Nominations so far for 2020

Read our nominations for 2020 here! And remember it is not a public vote - the Pride of Reading Awards have an independent panel who will judge the categories. The nominations continue also on the next page (see above)

the inspiration award SPONSORED BY mcdonalds

OLIVER HITCHINGS

A TEEN from Twyford has been making making hundreds of protective masks for the NHS.

Oliver Hitchings, age 15, has been using the 3D printers at his house to make protective equipment for local key workers.

He is a student at the specialist engineering and computing school UTC Reading, and he has used the skills he learns in class to make more than 150 masks.

He said: “I got the inspiration from reading about people in Italy using their printers to make similar equipment in the midst of their outbreak- I thought it was a great idea and decided to do the same”.

Mr Hitchings uses PVC to create the front shield and elastic to secure the masks, using the help of his mum when needed.

He added: “It’s difficult to get the printers running, but once you’re in the rhythm it’s not hard anymore, but it is time-consuming to deal with all the fiddly bits”.

He started making the masks on his own, but now shoulders the demand with two other Twyford residents – Oliver Beadsall and David Dawkins – and in July he estimated that they had created more than 200 between them.

Mr Hitchings said he has managed to supply all the local GPs, pharmacists, hospices, care homes and chemists with masks, and is now shipping them as far as Birmingham.

His school donated around £150 to him in the beginning, which allowed him to buy the materials to make the first 100 masks.

Now he is relying on the public’s generosity to manage, as each mask costs around £1.50 to make, as the plastic is not cheap – he aims to raise upwards of £1,000 to make as many as possible.

SARAH SHIELD

From the nominator: 'Sarah Shield is an Area Manager for Autism at Kingwood, a Reading based charity which supports 140 autistic adults. Sarah has worked for Autism at Kingwood for 7 years, but started her career as a front-line key worker for autistic people when she was 18, 15 years ago. Sarah, who was born, raised and has lived in Reading all her life, works hard to provide truly person-centred support for adults, ensuring they are able to lead the lives they choose.

Whilst Sarah is an excellent manager, with incredible attention to detail and motivating her team through sound leadership, Sarah excels at working directly with autistic people – and maintains a personal relationship with all the autistic people on her ‘patch’. Sarah was pivotal in setting up a specialist home in Whitley, providing a supported living house for local and very vulnerable young adults who were transitioning from their residential school or care setting, to this supported living home. Overseen by Sarah, the home has been hugely successful, supporting the young people who have challenging needs and complex behaviours.

Sarah has also enabled and delivered fast track supported living for autistic individuals who have been in inappropriate care/psychiatric hospital settings, and she has planned and overseen the gentle rehabilitation of autistic adults who have suffered trauma as a result of how they have been cared for in the past – one of whom lived at a home subsequently closed because of its abuse and mistreatment of vulnerable adults, uncovered by the BBC's Panorama programme.

A stand out achievement is that - after many months of one-to-one dynamic support – this young man and another, both supported in the transition house, spoke their first words in their early 20’s. Sarah implemented bespoke interaction strategies for these young men, and we believe that for the first time in their lives, they felt listened to. Sarah joined Autism at Kingwood as the Young Adult Transition Manager, and has made it the success it is.

Modestly, Sarah says ‘There’s something about that team’, but it is really Sarah, managing the team, steering the service and maintaining excellence. Sarah’s ambition and determination has enabled her to develop her career at Autism at Kingwood and now a successful Area Manager, she is responsible for all the charity’s supported living houses in Reading. Sarah works calmly under pressure and works directly with autistic adults with challenging needs and unpredictable behaviours. She is a true exemplar of person-centred support under challenging situations.

Sarah sees past the autistic person and sees just the person. She is a strong advocate for the rights of autistic people and those with disabilities. Sarah is an expert in her field, and delivers our induction and specialist autism training to the charity’s autism support workers.

She is an extremely valued member of Autism at Kingwood staff, and respected by all the families of those she supports. Totally committed, she encourages support staff to contact her at any time of the day or night, and will not hesitate in visiting a house during the night if she or staff have concerns.

Sarah has been especially vigilant during the Coronavirus lock-down. Many people we support don’t understand the changes to routine and have experienced heightened anxiety and confusion around not being able to go out, social distancing and at the sight of their support workers wearing face masks (as required). Sarah has ensured staff have done everything they can to alleviate stress and anxiety. She has created videos using Makaton sign language (the sign language used for learning disability) to help autistic people understand social distancing and leaving the house during lock-down. Sarah has also found time to establish a Friday night social club in central Reading for autistic adults (not just Autism at Kingwood beneficiaries), and raise funds for improvement to the homes she manages.'

Sarah Gardner of Reading University

From the nominator: 'Sarah has allowed me to be creative in my job as a community assistant and she created a volunteer scheme during the height of lockdown which matched local community groups with student volunteers with skills that could help. She has inspired me to be a good community member and I’m so grateful for her to be my boss!'

