The 2020 winners of the Community Champions Awards to recognise the valuable contribution local individuals and groups make to West Berkshire are announced. There were nearly 100 nominations from across the district for eight award categories that were judged by an independent panel of three.
Congratulations to all the Winners, Highly Commended, Commended named below, along with every individual and group nominated.
The Pat Eastop MBE Junior Citizen of the Year
The Junior Citizen Award has been awarded since 2001 and was renamed in 2014 after Mrs Pat Eastop MBE who had played a significant role from its inception.
Winner – Louis de Chazal, age 10, nominated by Mr Adrian Foster-Fletcher, Mrs Denise Herrington and Mrs Julie-Anne Stuart
Louis de Chazal is a child eco warrior and an inspiration to his classmates, their parents and teachers – and everyone who is lucky enough to know him. He is a leading light on his school’s Eco Committee and has been the driving force behind various environmental awareness initiatives in the Hungerford area. His numerous activities have included putting up posters to encourage parents to turn off their engines when stationery, and lobbying to ensure electricity from renewable sources is used where ever possible. Thanks to his efforts, his primary school’s headteacher agreed for two trees to be planted in the school grounds.The panel of judges was impressed by the inspirational activities carried out by Louis – describing him as “one to look out for.” They admired his determination and the drive he displayed in his environmental campaigning. They felt that the Friends of the Earth quote ‘Think Global, Act Local’ really summed up everything that Louis has achieved.In addition to his activities to champion the environment, Louis is always willing to help other people and share his love of stories and music with others. He has been praised for his caring and responsible attitude in helping younger children during Lockdown by reading to them, creating games and making music together, with Louis on his bassoon to accompany singing.
Highly Commended – Ava Oakes, age 10, nominated by Miss Emily Dawkins
Ava’s determination to fundraise to help others impressed our judges – she is to be congratulated. The panel was also impressed by the amount of newspaper coverage Ava received. Ava ran a marathon, 3 miles at a time, to raise money for Brain Tumour research – in memory of her Uncle. In total, Ava raised more than £3,000!
Highly Commended – Abigail Miller, age 16, nominated by Miss Michaela Whitton, Head Coach at KD Gymnastics
The panel felt that Abigail made a huge commitment in supporting children with her gymnastics coaching – in particular they were impressed by the thought and care she demonstrated in learning a foreign language to put children at ease during their sessions. Although only 16 years old, Abigail is already a qualified coach. She is a clear role model for other young people.
Have a listen to the interviews Louis de Chazal did with Paul Presents :-
Volunteer of the Year 2020 – supported by Volunteer Centre West Berkshire
Winner – Lin Jenkins, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Reading and West Berkshire, nominated by Helen Varley, Katie Cooper, Kerrie Newton and Jill Gaisford, and a friend
Highly Commended – Allan Brownridge, Newbury Cancer Care Volunteer Drivers, nominated by Helen Milroy, Director of Operations at Newbury Cancer Care
The panel felt that Lin Jenkin’s inspiring track record and continual innovation to successfully raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) during the pandemic, made her a worthy winner.
Lin’s motto is “I will not be beaten.” Her dogged determination enabled her to raise more than £8,000 in 100 days when her usual fundraising events, such as having a stand at local fetes and fairs, were all cancelled. She achieved this by setting up a ‘Garden Gate Community Stall’ outside her front gate, and regularly received cheers from passers-by for her community spirit. Lin also sold garden tools, camping equipment, books and bric-a-brac at car boot sales during the months they were able to take place. As part of her fundraising efforts, Lin sold a staggering three quarters of a ton of books! Lin also arranges for the sale of high value items through auction houses to raise additional funds for MNDA.
Lin has been a volunteer and fundraiser for her local branch of MNDA for many years, and every single penny she has raised has paid for specialist equipment, counselling and therapies for people living with Motor Neurone Disease. The panel congratulates her on her phenomenal success and unswerving commitment.
The judges highly commended Allan for not only providing transport for patients undergoing cancer treatment, but also for lending them a listening and sympathetic ear. Allan is both dependable and committed to his voluntary work, even when faced with the risks Covid-19 presents.
