This took place in the Croft Field Activity Centre. The weather was at first overcast and later turned to rain but stopped well short of the storms that had been forecast: indeed, by the end, the sun was peering through the clouds. This is perhaps an encouraging (and hopefully accurate) image for the subject of the event – the celebration of those members of the community who had “gone the extra mile” to help support the town and its inhabitants during the pandemic.
The remarks that follow are taken from the address by Hungerford’s Mayor, Helen Simpson. As everyone agreed, she deserved very special thanks for her enormous efforts in so many ways over the last 18 months and received a heart-felt round of applause at the end.
I am delighted to host the awards ceremony for the community-nominated Coronavirus champions. The pandemic definitely showcased how incredible our residents are. A large number went above and beyond to ensure residents received medication, received food, a wellness call and lifts to the vaccination centre. Others provided scrubs and masks to hospitals, helped maintain well-loved local services or provided information and advice. Some even danced their way through Covid to entertain and lift the spirits of a community. I was humbled by the community’s incredible response and thrilled to be able to recognise their selfless acts of kindness.
I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to you all, thank you so much for accepting our invitation. I hope you have all enjoyed the delicious food which has pretty much all been donated by local businesses.
HTC would like to say a huge thank you to the following.
- Christian Alba for the meat;
- Hungerford Tesco for the other food;
- John O’Gaunt Public House for the beer;
- The Naked Grape for the wine;
- Helen’s Balloons for the balloons;
- John O’Gaunt and Hungerford Primary Schools for the gazebos;
- Derek Loft for the PA system;
- Hungerford Town Band (who pretty much always say yes to our community events) for the music;
- Our resident chef Barney alongside our Town Clerk Claire for the wonderfully cooked food;
- Last but by no means least I’d like to say a huge thank you to HTC’s Deputy Town Clerk Sarah Hennessey. Sarah has worked tirelessly to ensure this event was co-ordinated and organised so beautifully. I know how much work has been involved behind the scenes.
We asked the community to nominate someone they felt had gone the extra mile to support our community throughout the Covid pandemic. We weren’t disappointed – we know how amazing our residents are and judging by the numbers of nominations we received, so does the wider community. Your selfless acts of kindness and support to those in need though-out the pandemic was quite simply outstanding!
I get quite emotional when I read and witness the efforts made by individuals who genuinely care so much about the welfare of others (often complete strangers) whilst putting aside their own anxieties, health, work and family commitments. I know, there’s no other place I’d rather be living than in our beautiful town.
Nearly 34 years ago, Hungerford was united by a tragic event, I was 16 at the time but I remember vividly the feeling of a community’s arm wrapped around the shoulders of an entire town. The community support over the last 18 plus months has made me feel that very same feeling of community togetherness.
That’s the reason we’re all here today: to say thank you and to celebrate your selfless acts of kindness and community support. I hope you are as proud of yourselves as the community is of your efforts. Huge congratulations to all of today’s awardees.
Geordie & Kala Taylor – Hungerford’s self -isolation Group
Right at the start of the pandemic Geordie came into HTC’s office and said, “I’ve got the time, good organisational skills, people know me, I want to help”! The self-isolation group was born. Geordie hates bureaucracy, rules and regulations which HTC has to adhere to. Geordie however was determined to overcome these hurdles and, working in partnership, we crossed them. Over 200 volunteers came forward on Geordie’s call for help so no-one in our community was left without food, medication, advice, a telephone call or doorstep conversation for those who were alone or vulnerable. Geordie’s team went on to help the vaccine roll-out, driving residents to the vaccination centre at Newbury Racecourse. Geordie has been recognised by MP Laura Farris, but the community would like to recognise Geordie’s and Kala’s outstanding efforts here on home soil. He even managed to persuade GWR to change its timetable so that more trains could stop at Newbury Racecourse station when the vaccination centre was open there. “Thank you” simply doesn’t seem enough!
Realising the enormity of the task in hand, a team of volunteer leaders was appointed. They were responsible for organising their own individual areas and for co-ordinating the volunteers within their vicinity. It was important and reassuring to residents to have volunteers who were known and trusted neighbours. The town is incredibly grateful to you and to all of the volunteers from the team I’ll welcome you all up together, Huge thanks go to: Chris Hook, Hilary Stockwell, Andy Bell, Ian Sweeney, Dee Anderson, Nicola Wood, Megan Heath, Angus Fleming, Martyn Bright, Alison Martin, Ed Pellow and Dennis Benneyworth
James raised funds for the self-isolation team by creating a CD & Downloadable version of a music track entitled World Anthem. The profits made from sales went directly to support many additional local groups and charities as well as the self-isolation team.
Councillor John Downe
John also volunteered with the self-isolation group, I know he collected and delivered a lot of medical prescriptions. John drives regularly for CHAIN and although the CHAIN office was closed, he collected donations from foodbank collections points in Hungerford and drove them to the main centre in Newbury where he helped to distribute the parcels in and around the local area. John also did many trips to the vaccination centre to help those who were without transport.
Ted Angel & George Ham
Ted and George were both nominated for driving the Handybus to collect food from the collection points In Hungerford, delivering this to the Newbury distribution centre and then redelivering to local families who were so grateful for the support each week. Both Ted and George are well known for volunteering and doing so during the pandemic was no exception.
