Dedicated volunteer surprised by award entry success

For the past year Penny Dyball has given up two hours every Monday afternoon, to spend time with residents at Sovereign Court in Strood.

Penny, who lives in High Halstow, runs craft sessions, a choir and quizzes with residents at our supported living scheme, for people aged 65 and over.

It first started when her close friend Karen, Supported Living Advisor at the scheme asked Penny to start up a choir. Since then it’s grown into a Monday meet up group, attended regularly by ten to fifteen residents.

“The main idea behind me being here is to help people to come together and socialise in this nice environment. We have a good laugh, we take the mickey out of each other. I find them jobs and different bits to do”, said 68-year-old Penny.

Over the past ten months Penny’s also raised an incredible £5,000 for the breast screening unit at Medway Maritime Hospital.

She visited Medway Hospital as part of her work with East Kent Unit for Breast Screening but said “I went into the relative’s room, where often people are receiving bad news. Some of the chairs were stained, it just needed a bit of a tidy up and some new, uplifting things”.

In that moment Penny decided to do something for her local hospital and raise £5,000 to pay for new chairs, a lick of paint and a coffee machine for the room.

“I set myself a short target on purpose, and within ten months I’d raised the money - I did a quiz night, coffee mornings, cream teas, a big BBQ, lunches. I was given some wonderful donations which made my fundraising so much easier. I never expected people to be so generous, it was humbling”, said Penny.  

Residents at Sovereign Court helped her with crafts for the fundraisers too: “They were great, helping make things like bunting for the cream teas. One of the residents is in a band and they came and played at the BBQ which was really lovely”.

She completed the challenge in August and will be giving the cash to the hospital soon. Penny also crochets baby hats to donate to the neo-natal unit at the hospital.

The generosity and selflessness support that Penny offers to others has been recognised – she’s been shortlisted in the Pride in Medway Awards under the Volunteer of the Year category, sponsored by AC Goatham & Son.

“I found out because my local paper called me to interview me over the phone. I was with my mum at the time who’s 100 – she was as surprised as I was!” said Penny, who was a Scout and Girl Guide leader for 25 years.

“My partner was really surprised and said, ‘you really deserve it’. But I know so many people doing such amazing things. It’s nice to know my work is appreciated, but lots of other people are doing amazing things”, said Penny.

Penny’s nomination came as a total surprise and was submitted by the Supported Living Advisor and residents at Sovereign Court.

“Penny works tirelessly to raise money for charity and does so much for the residents here. She keeps our spirits up which in turn really helps us with our general sense of wellbeing. Thank you for everything you do for us and for others Penny, you completely deserve this recognition”, said  Supported Living Advisor Karen.

The awards were set up 19 years ago by the Medway Messenger, as a chance for people to share incredible stories of why their friends, families and work colleagues deserve recognition for making their mark in Medway.

“These are really good awards and it’s really nice that local people are recognised for what they’re doing”, added Penny.

She’ll find out if she’s made it as a finalist at the Certificate Presentation Evening in February, and the winners will be announced at the annual Gala Dinner Evening in April.