A retired accountant from Leicester has been nominated for a national award for his incredible work in transforming a local charity’s services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Michael Condon, 68, will be recognised at an annual awards ceremony organised by Headway – the brain injury association, as one of just three people from across the UK in the running for the title of Volunteer of the Year, sponsored by Anthony Gold Solicitors.
As the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, charities across the world were thrown into crisis as funding came to a stop and face-to-face services were withdrawn. Headway Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, an organisation working to improve the lives of brain injury survivors, was one of those charities.
Thankfully, Headway Leicester had Michael’s support.
“The pandemic proved to be a disaster for Headway Leicester. The day centre and offices closed, and staff had no means of continuing their important work to support brain injury survivors,” he said.
“With the support of my friends and family, I was able to raise the funds we needed by dying my hair blue,” he went on to reveal.
“I raised £5,000, which meant we could afford to buy laptops, iPads and mobile phones for our staff and for the members who didn’t have access to such technology.”
Michael played a key role in implementing and managing the new IT systems, forming connections with IT companies to receive resources at discounted rates, and even launched the charity’s digital day centres.
Michael said: “When I reflect back on this time, I think it was a real shift in my role. I really saw how my skills from business could be used to sail the stormy waters that we faced in the pandemic.”
Before Michael’s retirement, he worked as an accountant in the textile industry for many years, a job he loved, and went on to manage manufacturing sites in Leicester, Nottingham and China. His job was fast-paced and high-pressure.
So, unable to relax into retirement gracefully with the odd round of golf, Michael started volunteering for Headway Leicester in June 2019.
Michael said: “I thought it would be a great way for me to fill my day with meaningful tasks and give me back some structure. I had always planned to retire when I was 65, but I underestimated the consequences of retiring immediately rather than phasing my retirement.
“I went from spending my day working with a team on different projects, meeting deadlines and attending meetings to having the whole day to myself. Working me thought that retirement was the dream, but it turns out my family were right, I love to work!”
As an accountant, Michael had no experience of supporting people with brain injuries.
He added: “I used to get up and go to work, blissfully unaware of the number of people who each day suffer an acquired brain injury. Their life can change overnight, and these people often require an enormous amount of help and support in putting their lives back together. Being a part of the team that helps them to do that, even if only in a small way, is an incredible feeling.”
Michael has worn many hats during his time at Headway Leicester, including accountant, support worker, gardener and fundraiser.
He was nominated for Volunteer of the Year by Mary Goulty, Services Director at Headway Leicester. She said: “Pre-pandemic, Michael had embraced his role as a volunteer, but when the pandemic hit, he really became one of our greatest assets. It is difficult to capture the full extent of his valuable contribution, but without his knowledge, commitment, and enthusiasm, we would not have made the changes that so successfully steered us through a challenging time.
“Volunteering is about making a difference, and that is exactly what Michael does at Headway Leicester. He may not see his contribution as extraordinary, but we certainly do. He is an amazingly selfless individual, and we want him and everyone else to know how much we truly appreciate him.”
Michael added: “I feel both humble and proud. Humble as there are a lot of people who do the same or more than me in helping the Headway members and proud that I can represent all of Headway’s volunteers who do such a tremendous job.”
The Volunteer of the Year, sponsored by Anthony Gold Solicitors, will be named at a glittering ceremony at The Landmark London on December 9, along with awards for Achiever and Carer of the Year and the Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award.