Community Group of the Year 2020
Winner – St Nic’s Gardening Group at the WBCH (West Berkshire Community Hospital), nominated by Christine Stockwell
St Nic’s Gardening Group has transformed the hospital garden over the past seven years with the help of local companies, residents, and a local landscape designer. During the spring lockdown of 2020 the garden provided a welcome, tranquil escape for patients and busy staff alike. When Lockdown ended, the gardeners returned to find everything was very brown – but not for long. They worked together every day to get the garden looking even better than it did before, and the garden continues to provide a wonderful space for everyone to enjoy.
This “garden therapy” has been just what the hospital needed to benefit the physical and mental wellbeing of the hospital’s patients. Some members have been trained to provide garden therapy, working with patients alongside a member of staff. The garden has truly helped hospital staff support patients and their families. They have taken patients out in the garden in their beds and, thanks to the efforts of the Gardening Group, the garden is also accessible to wheelchair users.
The Gardening Group is a big part of the hospital community. For example, they liaise with the hospital chef to agree plantings of organic fruit, veg and herbs for the hospital’s patients, staff, and visitors. The team is an inclusive and welcoming group of volunteers. In spite of tough competition they were the worthy winners in this category.
Highly Commended – Newbury Cancer Care Volunteer Drivers, nominated by Helen Milroy, Director of Operations at Newbury Cancer Care
Volunteer drivers provide a valuable service for people when they are most in need of support. The outstanding commitment and active involvement of the drivers must be applauded. This is clearly a team of like-minded individuals who provide, not just transport, but companionship to patients as well.
Highly Commended – West Berkshire Run Together Group, nominated by Sue Bennett
The nomination for ‘West Berkshire Run Together’ provided a sense of the positive impact the group had on its members’ physical and mental wellbeing. The panel was particularly pleased to hear that the group is accessible to everyone – regardless of age or sporting ability. It is clear that the group is well organised and highly respected in the community. Congratulations to everyone involved.
Commended – Friends of the Earth West Berkshire, nominated by Dr Keith Richards
The panel was impressed by the work of this well-established environmental group. They felt that the ‘Lockdown Wood’ initiative was particularly worthy of recognition, given its passion for partnership working and for the way the project has captured the interest of the public, via social media. Friends of the Earth West Berkshire also deserves congratulating on getting so many children involved in tree planting – understanding the need to nurture our environment now – will lead to a more sustainable future.
Lifetime Achievement 2020
Winner – Janet Hopkins, nominated by Stephanie Holland
Janet Hopkins has been involved with Newbury District Swimming Club for over 60 years! She started as a successful competitive swimmer at National Level. When she hung up her swimming hat, Janet moved into coaching, officiating and chairing the Club. She was the lynchpin of the ‘Newbury and District Swimming Club,’ responsible for the Club’s teaching programme until she retired from her role in October 2020. Typically, there would be around 100 swimmers, in two squads, aged between four and 13 years old.
Janet has been an inspiration to hundreds of young people over the years. Swimming is an excellent life skill and her commitment has given many young swimmers this skill and a passion for water, setting them up with good habits at an early age.
Janet has also shown dedication and commitment to encouraging older swimmers to volunteer their time to support young swimmers. She has generously given eight hours of her time to the Club each week, and also refereed at internal club competitions, enabling the Club’s swimmers to compete in club championships.
Janet also attends many external competitions as a technical judge with either a Newbury District swimming club team or to enable swimmers to compete as individuals at a Club, County, Regional level. Such competitions would often take 16 hours of Janet’s time over a weekend for about a third of the year, so she has made a significant commitment over the years. Her time spent has meant that many other swimmers have been able compete in events across West Berkshire and other areas in the South East.
She continues to be involved in activities and is Club President. Janet’s passion and enthusiasm make her a highly deserving winner. The panel was in awe of Janet’s incredible achievements and warmly congratulate her on this fitting award.
Highly Commended – Judy McCulloch, nominated by Councillor Lynne Doherty
For 40 years Judy has dedicated her time to helping people who have been vulnerable at particular points in their lives. The panel felt that Judy’s enthusiasm and skill to drive projects forward have been of great benefit to the organisations she has been involved with – from the Keevil Unit at Speenhamland School – to her more recent role on the Board of Berkshire Healthwatch.
Commended – Penny Locke, nominated by Margaret McDonnell
The panel was extremely impressed by Penny’s community work. They felt that Penny’s voluntary work for the benefit of others, spanning more than 20 years, should be applauded. They noted the wide variety of activities that Penny is involved in – from the Hungerford Food Festival – to the highly respected and well-read ‘Penny Post’ which has become a mainstream newsfeed in the local area. It is clear that Penny is very well regarded by her community and those she works with.
