Dedicated volunteer Rita nominated in regional awards
A GRANDMOTHER who began volunteering after suffering a brain aneurysm has been recognised in major regional awards for social housing tenants.
Rita Harley, 60, a volunteer at Stafford and Rural Homes’ (SARH) Customer Resource Centre, has been nominated for ‘Tenant of the Year’ in the central region of the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) awards.
“I’m so shocked to be nominated it really has come out of the clue,” said Rita, who has four children and one grandchild. “I just really enjoy working at the centre and getting involved in the projects so to be nominated for an award for doing something I love doing is fantastic.”
The awards aim to recognise social housing tenants and residents’ groups who go the extra mile to make communities safer and more desirable places to live.
In 2002, Rita suffered a brain aneurysm, which left her unable to continue her job as a care worker. Undeterred by her ordeal she was determined to play an active role in the community through volunteer work.
“I have always enjoyed being around people and when I wasn’t able to work anymore I wanted to give something back to the community in other ways which is why I began volunteering,” she said.
Rita’s enthusiastic approach to volunteer work for SARH has had a positive impact in bringing the diverse community in Stafford closer together. Rita has achieved this by coming up with imaginatively-themed events and developing strong partnerships with local organisations.
Some of the events planned by Rita include community parties at Halloween and Christmas as well as a special day to celebrate Polish culture.
Working with Stafford children’s centre, Rita has helped set up ‘Tea & Talk’ sessions to support parents and children who do not speak English as their first language and also started a job club in partnership with Job Centre Plus for people looking for employment.
Chris Plant, Customer Participation Manager for SARH, said:
“Rita has such a passion for her volunteer work with SARH that it is impossible not to be inspired by her.
“Her efforts have made a real difference in getting more people actively involved in the local community and she certainly deserves to be recognised for all the hard work she has put in.”
Rita has also devoted her time to mentoring fellow volunteers at SARH’s Customer Resource Centre and encouraging their development to promote more customer involvement in the area.
The TPAS Central Regional Awards will take place on Friday, April 1, at the St John’s Hotel in Birmingham and Rita is one of 12 residents nominated for tenant of the year by housing associations across the Midlands.
Winners from the central region will be put forward to a national award final along with fellow winners from the Northern and Southern Regional Finals.