.

Anne Rowan, left, receives the award that says she is North Lanarkshire's top volunteer. from Linda Johnston, right, of North Lanarkshire Council.

Anne Rowan, left, receives the award that says she is North Lanarkshire's top volunteer. from Linda Johnston, right, of North Lanarkshire Council.

But Anne’s astonishing achievement derives its inspiration from her own terrible personal suffering and bereavement.

She is the founder and chairwoman of Chris’s House, Scotland’s first 24-hour suicide crisis intervention centre.

In little more than a year in operation it has provided help, response and intervention to more than 140 people and families caught up in the trauma and heartbreak of suicide or suicidal crisis.

The organisation was launched in memory of Anne’s son Christopher, who committed suicide in 2011 while suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

At the awards ceremony in Motherwell Concert Hall Anne’s courage and determination in the years since that appalling tragedy were spelled out in detail.

She was described as “quite simply an incredible volunteer, who makes herself available 24/7 to help those in need of a safe haven as a result of suicidal crisis”.

She is there for every person who visits or telephones Chris’s House, and ensures she has her mobile ‘phone with her at all times, day and night, sleeping “with one eye open” in case she is needed to provide words of support and comfort in someone’s darkest hour.

Another conspicuous local award success was also a piece of VOSCARS history, with Bellshill’s Orbiston Neighbourhood Centre becoming the first organisation to notch up three titles (it won two category awards in 2011).

The centre, which won the volunteer engaging awardm provides a community hub and range of valuable services for the people of Bellshill, including childcare services, a community cafe, food co-op, befriending for older people and out of school care.

Volunteering is at the heart of all that the Centre does, with 75 volunteers contributing hundreds of hours each week to supporting each of the service departments.

Orbiston Neighbourhood Centre celebrates its 21st anniversary this year, so this award is seen as the icing on the cake for the organisation and all of its volunteers.

The Health and Wellness Hub (Motherwell), meanwhile, was winner of the Engaging Support Needs Volunteers category.

The Hub was established in 2012 to boost access to health services within North Lanarkshire.

Within its first five years of operation, the organisation has steadily grown and established

a successful portfolio of low cost weekly health improvement and wellbeing services,

including T’ai Chi, Yoga, Massage and Reiki.

To deliver its services, the organisation involves a wide range of volunteers covering

different roles.

In particular, the organisation places a strong emphasis on providing volunteering opportunities to underprivileged local people and those requiring extra support.

This includes people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health difficulties, unpaid carers, lone parents, unemployed people, ex-offenders, and those

affected by addiction.

Virgin Media (Bellshill) won the Employer Supported Volunteering Champion category, after fully proving to be a leading light in this field.

The company provides staff with allocated time off work each year to participate in volunteering and community

activities.

It has also invested in an infrastructure and culture of working with charities and voluntary sector organisations to enable high quality team volunteering challenges.

This has involved teams of employees visiting local community groups to undertake time consuming and costly tasks such as painting, decorating, gardening, environmental work, and much more.

The VOSCARS, organised by Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire on behalf of the North

Lanarkshire Voluntary Sector Partnership Group, returned for a second staging almost five

years to the day since its original hosting to recognise the European Year of Volunteering in 2011.

The evening, hosted by TV and radio personality Steve mcKenna, proved a huge success, with 600 volunteers and members of voluntary sector organisations joining together to celebrate the local voluntary sector in style.

Awards were made on the night in 13 categories to reward volunteers, voluntary sector

organisations, and partners of the voluntary sector who have demonstrated exceptional

commitment to supporting people and communities across North Lanarkshire.

Each award winner was presented with a specially-engraved Oscars-style trophy to treasure.

More than 250 nominations were received in the run up to The VOSCARS, to be judged for 13 categories by an expert

udging panel consisting of Helen Russell (Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Lanarkshire), Elaine

Gibb (Voluntary Action Scotland), George Thomson (Volunteer Scotland) and Barry

McLeod (The Improvement Service), together with representatives of sponsoring

organisations, selecting four category finalists.