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Community Awards 2022

The climax to our 2022 Community Awards took place with a ceremony at the Council on 19 January 2023 with nearly 100 representatives from our voluntary sector in attendance to celebrate. It was a fantastic event made particularly special by hearing the volunteer stories. 

It was a tough job for the judging panel to choose their individual winners this year with so many truly generous and kind-hearted volunteers nominated. Over 3000 people also took part in the public vote to decide the winners of our Community Group of the Year category.

The winners 

Category A - Volunteer of the Year

  • Winner - Darren Callis - £100 prize
  • Runner-up - Christine Carroll - £50 prize

Category B - Young Volunteer of the Year

  • Winner - Kiya Kanani - £100 prize
  • Runner-up - Maya Roper - £50 prize

Category C - Community Group of the Year

  • Epworth Forest Juniors Football Club - £1000 prize
  • Gather Create Grow - £500 prize

Winners and runners-up in categories A and B will also be given the opportunity to nominate a local community group/organisation to receive £750 (winner) and £500 (runner-up) respectively.  The nominated group/organisation must be a voluntary or community sector group or organisation based within Blaby District or one that directly benefits residents of the district. The group/organisation should also have a formal constitution or governing document.

The nominees

We would also like to congratulate each of the individuals and groups that were nominated this year. It is an indication of just how highly regarded they are by their local communities. We would like to give a special mention to the other six young people who were nominated in the Young Volunteer of the Year category, the youngest being just seven years old. What an inspiration they all are!

  • Abbie Ghent
  • Beth Meadows
  • Emily Wolfe
  • James Sherwin
  • Nathan Murrell
  • Neely Gale

Thank you to all the volunteers and groups, but also those who took time to make a nomination and vote this year. 

Read more about each of our winners and runners-up below: 

Darren Callis

The judging panel chose Darren Callis as Volunteer of the Year 2022. 

  • Darren is volunteer Head Coach at Blaby District Spartans Inclusive Football Club
  • It is a football club specifically for players aged 16+ who have a variety of different needs ranging such as Cerebral Palsy, ADHD, Downs Syndrome, Social Anxiety, Severe Asthma, Autism, Epilepsy and Hearing Impairment 
  • This nomination was made by a young man who is a member of the club and it really spoke volumes to the judging panel: "I was struggling to find a football club. I have only come into the club this year and Darren went out of his way to coach me and made me feel good and happy to play football. Darren made me believe, even with a disability, I can play football and have fun. There is no-one like him."
  • Beth Russell, Club Secretary also said: "Darren has been at the club since 2020. It would mean the world to Darren to know one of his players has nominated him. He sees the person not the disability first, treating members as footballers, not 'footballers with a disability'"
Christine Carroll

Christine was chosen as runner-up Volunteer of the Year 2022 and received multiple nominations. 

  • Christine is clearly very well known in her local community volunteering regularly for Whetstone Good Neighbour Scheme, Blaby Mind Matters and raising money through events and other fundraising activities for numerous local charities
  • Her role with the Good neighbours scheme involves helping the elderly by taking them shopping or to social events, delivering items during Covid as well as providing companionship to those who are lonely and vulnerable
  • To directly quote a couple of comments from the nominations: "Christine is a real star – a carer beyond compare – who gives freely and wholeheartedly her time, because she truly cares about other people’s needs" and "to honour Christine with an award would be a fitting thank you from the community that she truly serves. Quite frankly she is an angel, full of kindness and I feel privileged to know her"
Kiya Kanani

The judges chose Kiya Kanani as their Young Volunteer of the Year 2022.

  • Kiya raised an incredible £35k for childhood cancer awareness and led a student assembly to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer
  • She has organised fundraising activities for other charitable causes as well, including to support Ukranian families joining her school
  • She is described as "inspiring her peers to be better than they thought they could be and has overcome her own personal struggles: her will to support others by raising funds is truly inspirational and makes everyone want to be a better person"
Maya Roper

Maya was chosen as runner-up Young Volunteer of the Year 2022.

  • Maya has been a student house leader for two years, as well as a Stephen Lawrence ambassador
  • She has been regularly fundraising and sorting donations for Ukrainian families
  • Maya is also an ambassador for positive body image and uses social media to help other teenagers embrace their bodies, as well as having written a book with her mum on this issue
Epworth Forest Juniors Football Club

Receiving the most public votes, Epworth Forest Juniors Football Club was voted Community Group of the Year 2022.

