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Community Awards 2023

The ceremony for this year's Community Awards took place in the Council Chamber on Thursday 25 January with over 100 guests from our voluntary sector and community. The winners and runners-up for our three award categories were announced on the night. Congratulations to all of our winners, runners-up and nominees! Thank you also to those who took the time to make nominations and raise the profile of the amazing things that volunteers and community groups do in the district. 

Read more about our award winners below: 

Volunteer of the Year Winners: Suzann Miller, Kim Frain, Sharon Denston

This award was shared by three women from Countesthorpe Community College who have been giving up their Saturday mornings since early 2022 to support Ukrainian refugees. None of them are English teachers but they felt that they needed to step up and help with language skills. In addition Suzann, Sharon and Kim have provided support and guidance on issues such as housing, benefits, bus passes, transport and education to help refugees settle in the local area. Most importantly they’ve offered a warm welcome and listening ear to families arriving in very difficult circumstances.

The group still meets monthly and has become an invaluable source of social support for the families. They also arranged days out and special events, including a visit from St Nicholas to give presents to the children on St Nicholas Day. One family supported by Suzann, Sharon and Kim said: "It is hard to imagine where they find the internal resources to do such a job on Saturday mornings after their working week. They are always smiling and ready to help us with our questions… we are grateful to them for the tremendous support they have given our family and for other Ukrainians".

Volunteer of the Year Runner-up: Dawn Williams

Dawn has volunteered at Enderby Lawn Tennis Club for six years, previously as secretary and now as the lead for disability and inclusion at the club. Her focus is very much on the community and driving forward the vision of ‘Tennis for Everyone’. Dawn set up and co-ordinates other volunteers to run a weekly tennis session for adults with learning difficulties. She has also worked with the ‘Bright Ideas for Tennis’ charity to link up with a local school for children with special educational needs and set up a weekly coaching session for the pupils. Dawn fundraised to meet any costs and equipment needed to run these inclusive activities.

Going forward, Dawn is working with local GP surgeries to offer tennis as part of their social prescribing service so as to share the physical and mental health benefits of the sport to an even wider audience. In addition she has helped the club to achieve Registered Charity status, implemented the club’s safeguarding policies and the online booking system to allow anyone to play anytime.

Special Recognition Award: John Harrison

John was born in 1943 and joined British Rail at the age of 15. He worked his way up and in the early 1980s he championed the rights of disabled passengers to bring about much needed improvement to their travel conditions. John retired from British Rail in 1996. However, as a true 'Railway Man' he didn’t really retire – he went on to get involved in railway pensions and all sorts of other railway-related issues up until the age of 76.

In 2017 – as a long-term resident of Narborough and recognising the need for station improvements – John started the Friends of Narborough Station (or FONS). He has only recently stepped down as chair, due to ill health. During his time at FONS, John has overseen over £1m in improvements including refurbishment of the foot bridge, repairs and repainting of the signal box, disability-friendly improvements to the car park and refurbishment of the ticket office, toilet and waiting room.

The nomination came from Narborough Parish Council who say “While John has found it necessary to stand down as chairman now, we must acknowledge that without his drive, knowledge and ambition, the FONS committee would have struggled to get so far and so effectively”.

Young Volunteer of the Year Winner: Alleah Benson

Alleah joined Stoney Stanton Youth Club in March 2017 at the age of 13. Alleah quickly became a lead youth member, helping set up for the weekly sessions, clearing away and helping with activities. After Covid, Alleah stayed on at the Youth Club as a volunteer whilst at college and now whilst working full time. She continues to help each and every week.  Alleah is also a former member of Blaby District Youth Council where she was a lead committee member.

Alleah has raised awareness about hate crime and was part of a team that wrote to Alberto Costa to save a green space in Stoney Stanton. Alleah helps to deliver kindness bags in the community, and to create a carnival float every year as well as to deliver carnival brochures and collect tins and bottles for the carnival every year.

The youth club leader says: "Alleah is a wonderful, friendly and supportive young lady... who does not know how valuable and amazing she is. Alleah has been a shining example of a youth member in our community. Her confidence has excelled and we are so very grateful for her continued support at our weekly sessions".

Young Volunteer of the Year Runner-up: Mili-Mai Dunn

Mili-Mai is 12 years old and lost her grandad to Motor Neurone Disease (MND). Since then she has been doing sponsored walks in his memory to help raise awareness and, more importantly, to help raise a considerable sum of money to support other people and their families living with this disease. 

Mili-Mai received a letter from the MND Association thanking her for her volunteering: “Last year we provided grants totaling £9.7k to sixteen people with MND in our area. Mainly for riser/recliner chairs which are not funded by the NHS, but also for purchases to enhance quality of life. We are receiving a higher level of applications for grants this year, so your donation will be used towards these.”

Community Group of the Year Winner: Sapcote Memory Hub

Sapcote Memory Hub was nominated by 12 different individuals and received 599 votes to win this category. The hub provides a daily service for people with dementia, including cognitive stimulation therapy and activities such as singing, dancing, crafts and trips. The hub provides advice, respite and peace of mind for carers of those living with dementia too. They fundraise tirelessly and help to raise greater awareness of dementia.

Here are a few extracts from their many nominations:

  • “They give heart and soul into each and every session they do. They make such a difference to the lives of people with memory difficulties”
  • “They go above and beyond to help the people that attend the hub”
  • “We will be ever grateful of the last few months our mum spent there being social and happy doing what she loved. She always had a smile when coming home. Amazing group”
  • Put simply “the hub is a sanctuary for those living with dementia”
Community Group of the Year Runner-up: Blaby and District Spartans Inclusive Football Club

Blaby and District Spartans Inclusive Football Club was established in 2020 with a commitment to create opportunities for people with any kind of disability to play sport. Their ambition is to make football enjoyable and accessible to all and its members have a range of disabilities, including Cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, Epilepsy and hearing impairments.

The club trains at Countesthorpe Academy and the teams compete in regional inclusive leagues with several over 16s teams. The club also started a junior section in Spring 2023 and this is going from strength to strength with over 20 young players now registered. Parents and carers are already seeing the benefits of their children being able to play football at a club that understands their needs. One parent who made a nomination says: “This group is brilliant as it has allowed my son who has a dual diagnosis of ADHD and Autism to play football. This has impacted on his mental health and wellbeing in a positive way and has taught him to be part of a team”.

Prizes

  • The winners in categories A (Volunteer of the Year) and B (Young Volunteer of the Year) will each receive £100
  • The runners-up in categories A and B will each receive £50
  • The winning group in category C (Community Group of the Year) will win £1000
  • The runner-up group in category C will win £500

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). 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, with a formal constitution or governing document.

Our Sponsors

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

  • Serco for sponsorship of the Volunteer of the Year prizes and towards the awards ceremony
  • Central Co-op for sponsorship of the Young Volunteer of the Year prize
  • Everyone Active for sponsorship towards the awards ceremony
  • All group prizes will be funded by proceeds from the Love Blaby Lottery's Blaby District Community Fund so a big thank you also to our lottery supporters
Last updated 6 February 2024
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