Wexford Man wins Volunteer of the Year Award

A proud Wexford Town local has been announced as the winner of the lauded Martin Kenny Volunteer of the Year Award, honouring his incredible work as part of Oxfam Ireland’s team. 77-year-old John Jordan is not only the face of the Oxfam Wexford’s store; since joining the crew in 2019 the compassionate volunteer has effortlessly gained a reputation for being the heart and soul of the shop.  

According to John, volunteering with Oxfam “helps him in more ways than he helps Oxfam” but Oxfam Wexford’s branch manager, Leona Hunt, affirms the opposite is true. After experiencing intense personal loss and grief four years ago, John became involved in every way possible. 

“I cannot count the ways he has helped our store and our team to thrive,” Hunt offers. “At age 77, I can safely say he is the face of our shop. He has a cheerful hello and a chat for every customer that comes in and is our resident DJ, creating a wonderful atmosphere on our shop floor for everyone. He never sits still,” Hunt adds. “John loves to see the joy a customer has in finding something special and is thrilled when an item gets a second life.” 

John’s thriving time as a volunteer has even seen him run the store on Sundays and Bank Holidays, but his greatest strength lies in his kind words and listening ear. 

“Just by simply being in the store with him, everyone is instantly happier,” Hunt adds, smiling. “The younger volunteers look to him like a grandfather. As store manager, John is my rock. I appreciate, beyond measure, not just all the hard work he does, his kindness to others, his good humour and loyalty but his advice, his positivity and his patience.” 

Speaking to the winner, John Jordan remains modestly shell shocked by his big win. 

“I thought they were joking!” John says. “I didn’t think I was going to get an award for doing something I really enjoy. The reaction from the staff was unbelievable. They’re still congratulating me! We’re going for a meal later in the week to celebrate.”

Rarely held back, John only had his hip replaced six weeks ago but is already back behind the till four shifts a week in Oxfam Wexford.

“I’m just on one crutch now!” he grins. “I’m delighted to be back. The whole experience came about four years ago, after my wife died. She had Alzheimer’s. I was in the nursing home with her every day for three years. When she passed away, I hadn’t a clue what to do with my time. I was passing the Oxfam shop in Wexford one day and I saw a sign in the window. I didn’t think I had a chance because I was 72 at the time. I started on one shift a week, and now I’m up to four.”

“I get so much out of volunteering, it’s unbelievable,” John smiles. “It’s a hard thing to explain. When my wife passed away, it was like half of me was gone. It’s a silly way to put it, but since I joined Oxfam Wexford, that half of me is back. It’s like being born again. It’s given me more than I ever could have thought possible.”

Meeting people is John’s highlight of the volunteering process, he adds. 

“Lovely customers come in and get to know you,” he muses. “They come back in when they pass by to have a few words. The management and the staff here are unbelievable. Leona is brilliant. I love looking after bits of jewellery and getting items valued, like records and CDs. Honestly, I felt humbled. Instead of Oxfam thanking me, it should be me thanking them! They gave me a second chance. I was honoured with the award, but the real prize belongs to the entire Oxfam Wexford team. It’s a group effort.” 

John is just one of a wonderful team at Oxfam Wexford Town, whose work has boosted the shop’s customer base and loyalty steadily over the last few years. 

The brilliant win for John marks two in a row for Oxfam Ireland, following last year’s exceptional Martin Kenny Volunteer of the Year Award recipient Joanne Daly. 

Oxfam Ireland CEO, Jim Clarken, expressed his deep appreciation for John’s commitment to volunteering over the years on behalf of the organisation. “John’s dedication to his role continues to amaze everyone at Oxfam Ireland, and his compassionate, generous approach to his chosen duties are valued.

“John’s contribution to our organisation’s work in his home of Wexford is unparalleled. Awards are never the goal of giving up our time for others, but John deserves every bit of recognition. Oxfam could not provide the life-saving support in humanitarian emergencies, the life-changing programme work across the world or the advocacy to make change happen without the commitment of our hundreds of volunteers across the island of Ireland like Martin Kenny. Congratulations John, it’s an honour and a pleasure to have you represent Oxfam!” 

The Martin Kenny Volunteer of the Year Award was created in memory of the late Martin Kenny, who was a founder member and Chairperson of the ICSA (now Charity Retail Ireland). Kenny also acted as Head of Retail at the National Council for the Blind Ireland. Curated as part of Charity Retail Week 2024, the illustrious awards ceremony acknowledges the unsung heroes who run charity shops throughout the nation, with awards also including Online Presence of the Year, Shop Window of the Year and Shop Manager of the Year. 

Oxfam Ireland has 46 shops across the island in total, supported by more than 1,000 kind and patient volunteers. Our Wexford branch is especially noteworthy, thanks to the work of incredible volunteers like John in our ranks! 

For over 60 years, Oxfam Ireland’s many shops have provided a way to buy fashionable outfits that don’t cost the earth. From pre-loved clothes, shoes and accessories, vintage gems and designer bargains to books, homewares and even wedding dresses, our stores are the perfect place to shop sustainably. 

Oxfam Ireland’s first ever superstore is due to open in Holywood, Co. Down on May 15th this year. Just 40km from Dublin and 15km from Belfast, the Holywood store aims to become a go-to shopping destination for the entire island of Ireland.

Donate your pre-loved goods today to divert them from landfill, reduce your carbon footprint and help bring about climate justice. By buying and donating second hand items with Oxfam, people can also raise vital funds to support those facing the worst effects of the climate crisis globally. Find your local shop today! 

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