  • Based in Leicester Forest East, the club welcomes players from five years of age
  • The club has a focus on providing girls with a platform to play football and develop their confidence, removing barriers to girls taking part in sport
  • Over 25 volunteers help to run the club's 17 teams at the moment… and it’s still growing!
  • They have the largest girls' section within the district with over 180 players across 15 girls' teams
  • The club delivers over 400 hours per week of active playing time across its members/coaches and opposition teams
  • They are a registered Weetabix Girls Wildcats Centre
  • Their ethos is that football has the power to build and maintain self-esteem, alongside keeping fit, making friends and having fun
  • The club also supports their wider community as they helped fundraise to install a defibrillator at their base, Stafford Leys primary school

Here is what Leighton Shields and Nick Maston from the club told us:

"Epworth Forest Juniors FC was established in 1989 to give local boys the opportunity to play football, which followed with the girls' teams in 2021. Our Chairman/Secretary Gavin Lepley is an asset to our club and the community. Nothing is too much trouble for him, including early starts at the club to mark the lines on the pitch and complete any required maintenance work. Epworth Forest Juniors FC wanted to nominate him for Volunteer of the year, however he wanted the group to be recognised rather than himself.

As a club we are committed to help girls and boys within the local communities become more physically active. Our ethos is that football has the power to build and maintain self-esteem, alongside keeping fit, making friends, and having fun. Enjoying football in the true spirit of the game, sportsmanship and skills development are all provided within a welcoming and supportive environment.

We are extremely focused to help all girls develop confidence and competence to play football at school and in a community setting, removing all barriers to girls taking part in the sport. The club is also proud to have achieved the requirements to receive the accredited club status from the English Football Association.

Over the last 12 months, we are pleased to have delivered over 20 thousand hours of active play time which is more than 930 full days. In this period, we are very proud to currently have the largest girls’ sections within Blaby District, with an amazing 15 girls' teams across the age of 5 – 13 years old, training and playing each week with over 180 registered players.

We would like to say a huge thank you to more than 25 volunteers who commit their free time every week to our club. This dedication by all has seen us increase our football team numbers from 7 in 2015 to 17 today! We are delighted to confirm we are currently preparing to increase this next season to 20 teams.

We also take pride in supporting various schools and other community clubs around the district through community bookings for paid use of their facilities and fund-raising events, including helping to raise funds to have a defibrillator installed at Stafford Leys Primary School. With this in mind, we would like to congratulate the great work currently being done by all the community groups and would like to support the great work Enderby Mission Food Bank are doing by donating £200 of our prize money.

Finally, we would like to say thank you to Blaby District Council for putting on a great event and to everyone who voted for us! We really do appreciate your support and community spirit. If you would like to get involved with the Community Group of the Year, we are always looking for volunteers to help us with maintenance and coaching. We currently have a total of 15 coaches, with only two of these being female! We would love to have more female coaches involved, if it is something you are interested in, please get in touch! We have roles suitable for everyone. You can contact us by emailing epworthforestgirlsfc@gmail.com"

Gather Create Grow

The public voted Gather Create Grow as the runner-up Community Group of the Year 2022. This is the organisation behind the Cosby Yarn Bomb.

  • Melanie and Natalie (group founders) are described as 'two people with great artistic imagination'
  • Many of you will know them best for their amazing displays around Cosby in the Summer, as well as other times of the year such as Halloween, Christmas and royal anniversaries/events
  • Gather Create Grow is about more than this: the group was born out of an understanding of how damaging loneliness can be to well-being and how important a sense of belonging is for mental health
  • Gather Create Grow is a key group in their local community: supporting the well-being of residents of all ages and abilities, by running groups and events, getting everyone involved and bringing the local community together

Our Sponsors

Finally, we would like to acknowledge and thank our generous sponsors for funding this year's Community Awards:

  • BHIB Charities Insurance sponsored the individual Volunteer of the Year prizes
  • Central Co-op sponsored the individual Young Volunteer of the Year prizes
  • All group prizes were funded by proceeds from the Love Blaby Lottery's Blaby District Community Fund so a big thank you also to our lottery supporters
  • Jessup Partnerships contributed sponsorship towards the awards ceremony
Last updated 1 September 2023
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