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Celebrating Excellence and Dedication at the 2020 Staff & Volunteer Awards

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12 November 2020

Jewish Care Victoria held its 10th Annual Staff and Volunteer Service & Excellence Awards since inception by Zoom last night (11th November).  Another first in many this year as we manage through the unprecedented disruption created by COVID-19.

Bill Appleby, Jewish Care Chief Executive Officer, thanked award nominees for ‘making our world a better place’ and reminded the audience that, ‘because of the work they do, Jewish Care and those we care for are the real winners’. 

Bill Appleby acknowledged “the leadership, resilience, commitment, compassion and resourcefulness of our staff and volunteers over the last 12 months”, noting that these are the "character traits that exemplify the very essence of our cultural DNA – a ‘can do’ attitude that is willing to do whatever needs to be done, to manage through an unprecedented global pandemic”.

Appleby went on to say that “it is often said that adversity builds character, but in my mind, it reveals one's true character. We are eternally grateful for your extraordinary efforts at a time we needed leadership and teamwork. We needed people to stand up, and that is exactly what each of you have done.’ He said that his staff ‘will always be able to look back at this time in history and remember proudly, the year 2020 when the entire world changed, they were busy playing a major role and helping others more vulnerable.”

Our guest speaker was Kath Koschel, a remarkable young woman who, defying her medical prognosis of paralysis, taught herself to walk – on three separate occasions! She pulled herself through some very significant challenges without letting them defy her belief that we all have the capacity to be better every day. In 2015, Kath created her for purpose charity, The Kindnessfactory, in memory of her deceased partner. The Kindnessfactory promotes good will all around the world – on a mission to achieve one million acts of kindness!

The major award for the evening, the Samuel H. Harris Award for demonstrated pursuit of excellence exceeding expectation was presented to Marcus Harty, General Manager, Strategic Projects and Acquisitions, for his work delivering our state-of-the-art new capital projects including the Hannah & Daryl Cohen Family Building in Windsor, the Anne and Eric Smorgon Active Living Centre in Caulfield and the Smorgon Family Building in Carnegie. 

Volunteer of the Year was awarded to two recipients this year; Errol Rink and Leah Jacobs. Errol has been conducting a News and Views session every week Mondays for our elders at Gary Smorgon House since July 2012. Whereas Leah, who started volunteering at Jewish Care at the beginning of 2016 as a mentor with the Young Achievers Program, has been supporting our community by taking on multiple roles.

Each year, scholarships are awarded to staff to support the strengthening and development of professional skills. This year, the professional development scholarships – each worth $2,500 - were awarded to Jagath Munasinghe, Elder Support Worker from Smorgon Nursing Home, and George Neuhauser, Records Management Officer from People & Culture. Cindia Auriant, Elder Support Worker from Smorgon Nursing Home and Diana Kostinskaya, Information and Access Officer also received a $2,500 scholarships sponsored by Maxxia.

Service milestones were also celebrated at the event, with 98 staff and volunteers who have given 5-40 years of service to Jewish Care acknowledged for their dedication and contribution. Marilyn Faiman was congratulated on 40 years of voluntary service to Jewish Care. Thomas Mitchell, Personal Care Worker from Gary Smorgon House was also recognised for his 30 years of service to Jewish Care.

Other award winners included:

President's Award for Excellence: Kate Bakos, Report Analyst from Active Living Services and Saul Dargie, Practise Leader from Disability Services.

CEO Customer Service Award: Suzette Leppard, Team Leader from Blue Star, and Joanne Cochrane, Operation Commissioning Coordinator from Residential Services.


Ethos Award: Mohamed El Nabi, Accounts Payable Officer from Finance and Debbie Ellenbogen, Social Worker from Individual & Family Services.

Team of the Year Award: Blue Star Rostering Team and the Hannah & Daryl Cohen Family Home.

We did not award the Ethos Mission Award – an opportunity to participate in the annual March of the Living program. Unfortunately, the 2020 trip did not go ahead this year because of COVID-19, so our recipients from last year, Rabbi Nerenberg, Manager Jewish Life and Ella Turner, Clinical Support Manager, will attend the March of the Living when it is held again. This may not be in 2021 because of the COVID-19 situation internationally, so when it is next held safely, they will be representing Jewish Care Victoria.

To all the Service Award recipients, Mazel Tov on your dedication, commitment and hard work to our organisation. To the Excellence Award winners, Mazel Tov to you all for your deserving wins.