It was a night to come together, to celebrate and recognise volunteers' efforts through the pandemic and to plan for the year ahead.
After 18 months of halted group activities and putting plans on hold due to the pandemic, Fenland's Street Pride, In Bloom, Friends and Getting It Sorted recycling volunteer groups came together on Wednesday night (15 September) for a special 'Welcome Back' event.
October usually sees Fenland District Council's annual Celebration Evening with awards presented to the volunteer groups for their hard work to improve the district's streets, parks and open spaces, and recycling efforts.
Sadly, there was no event in 2020, but following the wishes of the volunteers to meet, the Council decided to hold an event this year, albeit in a slightly different format, to say thank you, especially as many volunteers have continued with individual litter picks, maintenance projects and online activities throughout the pandemic.
Over 70 volunteers attended the evening, which was held at The Priory Golf Centre in Wimblington.
Cllr Peter Murphy, the Council's Portfolio for the Environment, said: "As not all groups have been able to do projects in the last 18 months, we decided to hold a Welcome Back event this year to celebrate getting back together and plan for an exciting year ahead.
"Despite a difficult period, the volunteers' enthusiasm has never waned, and they are as eager as ever to get their activities and plans back on track."
Cllr Murphy said a great night was had by all, with everyone enjoying music provided by local band 'The 59ers', a fish and chip supper by Stotts Fish Restaurant, March, and vegetarian meals by The Exchange, March.
"I'd like to pay a huge thank you to The Priory, Stotts and The Exchange and everyone else who helped make it such a fantastic evening," he said. "Special thanks must also go to the Council's volunteering team for organising the event. It was a different format than usual, but the team made sure it ran really well. Volunteers commented on how much they enjoyed it and said staff had gone to a lot of trouble to make sure everyone felt comfortable and safe which was great to hear."
During the evening there was also a video presentation from Tony Juniper, of Natural England, on wildlife and conservation and a presentation to Gorefield Street Pride group to celebrate their 10th anniversary. They received a foldable litter picking cart and two XL litter pickers for help with clearing litter from ditches.