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Great-grandfather Tommy honoured for years of caring

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Tommy Stewart with his award

Tommy Stewart with his award

Pic By Paul Moane/Aurora PA

Tommy Stewart with his award

For the past 35 years, a caring and inspirational pensioner from the Cregagh estate in east Belfast has been helping others, despite also caring for his wife full time.

This week, Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson presented Tommy Stewart, an 88-year-old great-grandfather, with the Older Volunteer of the Year Award for dedicating himself to helping people with mental health problems.

Tommy has been volunteering at the Bracken Beacon Centre, a Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (Niamh) day support centre, for more than three decades.

It offers educational, social and therapeutic activities for those in the community in need of mental health services. The former shipyard worker and bus driver gave up his job to become a full-time carer for his wife Edna, who developed Multiple Sclerosis, aged just 21.

She encouraged Tommy to take up volunteering in 1977, as a respite from caring for her.

Beacon Centre manager Emma Bailie nominated Tommy for the award.

“Tommy has been an amazing volunteer, more than happy to help out with anything, whether it is driving the bus, in the kitchen cooking and cleaning or chaperoning our members on their annual holiday to Ballycastle,” Emma said.

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Niamh chief executive, Professor Peter McBride, said it was an honour to have someone as dedicated as Tommy on board for more than 35 years and hopes his story will inspire others to volunteer.

Bracken Beacon Centre, at Skainos, 241 Newtownards Road, is hosting an open day on Wednesday from 10.30am to 3.30pm.

Background

Belfast City Council’s Older Volunteer Award celebrates the contribution made by older people to the work of organisations and groups across the city and gives an opportunity for groups and organisations to promote and recognise the difference older volunteers and their volunteering make to the people and communities of Belfast.


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