THEY say that 60 is the new 40…well for our Jenny, it may as well be the new 30!

Jenny Hodson will never grow old and lives by her mantra: “You can’t stay young forever, but you can be immature for the rest of your life.”

With a bucket list as long as her arm, Jenny is aiming to cross 60 action adventures off in the next two years, from driving army tanks to walking Hadrian’s Wall. Already crossed off is a tandem skydive and a spot of wing walking – both completed for charity.

And if that is not enough four years ago, at the age of 55 Jenny won a gold medal for England, beating Holland in the Veteran’s hockey World Championships. She only started playing for the veteran’s squad three years earlier, having not touched a hockey stick since her school days.

Oh, and there’s more. While other people dream of sunshine holidays in a foreign beach, Jenny spends hers volunteering with the Waterways Recovery Group on canal restoration projects. Her most recent visit was to a redundant canal near Belvoir Castle, which is being transformed by the group. As a key member of the team, she also leads family camps, helping to get youngsters involved.

Jenny has also been a volunteer for the scouting movement for almost 30 years, and it is the role of the volunteer that inspires her so much and has influenced her path in life – leading to a fulfilling salaried career.

For the last 11 years she has been a youth development manager with Grimsby-based VANEL (Voluntary Action North East Lincolnshire), supporting young people, aged 16-plus, to use volunteering as a way to assist their communities, while building up their own experiences.

“Knowledge is not power, it is something to be shared and that is the role of people who have life experience. It is wonderful to see the young people grow with us,” said Jenny.

For Jenny, her life experiences and the volunteering she has carried out for three decades has certainly equipped her with the skills to inspire others, while carrying on volunteering and working herself.

Her volunteering started when her son Carl, now in his 30s, was two and she lived in Healing. Wanting something to occupy her mind other than ‘toddler-talk’, Jenny became involved in the village mother and toddler group.

“It is all about who you are as a person, but I found that talking to a two-year-old all day, I was in danger of losing who I was as a person, I was becoming the ‘mum of Carl’,” explained Jenny.

It was from then that her volunteering blossomed. A stint at the local youth centre was followed by village Beavers, Cubs and Scouts – a movement that has remained close to her heart ever since.

Currently a Group Scout Leader with the 2nd Immingham Scouts, last year Jenny was at Poacher and this summer Norjam – a major event in Norfolk – and was for a number of years part of the Service Team for the Glanford and District sector of the organisation.

“Part of my interest is certainly social, but it is fantastic to see a young person develop. When you go on a camp you see the difference from the day they arrive to when they leave, it is wonderful,” she said.
Carl’s hobbies very much reflected Jenny’s earlier volunteering and such was her enthusiasm to get involved that when he started with a Grimsby swimming club, she did not sit by the pool but instead trained as a swimming teacher!

As Carl grew then Jenny’s work and hobbies took her in a different direction. She joined the VANEL team and found her niche, working with young people, aged 16 and above.

While a chance chat with a friend led her to hockey – and a gold medal.

“He wanted to set up a mixed veterans’ team and I agreed to go along to make up the numbers. Three years later I was part of the national team that won gold, what a moment, it just didn’t seem real.”

“When I returned home, I went into the local shop to buy three papers as I was on the back page. The picture showed me in my protective head gear and the shop keeper said: ‘I thought that was your son’! Of course, I told her it was me,” said Jenny.

And if you think Jenny is stopping now, the year before her 60th – you think wrong.

“There is an over 60s team, so I am going for that. You know, my son refused to buy me a 50th birthday card as he said I was not grown up enough to have one – I wonder if I will get a 60th!” she added.
Volunteering can be a way of life!

Jenny leads the IGNITE team at VANEL and can be contacted on jenny@vanel.org.uk or 01472 231123.
If you’re interested in volunteering more generally please contact Liz at VANEL for a chat.