Awards show community spirit is alive and well in South Norfolk
Unsung heroes of the community were rewarded for their efforts at the 2017 South Norfolk Community Awards. Reporters ANDREW PAPWORTH, SABRINA JOHNSON and STUART ANDERSON spoke to some of the winners.
■ Bob Shields won the Lifetime Achievement Award for more than 20 years of service as chairman of the Taylor Rose Residents’ Association in Diss.
“I enjoy what I do, it’s as simple as that,” he explained.
“Every community needs a centre where they can gather, do stuff and help each other.”
■ Winning the Business Community Champion of the Year capped off an epic day for Bailey’s Fish and Chips owner Cengiz Bolat.
Barely two hours before the start of the awards ceremony, his wife, Zerrin, gave birth to a baby girl, Sue, at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
Mr Bolat said he was thrilled about the award, which followed his business, in Shelfanger Road, Diss, offering free food for four hours on Christmas Day.
He said: “We wanted to pass on the message that no-one should feel alone or hungry on Christmas.”
■ The chairman of the Norfolk Knights Wheelchair Rugby Club said he was thrilled the club had won the Community Well-being Group of the Year category.
Darren Wiles, 44, from Shotford, near Harleston, said the group had come a long way since he first had the idea to set up a wheelchair rugby club two years ago.
Mr Wiles said the group was now poised to buy six wheelchair rugby chairs - which cost about £3,000 each - and start running regular training sessions.
■ It was her thoughtful manner and the way she puts people at ease that won Rosemary Lee-Bliss the top award in the Volunteer of the Year category.
The 91-year-old from Costessey is the president of the New Costessey Old Friends club, a group which provides companionship to over-55s.
Mrs Lee-Bliss said she was delighted with the award.
She said: “I was so surprised. I was honoured that they even thought of me, especially when I heard about all of the wonderful things the other people had done.”
Mrs Lee-Bliss has been president of the group, which meets Thursdays from 1.30pm at Bullace Road Sheltered Housing, for about a year.
■ Geoff Doggett, founder of the River Waveney Trust, described winning the Community Group of the Year category at the South Norfolk Community Awards as: “A tribute to all our trust volunteers who give of their time and experience so freely.
“We all believe in the need to protect the flora and fauna that depend on healthy habitats.”
■ Samantha Johnson described how she was “really shocked” when she was announced as winner of Community Fund-raiser of the Year.
She was nominated for the award by a fellow member of the Friends of Dickleburgh Primary School (FODS).
She said she wished to split the £250 prize money between two causes.
Councillor Clayton Hudson, cabinet member for stronger communities and leisure at South Norfolk Council, said: “All our nominees give up their free time week after week to help make the district a fantastic place to live and work.
“Their kindness and willingness to put others before themselves is truly inspirational and these awards recognise and celebrate the fantastic work they do.”
The winners of each category will receive grants of £250 to put towards a charitable organisation of their choice.
This year’s categories include Volunteer of the Year, Community Group of the Year, Community Fund-raiser, Business Community Champion, Community Wellbeing Champion, Environmental Champion, Young Volunteer of the Year and a lifetime achievement award for community Hero of the Year.
Across the eight categories, the council received 60 nominations, which were then shortlisted down to 33 final nominees.
Sandra Dinneen, chief executive of South Norfolk Council added: “Each year I am captivated by the stories we hear of selflessness, kindness and community spirit shown by people living within our district – and this year is no exception.”
“I would like to congratulate winners, finalists and all who have been nominated for this year’s awards – each nomination demonstrates that a person or group has made a positive impact on others, and all deserve recognition for this.”