Commended – Angela Money, nominated by Kath Little
Angela has been a co-ordinator for West Berkshire Neighbourhood Watch for 23 years. She is dedicated to making West Berkshire a safer place, and has gone the extra mile to set up schemes to benefit residents and vulnerable people in the community. The panel extend their thanks and congratulate Angela for her commitment to her community.
The Pat Eastop MBE Junior Citizen of the Year
Winner – Poppy Morton, age 13, nominated by the volunteers of Kintbury Volunteer Group and Kintbury Parish Council and Susie Aromando
Poppy Morton has overcome her own challenges and is now helping others. She was taught how to bake by her nurses whilst recovering from treatment for a brain tumour from which she has fully recovered. When the pandemic started, Poppy wanted to lift people’s spirits – so started baking treats to give to others in need. Not only did she deliver to people in Hamstead Marshall, she then heard about the weekly parcel deliveries made by Kintbury Volunteers Group, and increased her baking to include those families. Every cake, box of muffins, of biscuits she lovingly prepared had a label with “Love from Poppy” on it.
Both Kintbury and Hamstead Marshall residents applauded Poppy’s actions. Special kudos for Poppy came from their more elderly residents whose hearts were warmed by the fact that someone so young had cared enough to go to the effort of making something special (and so tasty) for them. Her selfless actions have had a great impact on her local community and made a real difference to the lives of many people during a difficult time.
As well as the Hamstead Marshall residents, more than 30 families in Kintbury received Poppy’s baked goodies – an astonishing achievement. The panel was impressed by Poppy’s determination and the joy her baking brought to others during lockdown, particularly those who were in real need. The thoughtfulness and care displayed by Poppy made her the worthy winner of this category.
Highly Commended – Lowri Thomas, age 16, nominated by Councillor Lynne Doherty and a local resident
The voluntary work carried out by Lowri to help others in the Shaw Community during the pandemic, is impressive. In spite of her young age, Lowri has a very strong community spirit and lots of enthusiasm to help others. This was highlighted by the fact she delivered essential items to vulnerable people during lockdown. A chat on the doorstep brought a much needed boost to the wellbeing of lonely residents.
Volunteer of the Year 2020
This year we named two winners of this award category:
Claire Bird, nominated by Councillor Jeff Brooks and Shelley Bowdery, nominated by Mark Birtwistle and Councillor Carolyne Culver
Winner – Claire Bird
Claire Bird, a professional seamstress, threw her heart and soul into the production of scrubs and other items for the NHS – suspending her home business to run this project. To recruit volunteers and local support, Claire set up a Facebook page in April 2020 called “Birdhouse Scrub Makers in West Berks.” She built a network of more than 100 people who helped her, with 30 dedicated seamstresses.
Initially she raised money for fabrics (over £2000), then started to receive donations of fabric from companies, including Liberty of London, which donated high quality fabric to the effort. Claire updated the Facebook page daily with live videos and messages of encouragement and thanks to her outworkers. She also provided updates of how many scrubs and other items had been delivered. Claire worked almost non-stop from April through to September – staying for hours on end in her sewing room so people could come to the window and take materials or bring finished items.
The Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust wrote to Claire thanking her and her “amazing team” for the “wonderful scrubs” supplied. The letter stated that at the time they had been “unable to purchase any scrubs from our usual procurement routes and are relying totally on the work of volunteer sewers such as yourself…In fact, your team has been responsible for supplying us with around 75 per cent of all our donated scrubs to date.”
By the start of August Claire and her team provided 5401 pieces of equipment including 1015 Scrubs, 994 bags, 477 Headbands, 311 Ear Protectors and 1900 masks! With Claire’s passion and amazing results from her brainchild project, the judging panel felt that Claire was a highly deserving winner of this Volunteer of the Year award.
Winner – Shelley Bowdery
Shelley Bowdery started the Compton Volunteer Response from scratch to provide much needed support to vulnerable local residents throughout the pandemic. Shelley arranged to leaflet every house in the village to get private feedback on who was shielding, isolating, had disabilities or other needs and may have needed support during the lock-down. At the same time, she asked for volunteers – creating a team of more than ninety helpers! Shelley undertook strict data protection protocols right from the start to fully protect private information.
