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The best of the West

West Berkshire Community Champions are recognised for their inspirational work

Chris Ord


01635 886639

The best of the West

INSPIRATIONAL people from across West Berkshire have been recognised for outstanding achievements in their local communities.

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 certificatelast 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 two people this year.

The first joint winner was Lady Eliza Mays-Smith.

Lady Eliza is a governor of Chaddleworth St Andrew’s Primary School and latterly of Chaddleworth St Andrew’s and Shefford Church of England Federated Primary Schools for more than 30 years, 25 of those as chairwoman of governors.

She has also chaired the Saunders Wynn and Coventry Educational Foundation, a small charitable body which assists with the educational development of the young people of Chaddleworth.

She was described as being ‘constantly supportive and ever present’, having worked tirelessly in various village roles. 

The second joint winner is Paul Cooke, who runs the Thames Valley Amateur Boxing Club in Newbury three to four times per week.

With current membership of more than 200, the club offers boxing activities and fitness for children as young as 10 and is open to males and females.

Mr Cooke has been involved with the club for 40 years, as coach for 30 of those, and is described as “the heart and soul of the place”.

He spends his evenings at the gym and travelling with his boxers to amateur matches most Fridays and Saturdays, runs an annual dinner show at Newbury Racecourse and arranges a summer camp for his boxers.

The winner of the Volunteer of the Year award, which was set up to recognise an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to West Berkshire, went to Bob Lyon.

Since moving to Frilsham 18 years ago, Mr Lyon has been at the centre of events and organisations in the village. 

He has led, or participated in, the parish planning process, fundraising and project management for the playground in Frilsham and the daily updating of the village website.

He is also the chairman of the Club Room Committee, undertaking maintenance to save funds, with responsibility for the day-to-day security of the recreation area and football field. 

He chairs the Frilsham Future Implementation Group, acting upon recommendations from the village plan and is treasurer of the Broadsheet, the magazine for Frilsham, Yattendon and Hampstead Norreys.

The judges described him as ‘superhuman’ and noted his long and exceptional impact on the lives of so many within the village.

The standard of nominations was so high this year for The Pat Eastop Junior Citizen Award that judges chose joint winners – Riley Collier and Bradley Ruffy.

Riley was nominated for the “selfless” way that he cares for his mother Claire, who describes him as her rock.

In addition to caring for his mother, he also visits his grandmother once a week to support and offer care for her.

Mr Ruffy, 18, is a care leaver and was supported through the Action for Children advocate scheme, receiving support to speak at review meetings.

He gradually grew in confidence and found his voice.

He now supports other children in a similar position and is a volunteer for the charity.

Mr Ruffy is also an ambassador for the charity, attending training events for volunteers wanting to become advocates or independent visitors to children in care.

The judging panel was again very impressed by the nominations for the Community Group of the Year award and decided to award a highly commended, as well as a winner in this category.

The winner was Heartstart Thatcham, which brings British Heart Foundation initiatives to Thatcham and surrounding areas.

The scheme provides free emergency life support training in the community and has also raised funds to place many external defibrillators around West Berkshire.

Heartstart Thatcham was founded in May 2013 by Dr Nick Young and is supported by a small team of volunteers.

The team is well known in the community for its training courses and extensive fundraising activities, which generated more than £100,000.

The highly commended award went to the Carnarvon Place Gardening Group, a resident-led group that works to enhance the environment through gardening, for the benefit of all residents in the over-55 supported housing scheme.

The group has brought together residents for social interaction, reducing isolation and forming a community spirit.

The judges were particularly impressed by the enthusiasm and inclusive nature of the group, including the sharing of produce among residents.

West Berkshire Council chairman Quentin Webb said: “Community Champion is one of my favourite chairman duties.

“The standard of the nominations was truly impressive, and, while this made the task of judging much harder, I am delighted that we are able to recognise so many worthy people.”

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