The Lighthouse Project’s held its inaugural Volunteer Award Ceremony last week at the Norton Grange and our patron Steve Coogan made a surprise visit to present all the attendees with a volunteer achievement certificate.

Steve’s appearance was a closely guarded secret, and it was part of an array of treats and surprises that we had prepared to reward the invaluable contribution that our volunteers have made to the work of the Lighthouse and Middleton Central Foodbank during the last 18 months.

We have faced many challenges recently including last year being forced into two premises moves within six months of each other, and since moving into their current Middleton Shopping Centre premises in January there have been a whole raft of remodelling works to carry out to make the new base the welcoming community space that it is.

Carl Roach, development manager said, ‘with the help of our volunteers the Lighthouse was only closed for a few weeks over the Christmas period before opening again to serve and support local people; and because of this the staff and trustees just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone for their sterling efforts, and to let them know that are really valued and we couldn’t have done it without them.’

Steve was also keen to support the volunteers efforts and he personally presented over 50 awards on the night covering nine categories of recognition, including; ‘gis a job’ for employability support,  ‘moving and breaking’ for help with premises moves and alteration works, and ‘nice to see you to see you nice’ for meeting and greeting, hospitality and support.

There was a special achievement award called ‘under the radar’ in recognition of several volunteers who have gone the extra mile with their service or who did important things that were often in the background. There was also recognition of the importance of new and young volunteers with the ‘next generation’ category.

Some of the volunteers also got opportunity to share their own story and experiences of how coming to the Lighthouse Project had made a real difference in their lives.

Since opening the Lighthouse centre in 2010 we have seen a footfall of over 150,000 visits through our doors where people have been able to come into a safe and welcoming space to get much needed help and support, and despite the challenge of the two premises moves the volunteers and team have managed to keep the work running effectively, and even increase attendance.

Middleton Central Foodbank, which is part of local charity Inspire Middleton, opened at the Lighthouse Project in 2014 and has been supporting families and individuals in crisis for three years during which it has helped over 5100 people, of which over 1800 were children, it had received 47 tonnes of food donations from local people and given away 46 tonnes in its food parcels, which is equivalent to approximately 70 cows if you needed to visualise it.

Steve rounded off the evening by reiterating our thanks and encouraging the volunteers, he said , ‘I get quite a lot of requests to help with all sorts of charities but the Lighthouse Project is one that I have specifically chosen to support, I really believe in what you do and I want to help you as best as I can… I’m not here as a flash in the pan, I’m here for the long-haul. Thank you for all your efforts; you are doing a great job’.

In total there were 62 volunteers who received an award but unfortunately not all were able to attend on the evening so some will receive their certificates separately.

Everyone who attended enjoyed the whole evening and said they appreciated the treat.