Following responses to the leaflet, Shelley decided that a “Buddy” system would work best for the local community. She assigned a “Buddy” to each person or family who had requested support, drawing upon her pool of volunteers. Each “Isolator” and Buddy had to register with her and they received a set of guidelines to follow which outlined the government advice at the time. WhatsApp groups were established for swift communication of urgent information and requests for help.
Shelley sent out regular communications to her volunteer group, including fun items, games, crafts and other challenges, as well as important announcements and guidance. Similar emails were issued to Isolators and Shielders. While keeping in regular contact with everyone, Shelley realised that some in the village relied on the food bank to survive. With access to the food bank virtually impossible for those in Compton, due to restrictions, Shelley started a regular trip into Newbury to collect food bank parcels for them, and to drop off food bank donations from sites she created around Compton. In addition, Shelley made a number of trips to The Royal Berks Hospital to take people for appointments.
Shelley’s enthusiasm and drive to support her local community meant that the most vulnerable residents were well looked after. Her overall ingenuity and determination displayed throughout the pandemic has made Shelley highly worthy of the Volunteer of the Year accolade.
Highly Commended – ‘a Samaritans volunteer,‘ nominated by Jessica Wauchope
The person who is ‘Highly Commended’ in this category is a Samaritans volunteer with 25 years’ service – a real unsung hero! The volunteer, who preferred not be named, adapted to the challenges of the Covid pandemic by selling handmade masks to fundraise for the charity. It was clear from the nomination that they are very highly regarded by their colleagues and by the people they have supported over the years. The panel offer their thanks and congratulations.
Community Group of the Year 2020 – supported by the Greenham Trust
Winner – Covid Food and Supplies Group of Loose Ends, nominated by Karen Swaffield and Sally-Ann Jay
Loose Ends has fed homeless and vulnerable people in Newbury for 30 years. It was set up in 1990 by Richard and Wendy Westall, becoming a charity in 2013. There are around 60 volunteers who normally run five dining sessions each week at Morton Hall.
At the start of the lockdown in March 2020, when Morton Hall had to close, members of Loose Ends sprang into action. Pat Burke, Patricia Arnold and Kate Sheather formed the ‘Covid Food and Supplies Group’ to continue making nutritious, freshly prepared meals, and deliver these to their clients. Pat worked closely with regular suppliers – the Food Bank, SOFEA and Fairshare, and managed the receipt of donated goods from groups and individuals, as well as shopping for extra supplies. Patricia coordinated menus and did most of the cooking, with help from their other chefs. Kate liaised with West Berkshire Council and outreach workers, and sourced PPE, packaging materials and takeaway packs, whilst ensuring that they complied with the ever-changing guidelines.
By end of March, the group was providing more than 350 meals a week. When the first lockdown eased, the Food and Supplies team provided the hall with three food stations to enable clients to socially distance, whilst wearing masks and using hand sanitizer. The number of people coming to the hall increased to at least 150 a week. During the November lockdown, the number of people living in temporary accommodation rose again. Loose Ends stepped up to the challenge by providing between 50 and 70 meals each session, as well as ‘Welcome Packs’ to people being rehoused.
With all of the phenomenal efforts of the Loose Ends response team to flex their operations throughout the pandemic to serve the community, the judges felt that their valuable work truly merited recognition and an award.
Highly Commended – Joining Together, nominated by Ami Gardiner-Campbell
During the pandemic Joining Together started by making cardboard cutouts to attach to a local fence to make people smile, and as time went on children joined in to display more than 200 cutouts in total. The panel recognised what a difficult time lockdown was for children and felt that this project not only gave them a reason to go for a walk, but also encouraged them to create their own art work. Joining Together’s food and treat collection and delivery to key workers was also congratulated by the panel. The fact that Joining Together’s ranks have grown to more than 2000 members is testament to the community spirit and drive of the group.
Highly Commended – Hermitage Community Volunteer Group, nominated by Stephanie Tinsley and Nicola Pierce
This group was set up to provide Hermitage and the surrounding villages with a food bank and with food deliveries for those who needed them. They also collected and delivered medicine and supported vulnerable and lonely people – making a positive difference to their wellbeing. They recruited new volunteers from the Parish Council and Village Hall Committee. The panel recognised the fact that the group showed great innovation by sourcing grants to enlist the services of a professional caterer to provide hot meals for the most vulnerable in the community.
