BEST VOLUNTEER: Dedicated Nicola James is nominated for a Community Star

A DEDICATED worker has been described as an “absolute star” who has worked tirelessly for the community.

Now, 30-year-old Nicola James has been nominated in the best-volunteer category in this year’s Herald/Gazette Community Stars awards.

Nicola, who has Asperger syndrome, volunteers at Buddy’s Café, in South Farm Road, Worthing, as well as at Dove Lodge, in Beach Road, Littlehampton, and at Worthing Hospital.

Those who work with Nicola have praised her for her “reliability” and “caring” nature.

Jenny Stead, who volunteers at Buddy’s Café and works alongside Nicola, nominated her for the award.

She said: “Nicola has Asperger syndrome, but never lets it get in the way of helping others.

“She is one of our best workers and we often call on her if we are short-staffed.

“She never refuses and rarely lets us down at all, and this was exceptional, considering her mother died only a short time ago.”

Nicola studied catering at Northbrook College and can do silver service waiting. She also did a two-year life skills course.

However, because Nicola has Asperger’s, she thought a full-time job would be too much to cope with, so decided to make use of her time helping others.

Now, through her volunteering work, she has helped other people with learning difficulties both at the café and at Dove Lodge, where she is an assistant sessions worker.

Jenny said: “She will always go beyond the call of duty.

“She attends our youth group for other young adults with Asperger’s and has even taken it upon herself to encourage them to socialise more with her and is in the process of trying to meet up with other members in Worthing for an activity.”

She added: “We all have the utmost admiration for her and she proves that a learning difficulty does not stop you achieving a great deal in life.”

Derek Moore, from Dove Lodge, added: “She is a kind and caring asset to my group.

“She has never let me down and is always willing to do more.” Nicola has volunteered at Buddy’s for two years, working every Friday and one Saturday a fortnight.

Lesley Drayton, supervisor at the café, said: “She is the most reliable, conscientious, pleasant person. She is an absolute star. She is really an asset to Buddy’s.

“When you work with her you know you can rely on her. She is fantastic.”

Nicola, 30, of Crowborough Drive, Goring, was overjoyed when she heard about the nomination.

She said: “It is absolutely fantastic. I did not expect anything like this at all.

“It is just a complete surprise and shock.”

She said of Buddy’s: “It is a really nice atmosphere as it is very relaxed.

“The customers are lovely and the staff are fantastic and are really helpful if you need any help.”