Volunteers in Banbury are given awards for community work including the community larder, a breakfast club and the people's environment

Volunteers in Banbury have received awards for a wide range of community work including the community larder, a breakfast club and the people's environment.
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The Cherwell ‘Love Where you Live’ Volunteer Awards, organised by Sanctuary and Cherwell District Council, asked the local community to nominate individuals and groups that have gone the extra mile to help others over the last year.

The awards ceremony took place last Thursday at Bodicote House where nominees and members of the community enjoyed afternoon tea after the winners were announced.

Volunteer of the Year was Jim Smith, who has dedicated huge amounts of time and effort to numerous community groups and socio-environmental causes while maintaining a highly productive, kind, respectful and laser-focused attitude.

Alex Coleman receives his Young Volunteer of the Year award from Charlie Heritage, Neighbourhood Partnerships Manager at SanctuaryAlex Coleman receives his Young Volunteer of the Year award from Charlie Heritage, Neighbourhood Partnerships Manager at Sanctuary
Alex Coleman receives his Young Volunteer of the Year award from Charlie Heritage, Neighbourhood Partnerships Manager at Sanctuary

He is also Chair of the Banbury Community Action Group and a keen supporter of many causes and leading local wellbeing walks.

Community Venue of the Year was The Hill Sports and Community Facility, Bretch Hill, which has helped feed local families and people in need all year, through the cost of living crisis and a difficult winter period. The door at The Hill is always open for help and advice, never turning away anyone who comes for help.

With the quality of nominations this year, it was hard to just pick one Young Volunteer of the Year. Instead, Alex Coleman and Suleyman Agha were named joint winners.

Alex has been involved in The Hill’s men’s breakfast club since it began in November 2021 and over time his confidence and skills working with the community and in the kitchen have grown significantly. He has also learnt how to engage with diverse groups, particularly the club’s older attendees.

Bobbie South, Agnes Labecka and Lorraine Squire of The Hill, which won Community Venue of the YearBobbie South, Agnes Labecka and Lorraine Squire of The Hill, which won Community Venue of the Year
Bobbie South, Agnes Labecka and Lorraine Squire of The Hill, which won Community Venue of the Year

Suleyman has volunteered at Cherwell Larder for over three years, consistently attending every week without fail and always working hard as he serves diners, while occasionally singing for them too. His presence at Cherwell Larder has a huge positive impact on everyone who attends.

Similarly, the Good Neighbour Award had three winners this year; Peter Wilcock, Marie Barns and Pete Foster. All three were recognised for the level of assistance they provide to their elderly neighbours – helping out with gardening, taking out bins, providing companionship and driving them to hospital appointments or on shopping trips.

The Community Group of the Year was Forget Me Not Bicester, whose members have worked tirelessly to make a difference to the lives of older people living with dementia and their families. They make a big difference to people’s lives with their professional and caring approach.

Winners of the Lifetime Award were Malcolm and Janet Green, who have been running Banbury Cross Twirlers for over 40 years, opening the sport of twirling up to the community. Malcolm has also looked after Ruscote Community Centre for many years, running the youth club and other events.

Charlie Heritage, Neighbourhood Partnerships Manager at Sanctuary, said: “This is our fifth year holding these awards and each time I find it more inspirational. Our volunteers work unbelievably hard every year to make a difference in our community. It’s a pleasure to shine the spotlight on these groups and individuals.”

Hand-made trophies handed to winners were made by Restore, a Banbury mental health resource that specialises in supporting people to take control of their recovery.

The awards were part-funded by Sanctuary’s Community Investment Fund.