Sally Evans

From the nominator: 'I do not know Sally Evans personally but I think the majority of Reading now know of her! Sally set up a Facebook group called RG Halloween Hunt. Knowing that children would still want to be celebrating Halloween in these difficult times Sally came up with a way for that to happen whilst keeping everyone safe asking residents who wanted to take part to decorate their windows and outdoor areas for the 28th Oct - 1st November.

She then asked everyone wanting to take part to drop her a message with their postcode and made several hunt maps for the different parts of Reading on Google maps for everyone use to hunt the Halloween houses. Sally has brought together the whole of Reading with this, so many different areas and thought has gone into this. There are so many houses taking part, I am sure this ended up being a much bigger project than she had first anticipated but she has done it all, and done it all by herself too! It's given families across Reading something exciting to do this half term. Not to mention getting families together to create their displays.

She really has done an incredible job, all out of the goodness of her heart. I really think Sally deserves some recognition for all her hard work with this. She has created lots of smiles in what is such a difficult time for so many.'

Mark Dibben, Compass Recovery College

From the nominator: "Mark works at Compass Recovery College and during the pandemic they have have had to adapt to continue their important work supporting people with mental health challenges... their work being more important now than ever. Before the lockdown rules they could support people in person at their allotment, art classes and walk and talk sessions in Palmer Park. But they  had to move their support offering online and make sure it worked. As result they they have a programme of activity over Zoom from; Being Creative, Owning my Recovery and How to Beat the Winter Blues to every Tuesday and Thursday at Coffee and Chat session - you could literally call up for help today and start receiving support the following Tuesday or Thursday.

They have created online resources to help us all around coping with anxiety, panic, depression and stress which we can benefit from during these uncertain times. Mark is so open about his story and his journey that led to him needing help from Compass Recovery and now working there. He is an inspiration. It's been a privilege to work with Mark and find out more about Compass Recovery College, I've lived in Reading all my life and didn't know about their important work before and during the pandemic, by nominating Mark and Compass Recovery I hope more people hear about their great work."

Zyka

From getreading: 'An Indian restaurant in Reading has been recognised by the British Curry Awards for its work supporting the local community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Zyka owner Mr Zakir Khan won the ‘Outstanding service to local community in the pandemic’ award at this year’s online ceremony.

During the Covid-19 outbreak Mr Khan’s restaurant provided NHS staff with discounts, assisted those who needed grocery and pharmacy shopping and reached out through Facebook to those who required free meals.

Mr Khan said: “We didn’t embark on this work for the community to receive recognition, so to receive this from the most prestigious body in the industry is very humbling.

“It’s a huge honor to receive this accolade, especially having only taken over the business three years ago."

The Tilehurst restaurant was quick to thank the local community for helping make this work possible.

Mr Khan added: “We wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of this without the support of our customers, staff, families and suppliers.

"We hope we’re able to continue serving our community for many years to come.”'

We have had multiple nominations in numerous categories for

Sonia Brown

From some of the nominators:

'Sonia is our Silver Swans ballet teacher for the over 55s.She has given so much during this year.Her lesson are such fun as well as helping improve general fitness for older people. She puts so much into her lessons and is always so positive, a great teacher enriching culture in the community.'

'Sonia has helped the over-50s in Berkshire stay fit and healthy and above all happy during lockdown this year, adapting her classes for zoom and studio according to the situation. She's always smiling and inspires all her dancers to keep trying and enjoy music and dance. She has worked tirelessly to keep us buoyed up and always has a word of encouragement to spur us on. A true star of the community, promoting dance to those who maybe used to dance in their youth or have never tried before. Sonia is amazing!'

'Sonia has been an inspiration during 2020. She has adapted her barre ballet classes during this difficult year and supported all her class attendees. She is always so cheerful and positive and you leave her class always looking forward to practising before the next class. As soon as allowed she reopened her live classes and never complains when they’re shut down again but reverts back to online. She has been amazing and deserves to win this award.'

Ronnie Goodberry

Also nominated for Community Champion; Volunteer of the Year; Local Hero;The Chris Tarrant Award

From the nominator: 'Ronnie is one of the Admins on the Facebook group "Woodley Volunteers for COVID-19". This group was a joining up of two separate groups at the beginning of the pandemic.

Ronnie was one of the key people who made the combination run smoothly. This group is dedicated to Woodley residents with a controlled membership restricted to anyone living in or have relatives living in Woodley. The membership has risen to nearly 1,500 now.

The primary role is to be there to help any resident who needs assistant during this pandemic. There are several key elements to the group. Firstly every one of the 400+ roads in Woodley have a designated road volunteer who act as a focal point for residents in those roads to ask for assistance. The other key point is the collection of food and toiletries which is the main role that Ronnie manages.

