The West Berkshire Community Champions 2017

The West Berkshire Community Champions 2017 awarded at a special presentation on Thursday 7 December.

The Awards were launched in September 2014. In addition to the Junior Citizen Award (now the Pat Eastop Junior Citizen Award), three new awards have been created; The Volunteer of the Year, the Community Group of the Year and the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Councillor Quentin Webb, Chairman of West Berkshire Council said: “Community Champion is one of my favourite Chairman duties. This year we have had a superb response in each category, receiving double the number of nominations those of last year. The standard of the nominations was truly impressive, and while this made the task of judging much harder, I am delighted that we are able to recognise so many worthy people.   I would like to thank our judging panel of independent representatives and all this years nominators. It is very encouraging to hear particularly of the contributions that volunteers make in our community. They are playing an increasing role in the provision of public services and it is important that their contributions are acknowledged.

The Pat Eastop Junior Citizen Award

The standard of nominations was so high this year that the judges wished to award joint winners in this category to Riley Collier and Bradley Ruffey.

Riley was nominated by Joe Sutton, Young Carers Project Co-ordinator, for the selfless way that he cares for his mother, Claire, and the mature manner with which he copes with adult responsibilities around the home. In addition to caring for his mother, Riley also visits his grandmother once a week to support and offer care for her.

Joe told us that he was particularly inspired by Riley’s willingness and commitment to his caring role, whenever and wherever this may be; always putting his mother’s needs ahead of his own. Riley’s mum describes him as her rock! Riley accesses West Berkshire Young Carers Project and loves attending activities with fellow Young Carers.

Bradley was nominated by Sonia Harris, an Independent Reviewing Officer at West Berkshire Council.

Bradley (18) is a care leaver. He was supported, through the Action for Children advocate scheme, receiving support to speak at review meetings. He gradually grew in confidence and found his voice. As a result, he now supports other children in a similar position and is a volunteer for the charity. Bradley is also an ambassador for the charity; attending training events for volunteers wanting to become advocates or independent visitors to children in care. He is highly respected among the council’s Children and Family Services officers.

Volunteer of the Year Award

The winner for 2017 is Bob Lyon of Frilsham Village. Bob was nominated by Frilsham Parish Council with additional testimonials from Marcus Allum, Jules de Jongh, Sandra Wilkinson and Allison Gillespie.

Since moving to Frilsham 18 years ago, Bob has been at the centre, and in many cases, the initiator of community events and organisations in the village.

He has led, or participated in, the parish planning process and implementation, fundraising and project management for the playground in Frilsham and the development and daily updating of the village website. Bob is also the chairman of the Club Room Committee, undertaking ongoing Club Room maintenance to save funds, and responsibility for the day–to-day security of the surrounding recreation area and football field. He chairs the Frilsham Future Implementation Group, implementing actions and recommendations from the village plan and is treasurer of the Broadsheet, the village magazine for Frilsham, Yattendon and Hampstead Norreys. He plays an active role at the Yattendon and Frilsham Fete and other village social events, sits on the Yattendon and Frilsham Social Trust and sets up and clears away the monthly lunch club in the Club Room. He was also the village volunteer for the digital switchover. The judges described Bob as ‘superhuman’ and noted his long and exceptional impact on the lives of so many within the village.

Community Group of the Year

The judging panel was, again, very impressed by the nominations and decided to award a Highly Commended as well as a winner in this category.

The Highly Commended Award for Community Group of the Year goes to the Carnarvon Place Gardening Group, nominated by Sandra Atkinson from Sovereign Housing. Sandra explained that the group is resident-led and works hard to enhance the environment, through gardening, for the benefit of all residents in the over 55 supported housing scheme. The group has brought together residents for social interaction, reducing isolation and forming a community spirit. They welcome and support anyone who wishes to be involved, taking into account those who are less mobile. The Gardening Group consults with all residents, at weekly coffee mornings, by listening to what they would like to see within the scheme gardens.

The judges were particularly impressed by the enthusiasm and inclusive nature of the group, including the fundraising and sharing of produce amongst residents.

The winner of the Community Group of the Year is Heartstart Thatcham, nominated by Ann Allen. Ann explained that Heartstart Thatcham brings this British Heart Foundation initiative to Thatcham and surrounding areas. The scheme provides free Emergency Life Support (ELS) training in the community and has also raised sufficient funds to place many external defibrillators around the West Berkshire area.

Heartstart Thatcham was founded in May 2013 by Dr Nick Young and is supported by a small team of volunteers. Within the period March 2014 to September 2017, over 500 people have successfully passed the course. The Heartstart team are well known in the community; for their training courses and for their extensive fundraising activities which generated over £100,000 in this period. All of this has been ploughed straight back into the community. In addition to offering training, one of the prime goals of Heartstart is to raise awareness of, and access to, Automated External Defibrillators. To date, 53 have been purchased and installed in the area. A further three are on order.

The Lifetime Achievement Award

Once again, the judging panel was so impressed by the nominations and decided to award Joint Winners in this category too.

The first Joint Winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award is Lady Eliza Mays-Smith, nominated by Richard Griffiths-Jones, with a further testimonial from The Reverend Mary Harwood.

Lady Eliza is has been a governor of St. Andrew’s School, Chaddleworth and latterly of Chaddleworth St. Andrew’s and Shefford Church of England Federated Primary Schools for over 30 years, 25 of which, she has been Chair of Governors. She has also chaired, for many years, the Saunders Wynn and Coventry Educational Foundation, a small charitable foundation whose object is to assist with the educational development of the young people of Chaddleworth.

She is described as ‘constantly supportive and ever present’, having worked tirelessly, through times good and times more difficult, in her various village roles. Over very many years, her wise counsel and sensible approach was greatly appreciated in the local community, and has resulted in her being regarded with great affection and in the highest esteem. As an unsung hero, she has always been and remains much loved and respected by all those who know her in her local community.

The second Joint Winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award is Paul Cooke of Thames Valley Amateur Boxing Club who was nominated by Chloe Cooke. Paul was nominated for Volunteer of the Year but moved to Lifetime Achievement by the judges.

He runs the Thames Valley Amateur Boxing Club in Newbury 3-4 times per week. With current membership of over 200, the club offers boxing activities and fitness for children as young as 10 and is open to males and females. It is a well established and highly respected boxing club which gives the youth of West Berkshire the chance to learn self discipline, whilst building their self confidence under the strict guidance of qualified coaching staff & within the rules of the Amateur Boxing Association of England. Paul has been involved with the club for forty years and coach for thirty of those; he is the heart and soul of this local boxing club, spending his evenings at the gym and travelling with his boxers to amateur boxing matches most Fridays and Saturdays. He runs an annual dinner show at Newbury Race Course and arranges a summer camp for his boxers.

[We are pleased to report that Penny Post was nominated for an award and we thank our readers who nominated Penny Post – Ed]

Photo: West Berkshire Council

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