18 January 2020

Three trophies, in bronze, silver and gold, arranged on a winner's podium

Last year, West Devon residents voted for their local heroes who had selflessly helped others during the pandemic. After considering the nominations, the judging panel at West Devon Borough Council has announced that all the nominees are winners. 

Cathy Hipsey - Key Worker

Cathy is the volunteer co-ordinator with Tavistock Area Support Services and throughout the pandemic she and her team worked hard to make sure the isolated and vulnerable weren't left without any support. She worked with commitment and determination beyond the call of duty throughout lockdown and beyond.

Chris Proctor - Keeping Spirits Up

Chris organised a weekly virtual quiz on Zoom for residents of Bridestowe, the Bridestowe Lockdown Quiz. By keeping people connected and having fun, he eased the sense of isolation that many people were feeling.

Jackie Butler - Keeping Spirits Up

Jackie organised a weekly bingo night, keeping people in her community connected during lockdown and raising money for local charities who had seen their income drop - including the local pre-school.

Kirsty Reynolds - Key Worker

As a Key Worker, Kirsty worked her usual day job throughout lockdown, but in her spare time she went shopping for elderly and vulnerable people in the community. These people would all have struggled to get supplies without her - many of them offered to pay her for her services but she wouldn't accept it. She was a real help to so many people in Okehampton.

Okehampton and District Community Transport Drivers - Organisation

The volunteer drivers of this already vital service worked throughout the pandemic to make sure that existing and new clients could get to medical appointments safely. The drivers took every precaution with PPE and even supplied it to their clients who couldn't obtain their own for a wide range of reasons. The service received many new requests from people who needed a safe way to travel, including many pregnant women needing to get to appointments.

West Devon Borough Council Waste Collection Crews

The WDBC waste crews received a nomination from a member of the public who wanted to thank them for consistently collecting their waste and maintaining a cheerful attitude throughout the pandemic. The nominator said that the crews would consistently go above and beyond, even in the adverse weather, and made sure that West Devon remained a clean and pleasant environment.

Riverside Stores and Post Office

Colin and Michaela Arthurs both worked extremely hard through the lockdown period to make sure that new and existing customers were able to access food supplies and deliveries. This was hugely important when many of the large chain supermarkets weren't able to offer deliveries. They made sure that residents were able to order and receive food deliveries including fresh meat and fish from local suppliers.

The Square Shop, Northlew - Organisation

Northlew Parish Council nominated their local shop for this award, after they provided provisions, support and a focal point for the village throughout the lockdown period. The shop is a Community Interest Company that helps provide the village with food and general supplies and also cuts down the necessity to travel to supermarkets and town outlets, particularly during lockdown. It has recently been taken over by Steve Lockhouse and Shirley Brookman who, with the support of their army of volunteers, have gone above and beyond to keep the store open during the pandemic.

Despite the current climate, it is exceptionally well stocked, mainly because the majority of their produce is sourced locally and without restriction. They have been creative in setting up a weekly open air market in the Square to allow for social distancing restrictions. They have also been instrumental in helping set up the village Covid-19 voluntary support group. Last but not least, they've also offered a delivery service, including prescriptions, to assist the elderly and residents with impaired mobility. This has proved a lifeline to many parishioners in this small community which lies six miles to the North West of Okehampton, its nearest town.

Valerie Langham - Key Worker

Valerie works for WDBC and during the pandemic was working to distribute the business rates grants. A grateful member of the public contacted us to nominate Val after she supported her through the application process and made sure that the grant was awarded. This allowed the business owner to continue her business, and provide support to people in Tavistock with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

Linda Freeman - Star Volunteer

Linda was nominated by her daughter Kelly, in recognition of her setting up the Bere Alston Covid group. This group helped people shielding in the Bere Alston area who needed help with shopping, food, prescriptions or just a friendly phone call. Linda's work made a huge difference to the elderly and vulnerable in her local community.

Olivia Dunn - Community Leadership

Olivia created "Team Horrabridge - COVID and beyond" - a group of volunteers that co-ordinated a food bank and prescription deliveries for those in need in the area. She has provided a vital service to so many people in and around Horrabridge.

Winners have now been notified and will be invited to receive their awards at an online meeting later in the year.

As the country now endures a third national lockdown, this vital volunteering in the community continues to provide a lifeline. It is more important than ever to pay tribute to the hundreds of unsung heroes in West Devon villages and towns who are going above and beyond to help others.

Cllr Neil Jory, Leader of West Devon Borough Council said:"It's been humbling to hear how each of these local heroes has helped others in our communities. When the judging panel met to discuss who should be crowned winner, it quickly became apparent that it would be impossible to pick out just one or two nominees for this honour.

"I also know that these heroes are just the tip of the iceberg and there are many other unsung heroes in our midst. I send my thanks to each and every one of you who have done something, no matter how small, to help someone else during this most difficult year and continue to do so during our third national lockdown."

At the end of the first national lock down, West Devon launched a scheme to say thank you to all those people and organisations who did incredible things to help their communities.

The scheme involved nominations being made under one of seven categories. A panel of judges agreed that everyone who was nominated deserved to be named a winner.

Victoria Bendle, who nominated Cathy Hipsey for an award, added: "Cathy already worked with commitment and determination beyond the call of duty to ensure that isolated people were cared for. Thanks to her support, those isolating and without a support mechanism were kept in touch and cared for by people they trust from within their local community. Cathy was also at the heart of Tavistock Area Support Services' support for the community over Christmas. She helped to co-ordinate volunteers to ensure that families and the isolated all received a gift on Christmas Eve, a hot Christmas meal on Christmas Day and additional cold buffet food on Boxing Day - over 100 people were supported by this work!"

If you would like to help out in your community during the current restrictions, or you think you have skills that would be useful, there are lots of ways you can get involved. Visit our web page to find a local group or organisation to get in touch with: Coronavirus: Community Support in West Devon - West Devon Borough Council