There is quite an active Foodbank in Woodley but opening times can be limiting for those who wish to donate items. So he decided to open his house as a collection point for any Foodbank donations from 9am to 9pm, 7 days a week. As I write this a total of approximately 80,000 items have come through this channel. Not willing to "rest on his laurels" he continues to think of other ways to help. So he opened his collection point to other items like books and toys for children, or disability items like wheel chairs an walkers.

But the effervescent Ronnie is always thinking of ways he and the group can help our residents. So at Xmas he organised a special collection of "goodies" for vulnerable residents which could go to nominated people. They were duly delivered to a large number of vulnerable residents including any surplus donated to the Woodley Lunch Bunch.

Next on the agenda was to get people to make cakes for distribution to essential workers like the police or the fire brigade. Anther bunch of goodies were delivered to these folks who were working over the Xmas period. By now Ronnie's creative juices went into overdrive so he continued the concept of goodie bags to essential workers. So the call went out on the groups pages that he wanted snacks and cartons of juices etc. to put together to be distributed to NHS staff, the Police and the Fire Brigade.

The feedback from staff at each of these establishments has been great as they grab a couple of Mars Bars or cartons of orange juice as they leave to go to an incident.

In between all this activity he finds time to do specific jobs, especially fed in to the group from the "One Front Door" operation running in Wokingham Borough. This included visiting a vulnerable person, dismantling and removing a bed, assembling the new bed and disposing of the old one.

Nothing is too much for Ronnie, if someone needs help no matter what that help is, he is there either doing it himself or using his contacts (including the Facebook group) to come up with a solution. There is no doubt in my mind that Ronnie is the driving force behind the success of the "Woodley Volunteer for COVID-1 group.'

COMMUNITY CHAmPION SPONSORED BY READING fOOTBALL CLUB

manu dhaumya

Manu Dhaumya is the face behind the organisation called UNITED AGAINST BULLIES who deal with kids who are getting bullied at school. He has organised loads of charity tournaments to bring all communities together in his fight against bullying. This cause is aimed to raise awareness for the bullying epidemic that's so prevalent in our local schools. Manu Dhaumya is an influencer who has been using his voice to support many important causes.

Manu has remained active even in these difficult pandemic times. The COVID-19 outbreak sadly affected millions of lives all across the world. Some have been stuck in local lock-downs, others have lost their jobs, and others have experienced family tragedies. However, Manu didn’t stop working to raise awareness on the cause, even amid such a difficult situation. He recently organized an online event, Reading Art Festival, where children had the opportunity to contribute to an anti-bullying poster with some of their drawings.

Manu also actively worked to support those in need during the Coronavirus pandemic. He visited the local hospital with food and supplies for the nurses and workers who are putting their safety on the line.'

Nicky Johnson

From the nominator: 'Through both lockdowns Nicky has given live exercise classes that can be watched back later. Her positive energy, fun Zumba and other classes have helped me feel better. I look forward to these classes and watch them back if I miss them. For me her kindness and motivation has been a light in a horrible darkness.

TINA HANCOCK

A Woodley woman is running a campaign to provide vital PPE to frontline NHS staff across Berkshire and South Oxfordshire. 

Tina Hancock, who works for a local authority, set up Scrub Hub South Oxon and Berks to support health care professionals in need of scrubs during the current crisis.

In only the first two weeks since its conception, the hub received over £5,000 in donations that go towards making PPE. 

Ms Hancock was prompted to create the hub when she learnt about the original Scrub Hub UK and saw their request on Facebook for more seamstresses.

Together with friend Madeleine Steele, a talented seamstress and her husband Duncan Steele, she began seeking volunteers on Facebook, to help produce and deliver the protective clothing to NHS staff, carers and key workers.

The three friends have been working together to coordinate the Scrub Hub South Oxon and Berks network as it progresses. 

Ms Hancock said: “We’ve had a lot of support and we’ve really grown incredibly quickly, through Facebook and speaking to friends of friends, it’s snowballed. By the end of the week we were delivering our first scrubs! 

“We follow strict guidelines in terms of how the scrubs are made, we have some very proficient sewers.

“It’s brilliant to see how many people want to get involved, the community spirit has been amazing. Even on Facebook people are organizing themselves really well, they’re taking on responsibilities. We’ve been overwhelmed with people’s willingness to help.”

A total of 90 sets of scrubs have been distributed or are in production and demand is high for bags and masks too.

Ms Hancock said: “I’ve just spoken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital today and they want 40 scrub bags from us. That’s two per person so 20 people we’re supplying for. 

“On the mask front, we set up ‘The Big Mask Task’, we challenged people to make ten masks each a week, a lot of them have made 20.” 

