Lee Woolridge was given our Volunteer of the Year award in 2019 for his contribution to our services. Voted by colleagues and mentors, he is a popular member of the Brighter Futures team and well-known by our staff and customers.
He first came to Brighter Futures as a member of our Clubhouse Network. The loss of a close friend led to a struggle with mental health and other issues affecting his wellbeing.
After working with our support staff, Lee took up the option of volunteering with our Property Services Team in 2014 to help him grow confidence and manage his independent living.
From there, he has volunteered with both our American Clubhouse and Catering Network, where he is often seen preparing cakes for our customers to enjoy.
“My close friend passed away and it was difficult for me to come to terms with,” he said.
“I started having nightmares and lost the ability to look after myself a little. I knew I needed to get on track and Brighter Futures offered me a volunteering opportunity.
“They offered me the chance to get involved with Property Services and expand myself a bit, so I took it. I learned a lot of skills quickly, and I wanted to develop further– so I asked if I could work in the American and with the catering team.
“I’ve kept these up and to win that award last year was brilliant. I keep it in my bedroom on show to myself. It’s something I’m proud of.”
When Lee was thinking about leaving Stoke, he was considering a career in the army, but his volunteering role has helped him to decide what he would like to do in the future.
“I’d been through a hard time, and I was debating leaving Stoke to follow in my gran's footsteps,” he said.
“She’d driven ambulances in the war, and I was thinking about doing the same in the army if possible, but I was enjoying volunteering, so I didn’t want to move on in the end.
“I enjoy volunteering here; I’ll work anywhere they ask me to.The people here have done somuch for me and I love giving something back to them.
“I’d love to do some of the things I’ve learned in the future – with Brighter Futures would be ideal. Everyone I’ve met has been friendly and they all treat me like one of their own.”
Brighter Futures Volunteering scheme was developed to empower our customers to gain new skills and enhance their wellbeing. It provides opportunities for people who have experienced issues such as homelessness, mental ill-health or substance misuse to gain skills and experience.