Hundreds of people turned out on Tuesday night to celebrate the inspiring achievements of Central Bedfordshire’s volunteers.
The fourth Cheering Volunteering awards and celebration evening took place at the Grove Theatre, in Dunstable.
The annual event began in 2015 to thank the many volunteers and voluntary organisations across Central Bedfordshire for the often-unheralded work they do to help others in their community.
And they have grown each year since then, with the judging panel this year particularly impressed by the quality of the entries.
It was organised by Central Bedfordshire Council, working in partnership with the Volunteer Centres as part of Central Bedfordshire Together, and sponsored by Biffa, Pro Logis, Aragon, Jeakins Weir and Beds Fire and Rescue Service.
Before the ceremony began, people attending the event enjoyed a showcase of volunteering opportunities from organisations across Central Bedfordshire.
And then it was on to the event itself, with the hundreds in attendance watching seven awards being presented as well as a host of great entertainment.
The winners and highly commended in each category were:
Young Volunteer of the Year: Winner – Grace Smart (fund raiser for Road Victims Trust, CHUMS and BRAKE); Highly commended – Amy Wiggett (Girl Guides) Josh Gale (Mental Health Ambassador)
Volunteer of the Year: Winner – Heidi Larvin (supporting adults with complex needs); Highly commended: Ann Adams (various volunteer roles); Andy Lewis (East Anglian Air Ambulance)
Volunteer Group of the Year: Friends of Houghton Hall Park; Highly Commended: Leighton Buzzard Children’s Theatre Youth Helpers. Highly Commended: Stotfold Good Neighbour Group.
Outstanding Contribution: Winner–Diane Barnes (Bedfordshire Suicide Bereavement Service, The Forum: Busy Getting Stronger). Highly Commended–Natalie Mathews, Thornhill Primary School governor; Nicola Kidby, Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire.
Lifetime Achievement: Winner–Sheila Bundock Stotfold Roecroft Centre, Town Councillor, School Governor. Highly Commended: Ken Lynch, Sandy community activist. Dorothy Kemp: Mental health supporter.
Sports Volunteer of the Year: Winner: Anna Carter (Leighton Buzzard Hockey Club). Highly Commended: Adam Langford (Park run Houghton Hall). Highly Commended: David Brown (Biggleswade Athletics Club).
Panel’s Choice Award: Mike Dyer (Gutless weight loss coach). High Commended: Mary Morgan (Clifton Chronicles). Highly Commended: Incredible Edible Dunstable (community garden).
Entertainment came from a collaboration of Leighton Buzzard Children’s Theatre and adult Advance Theatre group, Amazing Activity and Grove Education with the event being expertly compered this year by West End entertainer Aaron Spendelow.
The ‘Inspiring Volunteering’ small grants scheme, with a total funding pot of £5,000 to help local voluntary and community sector community projects start new projects involving volunteers, saw eight voluntary and community organisations receive grant awards ranging from £100-£1,000. They are:
> Autism Bedfordshire
> Bedford & District Cerebral Palsy Society
> Forest of Marston Vale
> Friends of CHUMS
> Stotfold Good Neighbour Group
> Hospice at Home Volunteers
> Wildlife Trust Youth Rangers
> Shuttleworth Trust
Central Bedfordshire Council’s Chairman Councillor Fiona Chapman accompanied by Vice Chairman Cllr Brian Saunders, attended the evening in her ceremonial role.
She said: “What an honour to be part of this splendid and inspirational event!
“I would like to congratulate not only the award winners and those who were highly commended in each category, but also all of the nominees and everyone who was involved in the evening.
“I am continually amazed by the enormous amount of effort our volunteers contribute to our daily lives. Volunteers are indeed the life blood of our society so it was fitting to celebrate their achievements during national Volunteers’ Week.”
To find out more about Cheering Volunteering, as well as the grant scheme, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/council/stronger-communities/awards-event.aspx