The original Scrub Hub UK was founded in Hackney Wick, when doctor Katie Ward shared with her local community group that she urgently needed protective clothing. 

Neighbours rallied round and began sewing scrubs for NHS staff. A Scrub Hub network formed and people were invited to create their own local hubs. Since then, many more Scrub Hub networks have been set up across the U.K. 

Ms Hancock explained how the volunteers are being organised in her local hub. 

“We have 148 volunteers, out of those, 46 are making scrubs,” she said. “We’ve divided them into 20 groups, each group has a coordinator, a group leader, at least one scrub maker and the rest are making masks and bags.

“We’ve got drivers and a logistics coordinator minimising time on the road and we’re implementing social distancing.

“Our orders have come from individuals working in hospitals and care homes including the Royal Berkshire hospital, the John Radcliffe Hospital, Wexham Park hospital and the Duchess of Kent Hospice.”

ROY WITHERS

From the nominater: 'Since the lockdown due to the Coronoviris my husband who is 76, myself 72 and we both have high blood pressure, and our son who is 43 and visually impaired have not left the house. Roy Withers knocked on our door and has since done all our shopping, brought us treats and cooked meals and delivered them to us and he is still doing all these things to keep us safe. He has checked on us daily. I don't know what we would have done without him. We would have had to take our chance. He is one in a million and we will be eternally grateful. He deserves recognition for his dedication of care in the community.' 

rotary reading

From the nominator: 'Rotary clubs of Reading and Berkshire. For donations, and support made to so many either by for example befriending through eg: Berkshire vision , Link,. Looking after the elderly and venerable by shopping etc. Supporting foodbanks Supporting Royal Berks hospital well being room for the staff Supporting many many local Charities such as Alexander Devine Being a trusted charity in the communities.'

Kathryn deacon Burgoyne

From the nominator: 'Kathryn has headed up foodshare in the Newtown area of Reading and gets very little recognition of it. She feeds up to 50+ Families 5 nights a week purely from donations and with the least amount of fanfare!!'

Rachel Walker

From the nominator: 'Rachel delivered 35 food parcels in half term & 50 Xmas hampers.'

EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY READING BUSES

TERESA OSWIN

From the nominator: 'Teresa Oswin of Shinfield View Care Home is absolutely amazing, she is the most happy, upbeat person and really relates to people. She can be quite noisy / boisterous but has an amazing heart of gold. She has worked hard throughout this horrendous situation and always has a smile and a laugh!

ROB CLARK

From the nominator: 'I manage a store in the Broad Street Mall. Rob Clark is MD for security and cleaning. Its a very scary time to be at work and yet I drag myself in every day for the sake of our customers. However, I don't think I would if it wasn't for Rob and his team. They are cheerful, smiley and encouraging every time I walk through that door. Rob has given them masks, visers and gloves... Uncomfortable for them I'm sure, but all are still smiling and welcoming, and they are protected from risks. I think under the circumstances I am just grateful that Rob and his team are with us. There's only 5 of us open inside the mall and we all agree. Rob deserves recognition. We are all there, serving the public, only because he's there for us. Please consider honouring his dedication to his job and care for the all of us. We couldn't do without him. And none of us would be there without him.'

RACHEL BARKER

From the nominator: Rachel Barker, of Circle Reading Hospital - for her perseverance, compassion, integrity and putting her team and patients first. For trying to keep everyone safe and boost morale during these difficult times and for going above and beyond. She is a fantastic Manager always ready to help and listen and support and she needs to be thanked and recognised for this.'

LUCY MCCABE

From the nominator: 'Lucy McCabe of Prospect School has been working above and beyond to support the mental wellbeing of both staff and students.'

Mark Smith, Head of DT & Engineering, Leighton Park School.

From the nominator:  'At the start of lockdown Mark Smith single handedly set up a face shields factory from the DT lab in our school. This grew into a cottage factory setting with volunteers and partner schools from around the county. These face shields were vital PPE for a community struggling to cope with the virus. In our opinion, this act of kindness and passion to help others has saved potentially thousands of lives. It also helped to reduce anxiety for those exposed to the virus on a daily basis through their work. He adapted, produced and delivered over 36,000 shields with his team of volunteers by the end of the summer. People who benefitted from this ranged from NHS workers in hospitals such as RBH, Wexham Park Slough and Heatherwood in Ascot. Thousands went into cares homes, GP surgeries and primary schools as well as shops, pharmacies , food banks and charities. We believe Mark is a true hero and legned within the school and now in Reading. This nomination is from the student body and submitted by Ellie Pearson, Deputy Head Girl.'

Dwayne Gillane

From the nominator: 'Dwayne Gillane is Occupational Health Nurse Manager. Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. With 6,000 staff at six sites across a wide area of Berkshire West, the role of Dwayne Gillane, Occupational Health Nurse Manager at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, has been pivotal in keeping them updated on latest regulations around Covid, and reassured that their mental and physical wellbeing is a Trust priority throughout the pandemic – and beyond.

