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November 10, 2010

In recognition of an outstanding contribution

Without question the largest gatherings of the community sector in Scotland come from within the world of housing associations. EVH’s recent annual bash in St Andrew’s had over 250 delegates. One of the highlights of this particular conference is the annual presentation of the Helen McGregor Award – given to a volunteer who has made an outstanding contribution in their community.  Several worthy nominations were received but there can only be one winner

Josie Smith, Winner Helen McGregor Award 2010

Sir Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat MP for Fife North East delighted delegates when he announced Josie Smith as the award winner at EVH’s annual conference at Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews at Halloween week-end. Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership sponsored this year’s award and Sir Menzies Campbell presented Josie with an engraved trophy and £500.

Josie Smith, was the Chair, until recently, of Glen Housing Association, Glenrothes, Fife. Josie fought off stiff competition from fellow volunteers throughout Scotland who give freely of their own time and efforts to improve local communities. Josie’s involvement with the housing association sector began in1990 when she became a member of the Tenants Steering Group in the Broom Estate in Leven which was investigating ways to improve the very poor housing conditions and environment in the area. A parent with young children herself, she wanted to make a better environment possible for them. She didn’t have any previous knowledge or understanding of housing issues or community involvement. As a member of the Steering Group she was successful in getting a vote to transfer Council stock to Glenfield Housing Association which was the first local authority tenanted stock transfer in Fife.

Josie was prepared to be up front and stick her neck out! She took on the role of Treasurer for the Association and helped to set up and run the local crèche and the Broom Community Forum. Josie also helped to set up and run a pioneering Play Project for local children which employed workers to get out amongst the children in the estate promoting positive play and respect for their newly improved environment.

In 1997/98 Josie was one of the leaders of the merger between Glenfield HA and Collydean Community HA in Glenrothes to form Glen HA. Josie saw this as a way to secure the long term viability of two community based organisations which could easily be considered to be a risk due to the changing political environment of the time with similar aims and values. Josie was unanimously elected as the first Chairperson of Glen Housing Association following the merger in 1998 steering the organisation to an A grade for governance and accountability.

In 2000/01 Josie supported the Association’s involvement in Fife’s first Empty Homes Initiative Scheme and in 2001/02 Josie played a major role in the SFHA’s campaign against extending the Right to Buy including submitting the official petition and talking to organised MSP groups. In 2003/04 Josie celebrated completion of the regeneration of the Broom Estate where she started out in her “career” in housing. The scheme is now an area where people want to come to live rather than get away from it. Josie stood down as the Chair but was re-elected the following year. In 2006/08 Josie was proactive in discussing partnership arrangements with the Chairs of the other Fife based housing associations. Fife Housing Association Alliance and Fife’s Common Housing Register developed at this time.

Josie started out in 1990 without any qualifications, job or particular interests. Josie obtained fulltime work as a Volunteer Co-ordinator with NHS in 2001 which allowed her to put her personal experience of what you get out of volunteering to good use.
By 2008 she was the proud owner of a degree a BA in Healthcare, Leadership& Management from the University of Dundee-obtained during day release and home learning, all whilst bringing up her family of 4! Josie has stuck with the housing association through personally difficult periods and has always been a willing and very able ambassador on Glen Housing Association’s behalf. As an original tenant member of the Association herself she has always ensured that tenants’ interests are at the heart of everything that Glen Housing Association does.

Fellow award finalists included Liz Ruine, Board Member, Cube Housing Association and John Ferguson, Chair, Parkhead Housing Association