Marion is well known to all of us crafters in the town as a complete machine when it comes to knitting, sewing and crocheting. It was no surprise that, when hearing the cry for help, Marion went full speed ahead, making and delivering 50 sets of scrubs to the local hospital. She didn’t stop there and also went on to make over 1,500 facemasks and crochet bands to keep the elastic from your ears. Marion sold the masks and gave all the proceeds to the Hungerford Hub. I will also cherish the special embroidered ones you made for me with HTC’s logo, and the one you made me for Remembrance Sunday.
Shaun Wood & Lucy Crame
Shaun and Lucy are both volunteers as community first responders. At times during the pandemic, when ambulances could be delayed due to the demand and when urgent treatment was desperately needed, they attended calls even when not on duty and often in their own vehicles, helping to assist residents and offer reassurance whilst awaiting the ambulance.
Nour enabled St Lawrence’s church services to go online when people were not allowed in the church building. She introduced St Lawrence’s to technology so that the preachers, readers and intercessors all Zoomed together. Nour then turned this into a Youtube and Facebook live stream. When eventually allowed back into the church, she bought cameras tripods and sound equipment to record the service and stayed on an extra two hours to upload the recordings. Nour hasn’t missed a single service since March 2020. The Annual Remembrance Sunday service in November 2020 was also recorded and streamed in this way and has been watched by over 370 people
Nick has been nominated for his efforts in ensuring Hungerford’s weekly market thrived throughout the pandemic, giving the town access to essential fresh produce. The outdoor market for many residents was the only place they felt comfortable shopping. Nick was out there in all weathers with his measuring stick and tape, as the former constable Nick ensured market goers adhered to Covid guidelines, Nick lifted the community’s spirit every week.
Chrissy Marsh and Stuart March
Chrissy and Stuart have also been nominated for their volunteer efforts on Hungerford’s weekly market. Every Wednesday they were out in all weathers ensuring people signed into the app or recorded the names and phone numbers of market goers. They made sure residents remained socially distanced and informed throughout. These two never stop smiling and always brightened everyone’s day.
Helen & Colin Daunton, Tesco
Helen and Colin were nominated for their personal contributions to the community. As managers, they were in constant communication with me and quickly offered to help the self-isolation volunteers (who were shopping for many households) have priority entrance to the store. They also helped to feed local families who were struggling to make ends meet. Tesco as a store has received so much praise for its outstanding efforts. The staff were sometimes under severe pressure when panic buying took hold in the early stages. We are lucky to have a store which really support their local community – as, indeed, it has done again today by providing the food for this event.
Boots the Chemist
The store has been nominating for the support it gave to the community and for the changes implemented to assist the volunteers making collections for shielding and vulnerable residents. Staff were coming out of the store and doing all that they could to ensure the waiting times were as short as possible.
Lizzie was nominated for helping an elderly neighbour with shopping and taking the time to check on him and chat with him on the doorstep each week. When she had to return from her studies in Paris when France imposed its curfew she decided to use some of her free time to help him. Often, he’d only need a couple of items, but he was always thrilled to see her each week.
Derek & Di Loft
Derek and Di were nominated for organising Remembrance Sunday. HTC desperately wanted to mark this important date in our calendar and Derek and Di rallied to help us do just that. We had a smaller service, but it felt very personal and even more moving. Di also co-ordinated a very successful poppy appeal despite Covid restrictions.
Penny and Brian were instrumental in getting communications out into the public domain through Penny Post. They kept residents informed on their digital platforms, informing and signposting residents to find help and support, providing information about takeaway food, sharing HTC’s news about Covid and reporting the ever-changing legislation. They also kept community spirits high. Penny and Stuart March also co-ordinating the Christmas community video. It was an enormous amount of work but so appreciated by the whole community. When shops and businesses opened Penny Post as there once again with us to welcome them back.
The Hungerford and Marlborough Adviser
The Adviser was also nominated for putting all of the town’s news in print. It was so important for communicating the volunteer self-isolation information to every household in Hungerford. They are such a friendly team who are always happy to support the community and publish details and events.
I know Dan personally and absolutely adore him – and boy can he dance! Dan is a real local legend and now has a huge following on social media which stretches as far as Sweden. Dan has similar health challenges to me, but he never lets the sometimes excruciating pain from arthritis stop him, nearly breaking himself on occasion to help raise a community’s spirits. Dan held nightly live discos from his own living room throughout the lockdowns. He helped combat the loneliness and isolation felt by so many within our community, encouraging us all to chat and join in. I was shielding at the time and Dan’s discos really helped me to keep going. He raised a huge sum of money by encouraging his followers to donate, which he then reinvested by spending locally, purchasing gifts and vouchers which he delivered to nominated Covid heroes within our community. I am so looking forward to his real -life disco – I can’t wait to have a dance Dan and share a shandy bass or two with you!
I have nominated my own team – Claire Barnes, Sarah Hennessey, Sarah Chatters and Roger Ballard – because they’ve worked tirelessly to support the community by keeping the public informed of the ever-changing rules and regulations throughout the pandemic, working with local businesses and organisations to ensure they had access and information about available funding and signposting them to the WBC’s Hub. They were thrown into the deep end and had to quickly adapt and change operational procedures for council run facilities. They helped Geordie to jump through some of the safeguarding hoops that were at times immensely frustrating. Roger our maintenance employee went the extra mile to ensure the facilities were regularly checked, signs were put up and the public kept informed.