In the first wave of Covid there was a lot of movement of staff to other local Independent Sector hospitals, whilst others retrained and were deployed to new areas in the RBH, and others started working from home. All this sudden and unexpected change threw up major challenges and concerns for them, and the strong and trustworthy network of OH support provided by Dwayne proved to be invaluable.

More than anything, staff needed to know they could rely on accurate, updated and easy to access information during the ever changing Covid period on everything from testing through to self-isolation periods and shielding advice. This enabled them to continue carrying out their duties with the reassurance that the Trust was committed to looking after them. Dwayne pioneered a wide range of wrap around wellbeing support tailored to the differing needs of the diverse community of Trust staff. He set up drop-in support sessions with psychological therapists which were followed up with more timed and targeted sessions to meet specific staff needs.

He worked closely with our partners in Berkshire Healthcare Foundation Trust to help facilitate fast track access to Talking Therapies for our staff and access to a local phone service for advice on mental health in addition to our existing 24/7 support line available to staff. He helped coordinate and produce a mental health and Covid information e-booklet which was also produced in hardback copies to make sure it reached as wide an audience as possible, especially those with no regular IT access.

Dwayne also played a lead role in establishing the staff wellbeing centre, pioneered drive-in sites to speed up staff testing and produced an exhaustive range of FAQs to keep all staff aware of Covid updates. Throughout the pandemic Dwayne has been a voice of calm, reason, reassurance, energy, positivity and good humour, always on top of his brief and able to advise management on the implementation of national guidelines. His updates were a regular fixture in the 75 daily staff briefings and his expertise has been invaluable to the CEO and management team during their video updates and live stream Q&A sessions with staff.

His OH department has handled hundreds of calls from staff seeking reassurance or clarification on a myriad of covid related questions and concerns. Dwayne has supported his team superbly, equipping them with all the relevant facts and data whilst keeping a close eye on their own wellbeing. His reputation as the voice of authority on all things Covid means he gets little respite - whenever he’s spotted along the two miles of corridors at the Royal Berkshire Hospital he’s constantly waylaid by clinicians, therapists, matrons, porters, admin staff, the catering crew and many more seeking his tried and trusted guidance. And his work on the Trust’s Health and Wellbeing offer has been acknowledged by the NHS South East as an exemplar and shared with other Trusts in the region.

More recently, Dwayne has led on the Trust’s flu campaign and has been successful in encouraging 65 per cent of staff to have a vaccination – the highest ever uptake for the Trust."

Daniel Oladejo

From the nominator:  "Daniel joined Fortress Operations Limited in November 2019, and was introduced to us by Starting Point, a local Reading Charity dedicated to mentoring young people who are at risk of exclusion upon leaving education.

Many of the young people that this great charity mentor have little experience of applying for work or have the knowledge of what employers are looking for. They meet multiple barriers on a day to day basis and entering the working world is a daunting prospect. Sam Lloyd (Daniel’s Starting Point Mentor) - It wasn’t until Daniel applied for McDonalds (Fortress) that he found an employer that saw past Daniel’s barriers to the abundance of potential that he has and offered him a job as part of the team. Daniel has flourished over this time, he smiles from ear to ear whenever he talks about work, his confidence and self-belief has grown immensely and he speaks about the rest of team at Fortress like they are family and friends, not colleagues. It is amazing to see the transformation in Daniel and although I have spent 3 years mentoring him, it’s he that inspires me! Daniel became an instant favourite within the team, and has enjoyed some really fantastic moments in his year with us, from his first Christmas with Fortress to tasting all of the new products throughout the year.

During lockdown, Daniel showed real resilience, staying in touch with his colleagues and managers and looked forward to returning to work as soon as possible. Daniel truly has been an inspiration throughout the year in his eagerness to help others through such a tough time, bringing fun and laughter to his team, whilst working within the new normal and all of the changes that we have all experienced.

He is a firm favourite with our customers, who greet him like a friend when he works every Saturday afternoon. Daniel lights up any room he walks into, he is full of laughter, quick to make a joke and always interested in other people. Fortress is proud to nominate Daniel as our Employee of the Year and look forward to many more years in his company."

Security officer Vaida Dumbravite 

From the nominator: 'I would like to nominate Vaida as employee of the year due to her unselfish commitment to the Broad Street Mall shopping centre and its tenants .

Vaida has only been employed at the mall for a year in this time she has established herself at the very pinnacle of customer care . Regardless of what day, time or weather she is always seeking to ensure anyone and every one that visits the mall is happy and well looked after. This really came to the fore when the fateful day the covid pandemic broke , she volunteered for every shift she could do, personally made a video for Facebook encouraging visitors to stay safe . Despite the anxiety and apprehension that faced all, she remained buoyant to all.

