Third Sector Excellence Awards 2013: Volunteer of the year - Winner: James Middleton, Phoenix Futures

Awarded to the volunteer who has, over time, shown the greatest commitment and achievement

James Middleton, Phoenix Futures
James Middleton, Phoenix Futures

- What does he do?

Middleton volunteers for Phoenix Futures, which supports people who have drug and alcohol problems.

- What did he do?

After spending 20 years taking drugs and going in and out of prison, Middleton completed a residential course with Phoenix Futures. This enabled him to put his life back together, so he started volunteering for the charity. He became a peer mentor for 18 months and spent several days a week working at the Phoenix Futures residential service that had supported him, while also travelling to two prisons to volunteer. He has since secured a paid apprenticeship that will allow him to study for a health and social care qualification at a local college while working at the Phoenix residential service.

- Why did he win?

Middleton's efforts to help those in the same position he was once in have been inspiring. As well as volunteering in established projects, he has set up new schemes, such as a music project for people in prison on Sundays - a day when he knows prisoners feel isolated because there are no visits - and organised fundraising events for the charity. His work has not only helped him to continue his own recovery but also touched the lives of countless other people.

- What did the judges say?

Alice Hunt, chief executive of Join In, said: "James has used his own complex experience not only to turn his life around but also to develop a volunteering contribution that few others could possibly replicate."

Highly commended

Sue Kay, Crisis

Pat Vinycomb, Carers UK

Richard Wiggins, Centrepoint


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