Big Thank You 2020
The information about the winners in this category has been written by their nominators.
- Andy and Laura Allen– nominated by Edward Crookes, Chairman of Englefield Parish Council, who said: “Englefield Parish Council nominated Andy and Laura Allen, proprietors of Englefield Stores, for a ‘Big Thank You’ for their efforts in supporting our local community during the Covid-19 pandemic. From the outset they have gone more than the extra mile to help everyone in their community. After they had to close their tea room business due to restrictions, they put all their energies into stocking up their stores, delivering groceries, checking daily on older people and those who were ill – collecting prescriptions for anyone who was housebound, and putting out dustbins for elderly neighbours. They have supported the community wholeheartedly and always with good humour.”
- Andy Murray– nominated by Carolyn Purchase: “Andy Murray has been instrumental in co-ordinating the Hermitage Support Group. He instigated the initial trawl for volunteers – and ended up having to organise around 110 willing volunteers, who put themselves forward for duties during the pandemic. He also set up a ‘Just Giving’ page for voluntary donations – contributions exceeded £1500 within three weeks. At the end of the first lockdown Andy, with the help of Spotlight Charity, set up the food bank in Hermitage. The food bank will continue to run until it is not needed. Andy deserves a ‘Big Thank You’.”
- Buddy Mashiur Rahman– nominated by Martin Cottingham and a local resident: “Buddy Mashiur Rahman, also known as ‘Buddy Mansoor’ is the proprietor of Burghfield Spices at the Hatchgate Inn, Burghfield. During the first lockdown he and his team of employees cooked and delivered 500 meals for frontline staff working at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Prospect Park Hospital. During half term he and his team offered free lunch bags to children attending local schools, who would normally have received free school meals. He is a well-known and respected member of the Burghfield community and really deserves a ‘Big Thank You’ for his selfless actions.”
- Helen Noll– nominated by Rachel Jannaway: “Helen was instrumental in setting up the Lambourn Volunteers, and has worked tirelessly for the benefit of the community for more than six months. She answers calls to the local community number, helps at the Lambourn Junction and is one amazing woman!”
- Jane Johnstone– nominated by Sandie Allen: “Jane, with her infectious laugh and smile, lives in a small community where a lot of residents are older and, therefore, shielding. At the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, Jane took it upon herself to make contact with residents, during her daily walk, not just those shielding but everyone, to see if she could help in any way. Jane did weekly shopping for people who asked her to and, in addition, she made time for a 10 minute socially distanced or through the window conversation with residents. Jane continues to support people who are shielding, her smile and laughter continues to raise spirits in these very challenging times.”
- Joe Mills– nominated by Grahame Murphy and Kim Lloyd: “From a very young age, Joe has always been a great help to those less fortunate in the village of Chaddleworth. He has served on the Parish Council for 38 years – our longest serving Councillor. Joe was one of the founder members of the Cricket Club. His greatest strength is getting together teams in the village to do community work. It is because he is so well thought of that no one has the nerve to say no! He looks after the cricket ground almost entirely on his own – mowing the grass, marking out the pitches and carrying out all the maintenance. He is also the main gardener at the Memorial Garden and, last year, planted 52 roses in the garden. Joe also helps at fetes and barbeques and any other village events. He is truly irreplaceable and we think after all his years (75) of living in this village community, he deserves our gratitude – so we have put him forward for the ‘Big Thank You’ award.”
- Karen De Monte– nominated by Kirsty Scott: “Karen started ‘Joining Together,’ a colourful display of cut out characters attached to a fence along Lower Way in Thatcham, to cheer people up during the pandemic. It was a joy to walk past, and it brought a smile to our faces during a very strange time for us all. She also arranged ‘thank you’ parcels to be dropped to businesses, schools, care homes, emergency services and local heroes through the pandemic as well. Karen is still to this day helping the community, arranging collections for the local food banks.”
- Kathryn Dundas– nominated by a friend: “Kathryn’s unlimited support and kindness stretches to all members of the ‘Eight Bells for Mental Health’ group, who said that they would all be struggling without her. She is an outstanding lady and deserves much more than a thank you.”
