An Ilkley man is celebrating his 20th anniversary working with local charity Good Neighbours.
When John Jewitt retired on medical grounds in May 2000 he felt bored and wondered what could occupy his future time. He decided to become a general charity volunteer with Ilkley Council for Voluntary Service and Good Neighbours, initially dealing with phone enquiries. Within a short period however John helped set up a community transport service with a mini-bus, and by 2002 it had grown to the point where it required a full-time manager, and two years later became a charity in its own right.
Over the next two decades John was involved, along with his charity trustee colleagues, with the development of a number of key community services which continue to help people today, including Shop Assist, and Befriending. He was chosen as Volunteer of the Year by Keighley and Ilkley Voluntary Community Action in 2012 for community involvement, and also served for five years as the Good Neighbours Chairman.
In 2003 John launched Grassroots, a practical help service that eventually became Homes and Gardens Assist, which he now oversees.
“I recognised that many of our less able clients had difficulty with practical matters, from home maintenance to keeping the garden tidy, and that there was a real need for volunteers to help them in that area” said John.
“Currently the Homes and Gardens project deals with almost 100 jobs a year, replacing lights, mending taps, unblocking gutters, trimming a hedge, along with a myriad of other things. Our dedicated team of volunteers cover a range of tasks, and I’m always appreciative of the many complimentary thank-you letters we receive.”
Apart from his normal duties John has also over the years had the privilege of assisting at a grand total of 19 Good Neighbours’ Over90’s parties, the charity’s annual event which entertains a number of local nonagenarians.
One year John decided to send a letter which he amusingly thought might turn the annual party into a Royal event!
“Realising that Prince Philip had turned 90, I decided to send him an invite to our party at the Clarke Foley centre” said John.
“I also suggested that he might bring his wife ( even though she hadn’t yet reached that age) and if they needed transport I could always arrange a mini-bus for them!
“To my complete surprise I got a nice letter back from the Duke’s secretary - which appeared in the Gazette - saying that unfortunately he couldn’t make it on this occasion, but wanted to pass on his best wishes to the party-goers. It was a good-humoured and nice gesture.”
Ilkley and District Good Neighbours Chairman Penny Coulthard said: “John is currently our longest serving trustee and has worked tirelessly to help those in need over his years as a volunteer. He’s a cornerstone of the charity and the trustees and myself recognise and are appreciative of the enormous role he has played in making Good Neighbours the success that it is today. “
Also paying tribute to John’s efforts is colleague Mary Hamilton, Manager of the Ilkley office of Community Action Bradford and District who said: “John personifies all that is great about volunteering in our community. He has brought his energy, knowledge and skills – not to mention his unique sense of humour to many volunteering roles with ICVS, Ilkley Good Neighbours, and Ilkley Community Transport.”
MP for Keighley and Ilkley Robbie Moore (pictured) said: “It is people like John who inspire me and the kind words of his colleagues show that he is also an inspiration to others. Good Neighbours provides real, practical assistance to the community which is needed now more than ever. John has been a key part in driving that forward. I hope he has enjoyed his 20 years of volunteering and I wish him all the best for the future.”
A final tribute came from Ilkley Mayor Mark Stidworthy who said: “John has a magnificent record serving the community of Ilkley and District. He has put huge energy into his many roles, particularly as a leader and catalyst for so many others to contribute to, and benefit from, the wealth of voluntary resources that make our town so special. On behalf of all in the town I would like to offer our thanks and admiration.”
So how does John feel 20 years on?
“Looking back, I’m just pleased and honoured that I’ve been part of a hard-working team which has made a real difference to many people who are in need in our area. I hope I can continue to make a contribution for many years yet.”