Community heroes celebrated at the Pride in Fenland Awards
Unsung heroes who make a real difference to the lives of others and their communities were celebrated when they took centre stage at the 15th annual Pride in Fenland Awards.
The awards, which honour the achievements of truly remarkable people and groups across the district, this year saw an almost record number of nominations - 83 in total.
Organised by Fenland District Council and the Fenland Citizen newspaper, this year's ceremony was held at Wisbech St Mary Sports and Community Centre after a change to a bigger venue because of the success of this year's awards.
More than 150 people attended the event on Wednesday 9 November, which marked a welcome return to being held in-person, following two years of the ceremony taking place online.
The awards were presented by Cllr Sam Clark, the Council's Portfolio Holder for Communities and Cllr Maureen Davis, Pride in Fenland judge and ward member for Doddington and Wimblington, with the Special Judges' Award presented by Sarah Cliss, Senior Reporter for the Fenland Citizen.
Cllr Clark said: "The Pride in Fenland Awards ceremony is always a huge highlight of the year for us, and it was an honour to once again have the chance to meet and thank all the awe-inspiring individuals and groups nominated for everything they do to help others in need. It is so heartwarming to hear the many stories of selfless volunteering and the positive impacts this has on so many people's lives across Fenland.
Cllr Davis added: "The Pride in Fenland Awards celebrate just some of the incredible residents we have in our communities, and their amazing achievements to help the most vulnerable. There were so many inspiring stories of people devoting countless hours to others less fortunate than themselves, often without any recognition. Their efforts and dedication truly make Fenland a better place."
The award categories were expanded this year to reflect the number and breadth of inspirational volunteers nominated by the public - with seven awards in total!
There were tears, laughter and a great deal of pride as all the nominees, runners-up and winners were announced.
Every nominee received a certificate with details of their nomination, while the prize winners were presented with trophies and a cash prize.
The winners and runners-up are:
Recreational and Environmental Volunteers (new Award)
Winner: Alan Wheeldon, of Wisbech, is a remarkable volunteer who gives hours of his time to ensure Wisbech is a better place through so many groups and organisations including Wisbech in Bloom. He leads by example learning about issues and finding ways to solve them working with different authorities including the police and local councils to help make Wisbech a cleaner, safer place for everyone.
Runner-up: June and Claud Parrish have given decades of service to the game of bowls. They were the founding members of the former Manea Bowls Club and when they moved to March after Claud's retirement they became stalwarts of the Braza Bowls Club. June has held a number of positions within the Cambridgeshire Bowls Association and has given over 30 years to the sport.
Young Individual or Youth Group Volunteers
Winner: Phoenix Youth Provision, which formed just a year ago, runs various sessions a week providing activities, chat sessions and music for over 100 registered youngsters. The group began with four volunteers and now has a team of ten. The group has organised a number of hugely successful youth events.
Runner-up: Grace Randall, an amazing young woman from Whittlesey who is one of the most senior cadets in the town's Army Cadet Force. She has demonstrated responsibility beyond her years within the ACF and she supports and mentors the younger cadets. Grace is also a member of Thorney Running Club and she assists as part of the Friends of the Church of St Andrews at various events.
Winner: Anna Elliott, of Wisbech, received multiple nominations, with all of them saying how wonderful she is and describing her as a 'legend'. Anna volunteers at the Alan Hudson Day Care Centre in Wisbech and has done so for over ten years. She supports fundraising events making cakes, she organises knitters and she sells homemade craft items and pre-loved jigsaws to boost funds for the centre.
Runner-up: Paul Kendall, a retired showman of Wimblington, was nominated for his fantastic dedication to supporting events in the village. He helps with the Christmas lights and also takes Santa on his sleigh every year. He has been helping out since 2012 when he first got involved helping with the late Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and has given hundreds of hours of his time since.
Community Group Volunteers
Winner: Walsoken Community Action Groupwas nominated for its popular community coffee morning that has "given hope and friendship, restored faith in the community and renewed enthusiasm for volunteering." The weekly coffee morning was launched just a year ago with just seven people attending - now, it is attracting around 80 people every week.
Runner-up: The Friends of St John's Church in Parson Drove, under the leadership of Paul Unwin, were nominated for turning a derelict and redundant church into a hub of activity for the local village. The church is now a vibrant centre, with regular events such as craft fairs, quiz nights and plays. This year they also organised a series of events to mark the late Queen's Platinum Jubilee.
Community Fundraising Volunteers (new Award)
Winner: Stanley Spinks, of Wisbech, was recognised for his decades of fundraising for numerous charities, most notably the Wisbech branch of Save the Children. It is estimated that he raises between £5,000 and £7,000 a year through the quizzes he organises.
Runner-up: Betty Cunningham, was nominated for organising phenomenally successful bingo evenings in support of individuals. She has raised thousands of pounds over the years and has even helped a local schoolgirl get a new bionic arm with her efforts.
Judge's Special Award (sponsored by the Fenland Citizen)
Winner: Sindy Cooper, of Wisbech, was nominated for her amazing dedication to helping her local community, and for caring for her neighbours and ensuring their needs are met. She also knits warm blankets and gives them to those in need.
Runner-up: Martin Scott, of Wisbech, devotes his time and often his own money to helping teach young people the art of angling. He received the most nominations ever given to one person and he was blown away to be named runner-up, shedding a tear as he stepped up to receive his award.
Lifetime Volunteering Award (new Award)
Winner: Colin Bedford, a well-known character from March who has dedicated almost his entire adult life to coaching badminton. He runs March Badminton Club and has done so for over 40 years. He still turns out three times a week to the Neale-Wade Academy Sport Hall to run the club and offer coaching to the players.
Colin, who is in his 80s, is also actively involved in the March Veteran and Vintage Cycle Club and volunteers his time to give talks to local organisations and clubs. He also takes items from his vast collection of memorabilia into schools for the pupils to see and learn about and takes part in many local events.
Runner-up: Don Bradshaw, who at 92, was the oldest person among our nominees. He was nominated for his extraordinary dedication over the years helping as a volunteer in the community. His help has made a difference to a large number of people.
Highlights from the event can be found on our YouTube channel.
Article date: November 2022