Volunteer of the Month - June 2019 - Stephanie Jones

Posted by Victoria Leedham

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During Volunteers’ Week we’d like to shine a light on Stephanie (Steff) Jones from Wilmslow who is a fabulous example of a volunteer who has embraced Hearing Dogs for Deaf People from the get-go and whose positive involvement has gone way beyond the parameters of her Volunteer Dog Trainer role description.

Steff joined the Hearing Dogs family during our Cheshire recruitment drive in early in 2017. She swiftly put her application in and expressed that she likes to commit 100% to things, which has most definitely proven to be the case!

Prior to becoming a volunteer Steff had not had a dog before, but from day one she was keen to learn our methods and follow guidance in looking after and raising a puppy. She never missed a puppy class with Cracker, even if that meant driving back from caravan holidays the night before and then straight back afterwards!

Through her dedication Steff learnt quickly and has become a Volunteer Dog Trainer, taking Cracker all the way through his puppyhood, training and eventual Hearing Dogs Accreditation which included introducing him to the Liverpool underground system and busy public transport. Cockapoo Cracker now lives in London and is a huge support in his partnership with Jamie, who after seven months cannot imagine life without him:

“Not only did you raise and train my best friend on four legs and help to change my life in the process, you (and the rest of the Jones!) have become members of the family in your own right. I am so grateful for all the hard work, love and care you gave Cracker to make him the best companion ever, and for the huge love and care you have given Isie and me since I was partnered with him. I’m sure you have touched countless other people’s lives in the same way - you should be so proud of your achievements.”

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Since Cracker moved on, Steff has committed to sharing her training knowledge and experience with other volunteers to whom she is extremely supportive. Puppy Training Instructor Michelle Taylor explains: “Steff has taken on the role of Training Assistant in our area. This includes supporting training classes, shadowing some visits, providing additional follow-up support to volunteers working on a particular issue with their puppy and generally helping to build people’s confidence. She’s become a 'buddy' to many new volunteers, kindly making herself available to chat, encourage and advise which has been hugely beneficial in supporting and sustaining the group”. 

A sentiment fellow volunteer Janet Ratcliffe understands first-hand: “Steff has been a huge support to me and others in our area offering some great advice and help through the ups and downs of being a Hearing Dogs Volunteer Puppy Trainer. Steff is always at the end of the phone and happy to impart all the experience she gained from being a Volunteer Dog Trainer with her wonderful dog Cracker who has gone on to be a fully accredited hearing dog”. 

“Steff’s also a brilliant networker and has brought together all the local volunteers through a WhatsApp group she set up, plus various evenings out and fundraisers. This has resulted in a cohesive group offering not only peer support, but also raising much needed funds for the charity. Steff really is a fantastic ambassador for Hearing Dogs and I’m so pleased to be able to call her my friend”.

As Janet rightly says Steff has become a passionate advocate of the charity and the difference hearing dogs make to deaf people and their families through emotional and practical support. She helps whenever and wherever she can, be it puppy training classes, group walks or events - of which she has personally held a number of volunteer get-togethers including ladies’ nights and fundraising tapas night, that was not only great fun but also raised £340 for Hearing Dogs.

Michelle concludes: “Without volunteers like Steff we would not be able to achieve the great work we do. She’s involved with everything and just incredibly kind and helpful. She even recently rescued me when my car broke down, subsequently driving me and the four puppies I was due to collect across the county to ensure they arrived safely with their new Volunteer Puppy Trainers as planned. She’s a real star.”

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About the author

Victoria Leedham

Hello, I’m Victoria and Head of Volunteering at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. It’s my privilege to celebrate and share stories about our wonderful volunteer family.

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