By Jennifer Mulcahey

A BRIDPORT woman who devotes what little spare time she has to helping a mental health charity has just won an award for her dedication.

Harriet Laurie, from Askerswell, is the chief executive of TheHorseCourse and she nominated Susie Girdler for the Room to Reward ‘hidden heroes’ Outstanding Volunteer 2017 award.

Harriet said: “We’re thrilled that Susie’s hard work has been recognised.

“Susie already had a four-day a week job when she signed up to be a volunteer for our charity for a couple of hours a week, sweeping and picking up manure.

“Instead she comes every Wednesday for eight hours and she has organised a whole volunteer recruitment process.

“Susie has increased our volunteers from two occasional helpers to a committed team of 20 regulars. These include, for the first time, four of our ex-service users, who are extremely well looked after by Susie and her team in a way that ensures the improvements we’ve been able to make in their mental health are not only maintained but enhanced as a way of helping them integrate better into the community.”

Harriet said Susie and her team had taken a huge burden off the four staff members who were now able to concentrate helping the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society improve their mental health.

She added: “Before Susie made our volunteer programme such a success, our highly trained facilitators had to spend their valuable time looking after the horses, cleaning up, fencing and all the hundreds of little jobs Susie’s team now do.

“The amount of volunteer hours put in by her team is a significant factor in many of the grant applications we make because it demonstrates how well supported we are by the community and that in itself is invaluable to us.

“Susie has done all this at a time when her own life included the hassle of selling her house, moving into temporary accommodation and supervising the renovation of her new home.

“She works tirelessly, always with a smile and a kind word and we couldn’t be prouder of her or more appreciative.”

Susie said: “I am chuffed as nuts just to be nominated which was a great surprise and then to win is amazing.

“I love coming to help, it feels like all of us volunteers are really helping the vulnerable people who come to TheHorseCourse, albeit only behind the scenes.”

Joe Langtree, marketing manager of Room to Reward said: “What a fantastic organisation. I’m delighted to say that Susie’s nomination has been successful – she’s exactly the kind of hidden hero it’s our privilege to be able to say ‘thank you’ to.”