INSPIRATIONAL people from across the district have been recognised for their outstanding achievements.
Prizes were presented at This year’s West Berkshire Community Champion Awards, organised by West Berkshire Council, to the Volunteer of the Year and Community Group of the Year, as well as a special Lifetime Achievement Award.
The winners of each category were presented with their awards and a framed certificate at a West Berkshire Council meeting held last week.
The Lifetime Achievement Award – which recognises exceptional dedication and commitment that has had a positive impact in the area and inspired others – was awarded to Mary Bedwell from Holybrook.
Mrs Bedwell has served for many years as a parish councillor and has been chairwoman for the past six.
She was instrumental in the introduction of the Holybrook Family and Community Festival, which has now been running for more than 10 years.
Mrs Bedwell also runs an over-60s lunch club, works with the community forum – a council-led group that looks at ways of enhancing the community – and serves on the local GPs committee.
She said: “I was overwhelmed as I had no idea that I had been nominated and to have won was a real surprise.”
A highly-commended award for lifetime achievement was also awarded to Jill Gent.
Mrs Gent has been chairman of Beedon Parish Council for 20 years and has worked tirelessly to support the community as fundraiser and trustee of two village charities.
She has also been involved in many village campaigns, including road improvements, time capsule installation and the renovation of the village hall.
This year, there were two winners of the Volunteer of the Year award, which was set up to recognise an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to West Berkshire and its residents.
Robert Cox was honoured for his work as chairman of the ‘juniors’ section of the Hungerford Rugby Club, alongside Lindsey Middlemiss, the founder of West Berkshire Action for Refugees.
In his eight years as chairman, Mr Cox has increased the membership of the club from 30 to more than 400 young players.
He has also played a significant part in the coaching team and overseen the extension of the club facilities.
Mr Cox said: “I am pleased and of course surprised.
“I see it as a recognition of the whole club, I just happen to be chairman.
“It is a huge pat on the back for all the volunteers at the club.”
Mrs Middlemiss has played a crucial role in enabling local residents to respond to the refugee crisis and organised a convoy of aid to Calais.
She has also worked closely with West Berkshire Council to resettle Syrian families in the area.
She said: “I’m pleased and proud to jointly win the WBC Volunteer of the Year award for my work with West Berks Action for Refugees.
“We have achieved so much in just 15 months and I couldn't have done nearly as much without the support of my family, my fellow WBAR trustees, our dedicated volunteers and everyone in the community who has got behind our work.”
The Community Champion Award, which recognises the valuable contributions local residents make to West Berkshire, was won by Thames Valley Kings, a wheelchair basketball club based in Berkshire.
Founded in 2004, the group hosts regular training sessions at Kennet Leisure Centre in Thatcham and provides an opportunity for those with and without physical disabilities to participate in sport.
The club were acknowledged for the support they offered in helping people through a potentially difficult time.
Jacqueline Scoins-Cass, the founder of the club, said: “I can’t believe it, I’m really amazed. To win is a great achievement and testament to the hard work of volunteers.”
Meanwhile, The Pang Valley Flood Forum was highly commended in the Community Group of the Year category.
The group, set up in January 2013, works with the council, Environment Agency and Thames Water and works with communities in the Pang Valley to reduce flood risk.
Run entirely by volunteers from the 10 parishes in the area, the group helps both individual homeowners as well as parish councils to achieve improvements in flood resilience.
There were no nominations for The Pat Eastop MBE Junior Citizen of the Year Award, set up to recognise those aged under 18 who have made an outstanding contribution to West Berkshire.