When we required additional staff to assistant within the NHS covid Hub many declined yet up stepped Vaida . Not only did she engage in work within the hub she continued to work as part of our security team . She took it upon herself to motivate staff and NHS workers, buying Easter eggs , flowers on birthdays and arranging games during down time to keep everyone's morale going during such uncertain times . No matter how tough your day has been meeting Vaida will make you smile . She truly is one of a kind.'

Scott Fraser - Launchpad

From the nominator: 'Scott has worked incredibly hard within the Launchpad office during this pandemic. Being a key worker with the homeless being his focus and passion to support their housing. Launchpad during the pandemic has launched their new skills centre. Scott and the team were pivotal in helping this centre open during what is a tricky time for all but the charity sector in particular. The dedication includes Scott working weekends with an emergency phone where adults in need can ring if help is required 24/7. Scott is the Pride of Reading within the charity sector who can honestly say he has gone above and beyond.'

business in action SPONSORED BY ITM

ALEX GIBSON

From the nominator: 'Alex Gibson  plus others from RLab (Reading Hackspace). Alex suspended his business, partnered with several other people from the Hackspace community and set up a 24/7 factory at Cisco's Green Park offices to produce face mask PPE for Berkshire NHS Trust. He and others volunteered their time, incurred costs of their own and borrowed the communal 3D printers too, working around the clock producing around 7500 masks over six weeks before the supply chain could get moving to get the right volumes of PPE to the medics who needed them most. They didn't have to step up but they saw the need and acted on it - I'm so proud to know them and to have been able to make a tiny contribution alongside their efforts.'

LAS FItness

From the nominator: 'These enterprising young men (Shawn, Linton, Omari) occasionally collaborating with their colleagues (Irek, Alvin), have been at the forefront during this pandemic. The pandemic and 2020 brought about physical, and mental challenges to many, both Reading residents and beyond. As soon as lockdowns were announced in March, they all quickly rose to the occasion, and created a community online. Through this community they deliver first-class online fitness sessions (via Zoom), nutrition & fitness tips, mental coaching & daily motivation and accountability. They even went as far as collaborating with local food businesses to deliver hundreds of healthy meals, boosting our local economy. They have coached many in the Reading area, and made a huge difference to the health (physical & mental) of many, their popularity spreading as far as London, and even Spain. Not only did they help many to lose weight and stay healthy, they helped many folks to stay positive, sometimes even get through personal tragedies. These young men are set to go far, and are a huge asset to our town of Reading, and make us proud.'

SHINFIELD VIEW CARE HOME

From the nominator: 'I’m so appreciative of all of the staff at Shinfield View. They constantly strive to improve on their already high standards, and have continued to do so throughout Lockdown. Their highest priority has been the protection of their residents in a safe and friendly environment.

When I was last in the home, on Mon 16 Mar, they were putting plans in place for lockdown and that night they closed their doors to visitors. However within a few days they’d set up video-calling facilities so residents can stay in touch with family members. They closed their dining rooms to reduce the risks of spreading infection if a resident becomes ill and have been serving all meals and refreshments to each resident in their room.

They also closed off social spaces (the lounges and bar) and somehow the Events Team are still managing to arrange activities (all with social distancing) to stimulate mind and body - painting, pizza-making, visits by Shetland ponies, exercises, Alice in Wonderland tea party, etc. Also the staff make time to sit and chat with residents (who’ve mostly got used to having conversations with staff wearing PPE all day).

Many relatives have had general questions about how Shinfield View is coping under lockdown, so each week the Manager, Amanda Tanner, sends out the Shinfield View Update email, letting relatives know about such things as supplies of PPE (which are constantly restocked), providing reassurances about food and drink delivery, updates on staffing levels, data on COVID-19 testing at the home, and details of how to schedule a video-call with your relative. Always amazing care and consideration from the teams at Shinfield View!'

Clay’s Hyderabadi kitchen

From the nominator: 'During lockdown whilst most businesses were focused on how to make it through financially, the team at Clay’s were focused on how they could help others. They provided hundreds of free meals to Whitley CDA and at a time when hospitality is really struggling. I was amazed of the work they did and the dedication they showed. They are a fantastic business and provide Reading with authentic, diverse and top quality food - we should be so proud to have them in Reading.'

Nibsys gluten free coffee shop, Reading

From the nominator: 'I’ve nominated Nibsys for the business in action award because the owner Naomi Lowe is always thinking of ways to help the community. She has started a plant a tree receive a free diy donut box to help get the community to plant trees to help regrow the wilderness that’s depleting.

She displays local artists work on one of her walls in the shop to help them get exposure and not only locals but she has also got a wall dedicated to a very talented homeless man called Lee where he can display his drawings to earn a living and to get him off the streets!