- Liz Chaplin– nominated by Helen Milroy: “Liz has been a Trustee of Newbury Cancer Care for more than 22 years. Her passion for volunteering is humbling – she is always the first to put her hand up and volunteer to help with anything – regardless of what it is. Liz is our champion fundraiser, having raised over £25,000 for our charity over the years, selling our notelets and calendars, and more recently our book of local photos. Liz not only volunteers for Newbury Cancer Care, she is also a volunteer at the Watermill Theatre and the Corn Exchange. Liz is a warm and kind person and we are very proud to nominate her for a Community. She deserves a ‘Big Thank You’ and well done for all the energy, determination and passion she has for helping others.”
- Malcolm Hannington– nominated by Becki Hannington: “Since Malcolm’s wife passed away from cancer on Christmas Eve 2019, Malcolm has worked tirelessly to fundraise for charities that helped to support his wife through her illness. Malcolm ran a half marathon on his 70th birthday to raise funds for Newbury Cancer Care. He also shaved off all his hair to raise money for Thatcham Cancer Support Group.”
- Marion Fenn– nominated by Jayne French-Dayton: “I was amazed at the wonderful community spirit that existed at the ‘Wash Common Allotments’ – promoted by Marion Fenn as the Steward. Since I acquired my plot I have witnessed the support and assistance Marion provides – along with her hard work. She makes sure everyone is supported. We have a number of elderly plot holders who needed to isolate – so she looked after their plots until they could return. She has managed to obtain discounts for us, and she is there daily sanitising the gates and keeping the site in good order. She chats and advises, and ensures Covid rules are adhered to.”
- Mick Dowdeswell– nominated by Theresa Dowdeswell: “Mick has spent hundreds of hours scanning and uploading photos, and writing and posting content on the “Lambourn” Facebook page, providing village residents with details of local history and other information. In addition to being entertaining, stories about the past enable the community to learn more about their local history. Although Mick has been doing this occasionally for some time, during the lockdown it has really become a full time occupation, with posts almost daily. Mick is 80 years old and is well known in the village. He is always helping his neighbours with things – such as cutting their hedges. In addition he looks after the grounds at the bowls club.”
- Rodie Hill– nominated by Rebecca Cookson: “Rodie has been making face masks for everyone in the Mortimer community since the first lockdown in March 2020. She used her own material as well donations – providing her time for free. No charge was made for the masks; anyone who asked was given one. She really helped a lot of people.”
- Roz Boadle– nominated by Linnet McMahon: “Roz supported me by doing my shopping for months during the pandemic. She offers before she can be asked – and always has a ready smile. She delivers newspapers from Great Shefford to the whole village of North Fawley, via the Fawley Village WhatsApp group. She also delivers me a loaf of bread each week, and a croissant, which she insists is her treat! Roz spends a day a week working at the local Volunteer Centre. She is ready to help anyone at any time. She is just brilliant.”
- Sara Disson– nominated by Carolyn Purchase: “Sara definitely deserves a ‘Big Thank You’ on behalf of the residents of Hermitage, and Covid Support Group. She has been volunteering – helping local residents, delivering newsletters, prescriptions and cooked meals and, more recently, co-ordinating and delivering food parcels from the Hermitage Food bank. Sara’s concern for elderly residents stretched to making cream teas and cakes – delivering them to some residents, whilst ensuring that they were keeping well and had enough food. All in all, Sara is a fantastic volunteer who has definitely made a generous personal contribution to the village.”
- Steve Masters– nominated by Margaret McDonnell: “Steve has put an incredible amount of energy into local projects. It is really inspiring to see someone work so hard to make the community a better place. Steve often helps out at various local organisations – from mental health charities – to community orchards. He is a real force for good – and for change. He is always cheerful and happy to chat, and really deserves a ‘Big Thank You’ for dedicating his time to the community.”
- Sue Bennett– nominated by Susie Aromando: “Sue is a volunteer for a running group called ‘West Berkshire Run Together.’ The group encourages people to walk/run together, and focuses on mental health and people who struggle with it. When lockdown happened, many of the group felt scared and lonely, and were not motivated to exercise. Sue created a WhatsApp group and a group on Facebook so that everyone could stay connected. To keep everyone smiling and not feeling lonely on the days and times when we would normally go for a run, but couldn’t due to Covid restrictions, Sue ran Facebook Live and Zoom sessions, which included exercises and challenges.”
