Award for widow, 97, who travels twice a week from Loughton to do volunteer work in Stepney

Left to right: Ivor Baddiel, Marie Joseph and Steven Lewis. Pic: Yakir Zur

Left to right: Ivor Baddiel, Marie Joseph and Steven Lewis. Pic: Yakir Zur - Credit: Archant

A devoted 97-year-old widow who travels from her home in Essex to volunteer at a centre in Stepney twice a week has been given an award.

Marie Joseph was given the Unsung Hero Award for her dedicated work at the Brenner Centre, located at the Stepney Jewish Community Centre inside Raine House.

The mother-of-five began volunteering at the centre, run by organisation Jewish Care, 30 years ago whilst she was a member of St John’s Ambulance who accompanied community centre members on outings.

Despite moving to Loughton from the East End in 2001 she continued to volunteer in Stepney by travelling to the centre using the Tube before her taxi driver son stepped in and now gives her a lift instead.

Marie, who was given her award for ‘being a positive force within, said: “I was very surprised to be nominated and to be given this award, there are so many volunteers and they’re all doing a great job.

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“I love volunteering at Stepney. When I’m there with the members, we have a chat and a laugh, I get them a cup of tea and serve lunch. The people at Stepney are part of my life, they’re like family.”

David Akinsanya, outreach officer at Brenner Centre, said: “Marie still lights up the room with her energy and is totally committed, she is funny and is concerned for everyone.

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“Stepney is richer for her involvement.”

Marie, who grew up in Bishopgate, appeared in the book The Stepney Doorstep Society which featured matriarchs in the East End during the two World Wars.

Daughter Millie Bright paid tribute to her mother, who was widowed in 1963, she said: “When we were children, we lived in a flat and opposite was a tenement block with no bathrooms. We were friendly with the children, there was always somebody in the bathroom because Mum always asked them to come in and have a bath if they needed a bit of support, Mum’s answer to everything was to have a good soak in the bath.

“People remembered her, she’s helped people all her life. It’s nothing to do with money, because we didn’t have any but its people doing a kindness for others, irrespective of their religion or colour. It’s so nice for her to see Jewish Care have recognised her hard work.

“She doesn’t miss going there for anything!”

Daniel Carmel Brown, Jewish Care’s chief executive, added: “We simply wouldn’t be the organisation we are today without Marie and others like her, so many in our community would not be able to stay connected to their communities or make friendships and connections that bring meaning to their lives.”

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