The district paid tribute to its unsung heroes last night at the tenth annual Pride In Fenland awards.
Those that quietly go beyond the call of duty to make a difference to their communities were recognised during an emotional night at Wisbech St Mary Sports and Community Centre.
More than 40 nominees across four categories were celebrated at the awards, organised by Fenland District Council and the Fenland Citizen, with support from the Fenland Youth District Council and sponsors.
Kicking off proceedings, Councillor Mike Cornwell, the council’s portfolio holder for communities, said: “Volunteering is not a new concept but as demands on public bodies grow and funds decrease, the need for community spirit and support increase.
“The selfless act of giving valued time is celebrated here tonight and the nominations reflect the appreciation of the recipients. Without the thought, dedication and commitment of the individuals, couples, groups and organisations here tonight Fenland would be a much poorer place and that is why it is such a pleasure for me to be part of this evening.”
He said that once again the awards had received some “outstanding nominations”, making judging extremely difficult.
But on the night it was Whittlesey Emergency Food Aid that scooped the Judges Special Award, having received no less than five nominations.
Nominated in the Community Group category, the voluntary organisation has gone from strength to strength since forming in 2015 and is now a central point of provision for those less fortunate in Whittlesey.
One of the nominators, Richard Buckler, said: “What an excellent example of local people getting together to meet a pressing local need in these uncertain times. In addition to its year round work, the trolley collections at local supermarkets enabled 17 families to receive help and provisions over the Christmas period.”
Christine McGowen nominated the group as it is “a true example of the community pulling together to help residents experiencing food poverty”.
Another nominator, Councillor Dee Laws, added: “The (group’s) allotment in New Road provided food throughout the summer and autumn last year and in 2017 this is expected to be expanded with help from Sir Harry Smith College. Another important aspect has been the provision of counselling and support for those who have entered the client circle.”
There were two runners-up for the Judges Special Award, both from the Volunteer in the Community category.
The first was Colin Martin, of Whittlesey, who received three nominations. Colin has helped and supported number of people in the community, raising funds for local families and good causes.
Nominator Tracey Godfrey said: “Colin helps others who are less fortunate than himself, like children who are poorly. He goes beyond the call of duty each and every day and raises funds to lessen the heartache of families involved in local tragedies.”
His wife Michelle, who nominated her husband for the second year running after he was runner-up in the Volunteer category last year, said: “He has raised £3,000 for Whittlesey Christmas Lights, £4,000 for a local girl who needed a special bed, £10,000 for a local baby who suffered a terminal illness, £1,200 for a couple who lost everything in a house fire just before Christmas and nearly £4,000 for three children for their mum’s funeral when she died suddenly.” The second runner-up was Wimblington couple Martyn and Julie Dent, who said the recognition had made her birthday.
The husband and wife were nominated by Councillor Maureen Davis for the monthly charity quizzes they organise at Parkfields Social Club.
She said: “Each month sees a different village group or club benefit from the funds raised which to date have amounted to around £15,000.”
Presenting the Judges Special Award, Fenland Citizen editor Mark Leslie told the audience: “We are truly blessed to have such people as we have met tonight and as a borough and a community we can feel rightly proud that such people are among us.”
Jane Archer, of Doddington, was named winner of the Good Neighbour category for the help she gives to a number of elderly people in the village, and runner-up was Debbie and Matt Elliot, of Chatteris, who go “well beyond the call of duty” to help the elderly and their pets.
The Volunteer in the Community award was won by Carol and Ron Payne, of Leverington, who were nominated six times, for their “unstinting giving in the life and love of Leverington.”
The runner-up was Janet Bellamy, who has produced and managed Wimblington News, the monthly village magazine, for many years.
Yasmin Hills, of Coates, won the Young Citizen of the Year award, which was presented by Councillor Michelle Tanfield, the council’s portfolio holder for leisure, children and young people, along with members of the Fenland Youth District Council.
Yasmin was nominated by Kelly Stainer after she cut off her long hair to raise more than £3,000 for her son Cody, who has a rare chromosome condition. She also donated her hair to the Little Princess Trust, which makes wigs and hair pieces for children who suffer hair loss due to cancer treatment.
There were two runners-up in the category – Wisbech Volunteer Police Cadets and March Air Cadet Katie Mowatt.
Fraternity, a relatively new group of local parents, carers and child minders, won the Community Group category for providing “a voice and learning to promote social, emotional and physical development of children through play and activities, whilst encouraging their independence and stimulating inquisitive minds”.
The runner-up was Defibrillators For All, which has worked to provide public access defibrillators around Whittlesey since 2013. In four years the charity has raised almost £80,000 and provided 35 defibrillators for a community of some 18,000 people, making the Whittlesey area the most ‘heart safe’ community in the UK.
Cllr Cornwell thanked everyone who supported the awards and helped make them possible and a small number of special sponsors who stepped in to help fill a funding shortage due to Fenland Council’s enforced savings.
They were Skylark Garden Centre, of Wimblington, Knowles Transport, of Wisbech and Wimblington, the Oliver Cromwell Hotel in March, Vesuvio Italian Restaurant in Whittlesey, and Greetings Card Shop in March.