- Zena Buck– nominated by Sukey Russell-Hayward: “Zena and her team of volunteers provided emergency support for a number families in desperate need of provisions over Lockdown. Every week, Zena and the team collected food, toiletries and other essentials, as well as games and books, to provide vital support for families in the local area. This was a lifeline for people who were struggling to feed their families.”
- Eight Bells for Mental Health– nominated by a local resident: “Eight Bells for Mental Health has supported people in the community who are struggling with mental health issues. They also run a drop in centre for people to attend once a week – where they provide tea, coffee and activities.”
- Falkland Surgery– nominated by Lowri: “Falkland Surgery is a General Practice providing essential and top quality care. Its highly professional and dedicated team always go above and beyond, to ensure Newbury has access to great Healthcare. Their experience through Covid has been extremely tough – yet everyone has continued to pull together to ensure the Newbury community is cared for. Everyone who works at the Falkland Surgery always goes above and beyond the requirements of their roles to ensure high standards. They are all great, and they serve a huge population within Newbury. A ‘Big Thank You’ to them all!”
- Newbury Community Resource Centre– nominated by Paul Walter: “Since March 2020, the Newbury Community Resource Centre has become heavily involved in distributing food parcels to vulnerable families and individuals. They supplied food to the disadvantaged people they were already supporting, whilst they were shielding. The Centre produced a large number of craft kits for young children, which they distributed at intervals, over several months. They also provided sunflower and tomato plants for children to grow. The Resource Centre supplied textiles to local groups who were making scrubs and scrubs bags for NHS staff. They donated and delivered flowers from their ‘Growing 2gether’ project for the residents of four West Berkshire Council’s Care Homes to plant in their gardens. They reopened their Community Furniture Project shop to the public, in a Covid-safe way, on 15 June 2020, and worked closely with West Berkshire Council’s Homeless Reduction Team to supply essential furniture and white goods to support homeless people moving into permanent accommodation.”
- Volunteer Centre West Berkshire– nominated by Councillor Erik Pattenden: “The Volunteer Centre is well known for its innovative volunteer recruitment service, which has set West Berkshire as a top volunteering district in the country. The charity was established in 1974 and in the past 46 years, its trustees, volunteers and small staff, have remained focused on putting the needs of people first. At the start of the Covid crisis in March 2020, the charity co-created the Community Hub and transformed its operational methods – and recruited 720 volunteers in 10 weeks. It created a Google map system to make efficient use of the volunteers in the district, as well as being the key responder to the needs of residents in Newbury Town. During the depths of the lockdown, volunteers delivered more than 3,000 prescriptions and around 1,000 food parcels and carried out essential shopping trips.”
- Volunteer Chieveley– nominated by Councillor Hilary Cole: “The group was one of the first in the district to be set up in response to the Covid crisis. In addition to picking up shopping, collecting prescriptions, posting mail and checking on older and vulnerable people, they set up a foodbank, which is completely independent of any other in the area. The foodbank is open every Wednesday evening. They also distribute ‘kindness bags’ to people who need them. This group has been outstanding and is a terrific example of a community pulling together – working for the community without any outside support.”
- West Berkshire Christmas Pop-up– nominated by David Alder: “Mrs Alder, creator of the Christmas pop-up, set up this group to showcase 120 small, local businesses (running three events over 15 evenings) as businesses were unable to hold any Christmas events last year. She was motivated to do this because she is a small business owner herself, and found lockdown hard going for business. Mrs Alder has given more than 70 hours of her time to setting up and managing the group. She charged each business £5 to participate and left it to the group to decide which local charity the money raised would go to. The £200 fee raised in October went to Loose Ends and November’s fee was donated to Newbury Cancer Care. Mrs Alder helped many local business owners – as well as two amazing charities. Doing so has taken her away from running her own business but she doesn’t see this as a negative as she is keen to help others. It is great to see her hard work and dedication recognised with a ‘Big Thank You’.”
- Westfields Volunteers– nominated by Sukey Russell-Howard: “To provide essential support to West Fields’ residents, and beyond, during the Covid pandemic, this group distributed 1,000 leaflets at the start of the pandemic to inform residents about available support. A co-ordinating team of five people was set up as key contacts – with phone numbers and the Community Matters’ email address provided. A volunteer force was recruited from the local community – which at its peak consisted of more than 65 volunteers. It has resulted in new friendships being formed and a tighter community in West Fields. Many residents say that the support has provided them with a lifeline during lockdown.”