Finally in amongst the COVID-19 crisis she has lost money and business (like everyone) as she’s had to close the shop for several months due to the first national lockdown although she’s doing everything to keep her business afloat whilst looking after her two boys with the help of her husband she’s still managed to giveaway loads of free lunches in replace for the free school lunches that the children would be getting over the half term she’s donated these to the families that need them.'

Caversham Artisan & Farmer's Market 

From the nominator: 'I would like to nominate Caversham Artisan & Farmer’s Market for this award, as they not only have been able to support the community by continuing to hold the market but, have also enabled other small businesses to continue to trade in this unprecedented and difficult time. Covid-19 really has taken its toll on both businesses large and small, but for those smaller enterprises it has been especially tough.

Many of the companies that trade at the Caversham Market do not have physical retail space and some are unable to operate online deliveries, leaving this market as one of their main opportunities to make a profit and sell their goods. Covid-19 has certainly forced businesses to make rapid decisions and they’ve had to evolve quickly in order to survive, but for smaller companies that just isn’t always possible – especially for those that had only just began their journey before lockdown. Caversham Artisan & Farmer’s Market enabled these smaller companies to continue trading by adhering and following the government’s guidelines. Clear, visible markings were added to the floor so that social distancing of 2m was put into place. Traders stands were also at least 2m apart from each other. Individual traders are also adhering to Covid secure measures themselves and throughout their businesses.

During lockdown when only essential shops could open, the market continued to trade but only with those that were selling essential items such as food, drink and household cleaning products. This market was a saviour to those locals that needed essentials but didn’t necessarily want to queue outside a large supermarket and come into contact with lots of people. As the market operates outside, masks were not required to be worn to enter.

This was a huge bonus for those people that struggle with anxiety around wearing a mask and for those that have medical conditions that mean they can’t wear one and would otherwise feel uncomfortable in a usual retail setting. The market therefore provided them with a place to shop and feel comfortable all at the same time.

I truly believe that without this market that those local, smaller businesses would have severely suffered due to Covid-19, not to mention the locals that enjoy visiting their market every other week to pick up essentials would have been negatively impacted too. This truly is a case of supporting small and local.'

NOODSkin & NOOD at Home 

 Under 50 Employees. From the nominator: "NOODSkin is a small, artisan business that makes and sells skincare with its base in the heart of Caversham. Its founders, Claire & Jodie, started this company from home after learning how to make soap themselves. What started as a business venture alongside their full-time jobs has now grown into a studio, a shop and a full-time operation including making and creating the products, to packaging, selling and delivering them. NOODSkin has two core focuses. Firstly, their products and packaging are all environmentally friendly, sustainable, and single use plastic free. Secondly, their ingredients are natural and carefully put together to create outstanding products that really work. Their products are vegan, and are suitable for any skin type, including sensitive skin and those that suffer from eczema. Customers love their soaps in particular due to the results that they have given them! Their product range has since expanded although soaps remain at the core of their business. NOODSkin now sells bastille soap, castile soap, luxury soap ranges, moisturiser, lip balms and shower steamers.

They also sell bamboo accessories such as cotton buds and reusable cotton wool pads as well as using the offcuts of their soap to make washing powder and household cleaning products which they then use in NOODSkin’s sister company: NOOD at Home as well as selling them via NOODSkin.

NOOD at Home is a cleaning company, also overseen by Claire & Jodie, offering domestic and commercial cleaning throughout Reading and beyond. As the cleaning products are produced by NOODSkin, they are all eco-friendly, sustainable, and good for the customer’s health (which many normal household cleaning products are not).

During lockdown, NOOD at Home ceased operations, however NOODSkin was busier than ever fulfilling customer’s orders as the increase for soap and cleaning products increased. Claire & Jodie worked tirelessly to ensure the needs of their customers were met and that products were being delivered on time. When lockdown eased, NOOD at Home started cleaning again following government guidelines by wearing masks and sanitising equipment and themselves between properties. For the duration of the second lockdown, NOODSkin offered free delivery on all orders as a thank you to customers. These two businesses are a real asset to Reading in both their separate offerings, but they are also trying to do their best for the rest of the world too throughout their sustainable, eco-friendly business approach."

Amy McCarthy & Phillip Smith

Under 50 employees. From the nominator: "These two have brought a new sense of community to Twyford, with a free running soup kitchen and meals for children over this awful time. They only opened in Sept and have already started giving back. Trying offer recruitment possibilties to those who can gain experience when they have none. They are growing very rapidly in popularity in the communities for both amazing food and wonderful service! All this whilst Phil had a stroke and Amy has SD. Entrepreneur of the Year sponsored by Macbeth Insurance - all the reasons above and the food and reputation they have created are incredible. We are all so proud of them."

