R.I.P. Steve the original Sweet Pea

Steve was a volunteer for 35 years, supporting Dudley Hospital Radio and then  the Children’s Ward at Russells Hall Hospital.  He was also a volunteer for Dudley CVS for many years, driving our minibuses around the borough offering the elderly and disabled an opportunity to enjoy social activities. His warm personality and sense of humour made him very popular with his passengers, who always left the bus with a smile on their face.

In 2016 Steve Mukanovic was awarded the Children & Families Main Award at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2016, for his outstanding contribution to making children’s stays in hospital more pleasant and in recognition of making 500+ local children’s dreams come true. Everything from riding in a helicopter or a Ferrari, to meeting a celebrity or smashing gnomes!

His nominator Linda tells us just what made him so special. She said:

“He is not only an inspiration to us all but is also truly humbling. You would have to really meet him to understand his charisma and unique sense of fun, he is truly a one off and we are so proud that he chooses to help us.  It would be the best thing ever to give him some of the recognition he truly deserves especially as he is rather down awaiting further surgery.”

 Steve’s presentation photo and nomination film may be viewed by following this link

Midlands Film and Art’s Character Portraits Project 2018

In 2018 Dudley CVS were approached by Midlands Art Yard to help them identify 12 local community volunteers to take part in their Characters Portrait Project, where they would be a feature of a unique piece of artwork.

Steve’s Character Portraits Project video may be viewed here and it’s wonderful to hear him talking about his passion for volunteering and the joy he got from it.

In the video Steve shared his thoughts on volunteering:

“Volunteering has kept me active physically and mentally, and hopefully there’s 500 children from the Dudley area who had their wish come true already.

 As a volunteer of course you don’t get paid for what you do not in financial terms, but to see that smile how can you put a price on that? Then of course you’ve got the day itself when you meet up and you see them lift off in that helicopter, or set off in that car so you get another smile, and you get a smile from the family and that’s a very fulfilling it’s very rewarding.”


Team Santa Elf

In October 2018 Steve joined the volunteer elves supporting Operation Santa Dudley borough and spent 6 weeks, sorting and wrapping gifts in the grotto.  He also attended the special Christmas party on 17th December at the Court House carvery in Kingswinford along with the other elves, helping us set up the room and entertaining the 50+ children, and their parents who attended.

We were so sorry to hear that Steve passed away in December 2018 and will be sadly missed.  There was a lovely feature in the Express & Star.

Eileen from Operation Santa said:

“Steve was just 100 per cent the nicest man. The outpouring of love for him is incredible. He was an absolute star.”


More lovely supporters – thank you :)

  • Dudley MBC Staff and Councillors
  • Deb Goodwin
  • Brierley Hill Health & Social Care Centre
  • Nicklin
  • Cllr Nicola Richards
  • Ashton Care Group
  • Catherine Wilday DWP
  • Russells Hall Primary School
  • Sophie Higgs – Asda Merry Hill
  • Emma Flavell – Asda Brierley Hill
  • Dudley MBC Public Health
  • Judith Watkin

Another day and another miracle! @ProspectCoaches ‏

So yesterday we had an emergency as we could not secure a coach to get a school to the Court House for their free Christmas lunch.  I was tearing my hair out, the elves were helping and I think we tried every coach company in the area, plus appeals on Facebook.

A huge thank you to Steve one of my lovely elves and Louise/Roz from Prospect Coaches who have saved the day by offering a FREE coach. We are so grateful and now the children can get to the carvery.  What a miracle!

In the interim the lovely Jo Gresswell found us a Free coach from Merry Hill Private Hire too. So huge thanks to Jo and Adam from Merry Hill Private Hire too.

Feeling the Christmas spirit.

This week has been a rollercoaster! We are their last hope!!

Wow what a week it’s been.  We’ve had highs such as over 2000 donations and we are now at 7788, lots of very grateful organisations collecting toys and gifts for children and young people who would otherwise get NOTHING for Christmas.  Sorted out some panto tickets for January with the lovely Deb from Brierley Hill Musical Theatre Company and processed some payments for Christmas parties/hot meals for children and young people.  The elves have been wrapping grotto gifts, sorting and keeping me sane! Don’t know what I would do without my lovelies – Trevor, Rose, Jayne, Steve and Sarah – all volunteers with hearts of gold.  Brett, Lee and Billy the Elf have kept my spirits up too, with piles of donations and cheerful news on how well they are doing this year.

Then there’s reality, the organisations coming in with lists of children and telling us that we are their last hope and without Operation Santa, the children they support would get NOTHING!!!  There have been more lists of children than ever before this year, 35 at the last count and more in my in-box to sort.  We’ve worked out way through the lists, booking in collection slots, but there are still over 300 outstanding and more to come.

These nominators are working with children and young people in dire need 365 days a year and know the grim reality of not just child poverty, but the horrific situation many of them are living with.  We should all feel very lucky if we have somewhere warm and safe to live, and food to eat.  We have had so many tears and heard so many tales of woe and these are just a drop in the ocean of living in Dudley borough for the less fortunate.  The elves and I are hearing about the situation they are living in … victims of burglary when presents have been stolen, plus household items and even the Christmas Tree, children who have been victims of child sexual abuse, parents who have died and left them alone – with grandparents refusing to take them in and the children going into care. Imagine losing your Mum just before Christmas and she’s ALL you’ve got!  A little girl whose Mum has to make the agonising decision that’s right for her daughter about life-changing surgery.

Don’t worry it’s not all doom and gloom and we know that Operation Santa makes a HUGE difference, so please help us to spread the word and support us to reach even more children and young people, for whom we are their only hope!

Phew what a week of donations!

We have had lots of lovely donations and yesterday was some kind of record I think!  Had two van loads of goodies from Lee [Volks Magic] and Billy the Elf, then Brett and the Blaze Angels went on a secret mission and returned with 7 cars full of items from a high street retailer, before returning for another car load of goodies dropped at the Salon. This week we have also had donations from Jim White, Stephanie, Holy Trinity Church Amblecote, Amblecote/Wordsley Methodist Church, the Duncan Edwards Foundation, Sandi Webb and Janet Phillips, Mrs Croak and Mrs J Feshali.  Thank you to you lovelies 🙂

The boys went BIG and thank you Smyths Toys

A huge, huge thank you to the amazing group of guys who fundraise for Operation Santa all year and do an ENORMOUS toy shop at Smyths Toys each year.  They also fund a huge Christmas Party for 100 local children with a full Christmas lunch and entertainment too. What a bunch of absolute stars.

Today Simon, Mike, Carl and Jason gave up their Sunday with their families and were up at the crack of dawn to go to Smyths in Longridge, where the lovely Shane [Store Manager], arranged to open the store an hour earlier, so they could shop like VIP’s and gave them a 20% discount, plus some free toys. They had a huge shopping session, filling trolleys with the biggest presents they could find and there was so much it filled two large vans!  Bless them and their commitment to making a difference to local children who may otherwise think that Santa has forgotten them.  The toy of the day was the 6 foot long caterpillar chosen by Carl and the elves, and I are wondering quite how this could be wrapped!  Let’s just say it’s a good job we are extending into another room tomorrow as the grotto has never been this full ever!  Here are some photos of the boys in action, doing the ultimate Christmas shop!