Laois animal rescuer wins national volunteer award

Lynda Kiernan


Lynda Kiernan

Laois woman wins national volunteer award

A Laois woman who works tirelessly to rescue animals across Ireland has been named a winner in the national Volunteer Ireland Awards.

Ballyroan local Julie Boulton was named a winner in the Environmental and Animal Care category for her commitment to National Homechecks for Rescues Ireland.  Full list of national winners at end of story below.

Julie is the founder and head of home check coordination for National Homechecks for Rescues Ireland. Julie will always go the extra mile to ensure that an animal is rescued and re-homed. She works tirelessly processing over 50 new cases per week from rescue groups across the state. Her work is entirely self-funded and she works full time on this.

Julie founded this organisation single-handedly after identifying a need within the animal rescue environment. Animal rescue groups each had a group of volunteers who were geographically disparate and often struggled to find suitable help outside their own locality. Julie linked these rescue organisations together, creating a single database of home checkers and a single point of contact for rescue organisations to arrange a home check.

*I was absolutely blown away and humbled to win. My husband put me forward for it. There were so many other rescue organisations in this category that go above and beyond all the time. I was just blown away. We have amazing volunteers who tirelessly go out to homes. If it wasn't for them and Gail and the support of my husband Mark none of it would be possible," she said.

Julie moved to Laois from Milton Keynes in the UK five years ago with her husband Mark.

“I started fostering and transporting rescues first, but it was evident there was a real need for home checks, rescue centres were struggling to get it covered,” she said.

Julie said rescue dogs sadly can be sent back because they can have behavioural problems and need special patience and care.

“The rescues get rehabilitated by rescue centres but they can come back from new homes often distraught again. It is paramount that the home they are rehomed to is suitable and they are able to cope with a shut-down dog,” she said.

“We have hundreds of success stories now, we have thousands of pictures on our Facebook page . To see a broken animal go on to live in their forever home is amazing. We always need more volunteers to do home inspections. We have created forms and give them training,” said Julie.

It is not just dogs she has helped to rehome, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, goats, pigs and horses have all found happy forever homes thanks to her service. Since she launched the service three years ago, over 5,000 animals were rehomed.

Below: Julie with her own rescue dog Zack.

Laois Volunteering Information Service Coordinator is Salena Grace.

“We are lucky to have volunteers like Julie in Laois. Volunteers are often unseen but the contribution they make to Irish society is immense. These awards give us a chance to say thank you and celebrate the difference volunteers make every day.”

Joe O’Brien TD, Minister of State for Community Development and Charities, added “It gives me great pleasure to congratulate all the winners of the Volunteer Ireland 2020 Awards, which are supported by my Department. After what has been a very challenging year for us all, it is all the more important to thank those volunteers who have gone the extra mile to support the most vulnerable in our communities. In addition to the winners, I would also like to thank Volunteer Ireland for their
work to support and champion volunteering around the country”.

As a physical event was not possible this year, each awardee received a special surprise delivery from Volunteer Ireland announcing their win. It included an engraved trophy, a framed message from President Higgins, complimentary tickets to EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum and of course, a hamper of goodies to celebrate with.

All 805 volunteers nominated in this year’s awards also received a special thank you card from Volunteer Ireland earlier this month.

The Volunteer Ireland Awards are now in their thirteenth year and aim to shine a light on the ordinary people doing extraordinary things in our communities every day. Winners were announced in thirteen categories with usually one volunteer – in this case two – being named Christine Buckley Volunteer of the Year. Their overall award is named after dedicated campaigner and previous awardee, Christine Buckley.

Volunteer Ireland Award Winners 2020

Arts, Culture and Festivals
- Helena Clarke, Glenamaddy Boyounagh Heritage, Galway
- Kara Richards, Athlone Community Radio 88.4fm, Westmeath
- Olive Murphy, Scaleforce, Louth

Campaigning and Activism
- Cathy Blake, OutWest and Mayo Pride, Mayo
- Joe Murphy, Trócaire, Galway
- John Tobin, Special Olympics Ireland, Meath

Children and Youth
- Billy Browne, Aontas Ogra Youth Club, Kildare
- Karen Byrne, Children in Hospital Ireland, Dublin
- Sandra McIntyre, Foróige, Cavan

- Ciara Dowling, Serve the City, Dublin
- John Murray, COVID-19 Test Centre, Kildare
- Róisín Kilgannon, Dromore West Sings, Sligo

Environmental and Animal Care
- Frank Glynn, Milltown Tidy Towns; Milltown Heritage Group; and Milltown Development
Company, Galway
- Julie Boulton, National Homechecks for Rescues Ireland, Laois
- Shay Hamilton, Athlone Tidy Towns and Athlone Canal Regeneration Group, Westmeath

Health and Wellbeing
- Margaret Hurley, Irish Wheelchair Association, Clare
- Maureen Keenaghan, The Alzheimer Society and Ballyshannon Community Garden, Donegal
- William Cummings, Be Aware, Be Safe – Inner City Helping Homeless, Dublin

Safety and Emergency Services
- Alec Fitzmaurice, David McGrath and Fergal McGrath, RNLI, Waterford
- Arthur and Deborah Carr, Claddagh Watch Patrol, Galway
- John Fitzgerald, National Ambulance Service, Kildare

Social Inclusion and Community Support
- Geraldine Molloy, Inner City Helping Homeless, Dublin
- Noelle Fitzsimons, Victim Support at Court, Dublin
- Pauline Matthews, Age Action Ireland, Cork

Sports and Recreation
- Beryl Kelly, Special Olympics Ireland, Wexford
- John Foley, Kilgarvan GAA Hurling and Football Club, Kerry
- Mick Hennessey, Clane Rugby and Tennis Clubs, Kildare

Volunteer Manager
- Fiona McCaffrey Jones and Mary McCrystal, Truagh Development Association, Monaghan
- Nicola Yau, St Joseph’s Shankill, Dublin
- Rachel Fitzpatrick, Friends of the Elderly, Dublin

COVID-19 Group
- Achill Community Response Centre, Mayo
- Comfort4Covid, Dublin
- South Dublin County Volunteer Corps - COVID-19 Test Centre Volunteers, Dublin

Small Group (3-20)
- Ballyhaunis Inclusion Project, Mayo
- Irish Cancer Society – Survivor Support Parent Volunteers, Dublin
- Irish Red Cross – D15 Unit, Dublin

Large Group (20+)
- ALONE Telephone Support and Befriending Volunteers, Nationwide
- Muslim Sisters of Eire, Dublin
- Serve the City, Dublin