County Times Community Awards
HORSHAM district paid tribute to its unsung heroes on an emotional evening at the annual County Times Community Awards, held in association with Horsham District Council.
The ceremony, held at the Capitol theatre on Wednesday October 12, celebrated the outstanding people who have made a real difference in our community.
The awards, made possible by the support of the local business community, including headline sponsor MORE TH>N, saw 16 individuals, groups and organisations recognised with trophies, certificates and well-deserved applause.
Whilst the winners were on stage being presented with their prizes, heartfelt tributes from those whose lives they had touched were played to the audience.
After a stirring performance from the Salvation Army band as 300 audience members took their seats, the first award was presented to Gabrielle Aldrich, Dyson community leader at Forest School who heard from ten boys who said that many would not know where to turn but for her support.
Responsible for the pastoral well-being of hundreds of Horsham boys, Gabrielle spoke warmly of the school, telling the awards host Theo Cronin, news editor at the County Times: “I’m moved beyond words. I work with some fabulous young men and it’s an absolute privilege to spend time with them.”
Billingshurst Primary School walked away with the Friends of the Environment award for its work with Kvanagh’s Budgens in the village and the school’s community association to produce a reusable shopping bag.
This was the first ever award for the fledgling school, and delighted pupils and teachers came up to collect the prize for their work to promote a greener local community.
The Steyning Community Minibus Association were presented with the Best Community Organisation award for the vital service they provide, ferrying both older people and the infirm along with their heavy bags of shopping door to door.
Organiser Fiona Wright said the volunteer-staffed service is ‘a lifeline’ for some local people, and spoke of the friendly rivalry with the Storrington Minibus Association - a previous winner of the award.
Susan Woodgate from the Horsham and Crawley branch of the Salvation Army took to the stage to collect the Charity of the Year award and talked about a rarely seen side of Horsham where people are in need of clothes, food and support.
“Anything you can donate - toys, tins, shoes - we almost never say no,” she said.
“This harvest time it’s important to think about reaping what you sow and to see people sowing kindness is fantastic.
“This award ceremony is a little piece of heaven on earth,” added the local Salvation captain.
The 999 Award, recognising the contribution made by the emergency services to the community, was won by the South East Coast Ambulance Service, which was nominated by Sussex Air Ambulance.
Alongside ambulance staff were Lisa-Jayne and her son Kyle Otto from Partridge Green who was rescued after suffering a horrific accident on his bicycle when he was 12, an incident reported in the County Times.
Sue Delia was named Healthworker of the Year for her ‘exceptional’ work at the Brockham Gynaecology Unit at East Surrey Hospital.
Sue said: “I really didn’t expect to win this prize, but I’d like to dedicate it to the whole team on the ward.”
Fanatical fundraiser John Rossignol from Horsham Rotary Club was also honoured for his tireless charity work.
Richard Walter, past president of Horsham Rotary, praised John for the numerous community projects he has initiated, including the annual Kidz Stuff festival.
Other winners included Best Carer Teresa Stevens, who heard heartfelt tributes from people she has cared for in Pulborough, whilst working for Alternative Means. 93-year-old Anthony Sill even said he would like to give Teresa ‘a great big kiss’ on her special night for all the care she had given him - and Teresa promised she would grant him his wish when she saw him next.
Sylvia Green and Fred Weston were honoured for their work in the AGE UK Horsham District’s garden, and heard grateful testimony about the time and effort they both volunteer at the centre.
Chris Duffy was named Best Neighbour for his good deeds for the fellow residents of Lanark Close, Horsham, keeping their homes clean when they are away and sweeping away their snow.
“Without Chris there would be no community spirit,” said one grateful neighbour. “He’s a real diamond.”
Chris said: “Our little community is so close-knit, and it’s a pleasure to collect this award on their behalf.”
Joanne Pratt was named Local Hero for her work setting up a drop-in centre for people with learning difficulties, while Norman Hewell was honoured for a lifetime dedicated to Horsham voluntary organisations including the scouts, church groups and the museum.
After hearing from members of the many groups he volunteers for, one of whom described him as a ‘great Horsham character’, 80 year old Norman said: “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. But I don’t do it for the awards.”
Other deserving winners on the night included Richard Brock for his work with Horsham Rugby Club, Horsham Samaritans for the counselling service they provide and the Horsham District Community Partnership whose members won the Public Service Award.
Finally, Peter Sutton from Horsham 100 was presented with the County Times Achievement Award by editor in chief Gary Shipton for his efforts to raise £100,000 for the Dame Vera Lynn Trust.
Peter, who was commended for ‘thinking big’ by Mr Shipton, said: “We are verging on £73,000 at the moment - we hope to reach the full £100k by December.
“So anyone who would like to help us achieve our goal is very welcome.”
After closing the show, Mr Shipton said the Community Awards ceremony was a fantastic way to recognise the most deserving people in the area.
“It was a brilliant and very moving evening,” he said.
“You leave feeling incredibly proud of the people of the Horsham district. The stories are charged with emotion and it makes you realise what a community can achieve when it pulls together.”
Mr Shipton also thanked Horsham District Council, the Capitol’s general manager Michael Gattrell, and was grateful to the theatre’s crew members Luke Woods and Pete Ayres for their professional conduct ensuring the show ran without a hitch.
The County Times would like to thank all those who made nominations this year, and in addition to those celebrated on the evening, we would like to praise all the individuals and organisations submitted and suggested this year by our readers.
The competition was fierce, with many scores of nominations received for a great variety of deserving groups and individuals.
If you were unsuccessful this time please do try again next year. Nominations for the 2012 Community Awards are scheduled to open next summer.
Summary of Winners
Outstanding teacher - Gabrielle Aldrich
Friend of the Environment - Billingshurst Primary School
Best Community Organisation - Steyning Community Minibus Association
999 Award - SECAMB -South East Coast Ambulance Service
Best Fundraiser - John Le Rossignol
Healthworker Awards - Sue Delia
Best Carer - Teresa Stevens
Charity of the Year - Salvation Army
Good Sport Award - Richard Brock (Horsham Rugby Club)
Best Neighbour - Chris Duffy
Volunteer of the Year - Sylvia Green/Fred Weston (AGEUK)
Best Volunteer Group - Horsham Samaritans
Public Service Award - HDC Community Partnership
Local Hero - Joanne Pratt
Special Recognition - Norman Hewell
Achievement Award - Peter Sutton, Horsham 100 (managing director PMW Communications)
You can view the full gallery of the event here