Meet the real Big Society

Read and Errington won the award for partnership activities with the local community
Read and Errington won the award for partnership activities with the local community
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They may not call them the Big Society but Blackpool’s own Community Involvement Awards celebrate the real giants of the community – men and women who, undeterred by the challenge of cutbacks to grants, support, day centres and welfare services go the extra mile to make a difference.

By way of thanks, they got the chance to don their dancing shoes for a tea dance with a difference at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens – to which 125 community volunteers and guests who help Blackpool Coastal Housing were invited.

As thank yous go, this was strictly sensational, with an afternoon tea, group dance tuition from Rita and David Harrod and a ballroom dance demonstration from amateur young dance champs Christian Agoypan and Elisha Snowden-Evans.

The awards celebrated the contribution made by individuals, community groups and agencies in developing and strengthening local communities, particularly at a time when many are likely to prove significant safety nets in society.

So here’s to the winners:

John Simms, of Edmonton Place, Bispham, won the Good Neighbour Award for his dedication to his neighbours, particularly during the cold winter months where he cleared snow from walkways and ramps and made regular shopping trips for those unable to get out themselves.

Charlotte Kalthoeber won the Young Persons Award for her hard work and dedication, not only in the Mereside area where she lives, but for her work throughout Blackpool. As well as studying at college, Charlotte volunteers at her local community centre and Palatine Leisure Centre, attends all PACT meetings, assists with funding applications and also helps with a disabled drama group on Whitegate Drive.

The Mature Persons Award was won by Brenda Giles, of Ibbison Court, off Central Drive, for her active involvement in her local community centre, as well as with involvement activities at Blackpool Coastal Housing.

Brenda regularly helps her friends and neighbours with shopping and hospital trips and cares for her husband on a full-time basis. She also works one afternoon a week voluntarily in a charity shop and regularly raises funds for charity by completing the Race For Life and holding community fetes.

Sevenoaks Over 50s and Social Club became Community Group of the Year for introducing new entertainment, activities and regular outings. Over the past few months, membership has increased dramatically.

Bostonway Residents’ Association was highly commended for creating an active community and providing trips and social opportunities for local residents. The Community Project of the Year Award was won by Mereside Youth Action Group for providing a go-karting exercise and incorporated team building, health and safety, budgeting and confidence-building on the estate. Since the karting project was completed, incidents of anti-social behaviour and criminal damage have decreased.

The Dr Who and the Heart of the Park project was highly commended for involving the Grange Park community in producing and performing a play which developed skills and built community spirit.

Read and Errington won the Agency/Partnership Award for organising a wide range of successful community projects, such as sponsoring a local youth football team, providing kitchen and bathroom facilities to Chepstow Community Gardens and creating an outdoor classroom at Moor Park Primary School.

Muir Housing Group was highly commended for work on the Grange Park estate, and for arranging community initiatives such as the young person’s art project and development of an annual calendar, which includes information on local relevant services.

Outstanding Contribution to the Community was awarded to Liz Welsh for work in the Horsebridge Road community, Grange Park, and organising activities and events in the local community centre, as well as trips out. She also helped elderly residents especially through the cold snap, by regularly visiting and ensuring they had adequate food supplies and creating a new Residents’ Association at Horsebridge Road.

The ceremony also recognised a member of staff who had gone beyond the call of duty. Julie Rhodes, sheltered housing scheme manager, won the BCH Staff Award for her work on the Bostonway Sheltered Scheme, nominated by customers in appreciation of her daily work to ensure all have support but also retain independence.

The final award recognised customers who make an outstanding contribution to Blackpool Coastal Housing, by helping to develop housing services. BCH renamed this award, poignantly, in honour of the late Tony Fitzgerald who died before Christmas, having been BCH’s customer involvement manager for three years since his retirement, in 2008, after 18 years working for Blackpool housing service.

The Tony award went to Maurice and Elaine Christian, who joined their local tenants and residents’ Association 10 years ago, and are now involved in 17 activities, having acquired housing qualifications to improve knowledge and skills.

Judges also commended John Scholey, Irene Bishop and Ron Whittaker for work on service improvement panels and activities such as green wardens and tenant inspections.

The event was sponsored by Forrest, Builders Supplies (West Coast), Howdens Joinery (Poulton), Technical and Electrical Services, Mears, BAAS, Read and Errington and Heckford Advertising.

jacqui.morley@blackpoolgazette.co.uk