CHARITY OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY berzerk productions

We have had numerous nominations for Whitley CDA - here are just a few:

'Trisha Bennett, Maria Cox, Lisa Alloune and Aneta Banas. of Whitley CDA - Trisha and her team have been feeding those Whitley residents who would normally need to rely on foodbanks since the start of lockdown (and even before that!). Raising funds, sourcing food and gathering the support of local restaurants and other businesses in order to feed those in the community that are vulnerable and those facing financial struggles. They have done amazing work and made the impossible happen in an extremely difficult and unprecedented situation.

'Trisha Bennett is a force to be reckoned with. She has surrounded herself with a group of strong women who have tirelessly worked for the good of the Whitley Community. They have earned the acknowledgement of being the best that Whitley shows other communities how to knuckle down and get things done. Well done everyone!'

'Seeing all the amazing work they have done over this Covid 19 crisis had been overwhelming, they have done a great job and worked so hard to help others.'

'They are a credit to Whitley and Reading as a whole. Personally I have been self isolating as new single mum since March. A member of the CDA made time after their job to pop by, drop me some reading material but also checked in on me. That small gesture went a long way as I was feeling extremely overwhelmed.'

'This team in Whitley (mix of staff, volunteers and partner organisations) has been working tirelessly to pivot their services and support during the covid-19 lockdown. They have prepared hundreds of food parcels for isolated individuals and vulnerable families across Whitley and beyond, they have partnered with local restaurants to deliver hot meals, they have partnered with charity groups to increase their volunteer delivery capacity, they have networked with commercial and corporate partners to collect unused food and distribute to those in need as well as essential supplies like toiletries, nappies etc. Further, Whitley CDA has linked Reading residents to services via the One Reading Community Hub and other local partners, thereby strengthening community ties for post-lockdown support. They have been a friendly face at the front door (keeping social distance!), the other end of the phone and online. If Whitley CDA does not symbolise the Pride of Reading, I don't know who does!'

READIBUS

From the nominator: 'Readibus always provides a professional,service to the elderly and disabled in the town but this year they surpassed themselves by working closely at the height of the pandemic by working alongside the South Central Ambulance service by transporting local patients for dialysis and cancer treatment to hospitals across Berkshire and Oxon when The RBH was unable to treat them. This really meant they had to up the ante to include intensive cleaning regimes and procedures and take sole responsibility for the patient as they were transported. Well done Readibus !'

Dingley's Promise

From the nominator: 'Dingley's Promise provide support to my 4 year old daughter and have done for the past year, they work incredibly hard with the limited funds available to them! They work tirelessly to ensure that every child has the best possible start and support! The staff team by no means receive the credit that they deserve for what they do! Without them my little one would not be in the position to be independent and receiving the support that she does and i truly cannot thank them enough for all they have done.'

Parenting special children

From the nominator: 'Parenting Special Children are a small charity led by a phenomenal woman - Ruth Pearse. Everyone who works or volunteers at PSC are parents of children with additional needs. PSC provides education, workshops, fun events (pre covid!) and an amazing helpline to support Berkshire parents of children who need that little bit extra. They listen, advocate and support parents every single day and they completely transformed their whole way of working to continue this work during the lockdown by moving all courses online and continuing the support that parents & families so desperately need. They are amazing.'

CommuniCare 

From the nominator: 'CommuniCare stepped up and helped with Reading One Hub when the initial lockdown started. Since then, they have supported their clients with support via the home, at the centre or home visits. They have worked with RBC and other charities to provide advice/support to people in the community.'

Me2 Club

From the nominator: 'In recognition for all of the work and difference they have made to support vulnerable children. This year has been an incredibly hard year for them but they have worked so hard at making their help 'Covid Secure'.

'The team at Me2 Club are based next door to our own head office in Woodley, just outside Reading. As such, we get to see the positive impact and the invaluable support that the charity offer to young people in the local area every day. We have been proud to offer our support through various fundraising initiatives, most recently sponsoring the charity’s inaugural networking event at Ascot Racecourse. Colleagues from our Woodley and Henley offices have also taken part in cake sales, charity quiz evenings and indoor rowing challenges, to name a few. We have been proud to support Me2 Club and look forward to offering many more years of support and fundraising activities.'

Sadaka

From the nominator: "Sadaka is a not-for-profit charity based in Reading with an ethos of giving without judgement or bias. They provide a regular sit-down meal service every Saturday at the Fairview Community Centre, Great Knollys Street, for the homeless and those struggling financially.

However the service is about much more than receiving food, it is also a place where the service users can see familiar friendly faces, get lost in reading a book, as well as feel comfortable and safe.

Keen to ensure that no one misses out on celebrations that we may take for granted, Sadaka always provides festive goodie bags for Diwali and Christmas (with chocolates, cakes and other treats), in addition to essential items (such as hats, scarves, gloves, moisturiser and sun cream), for use in all types of temperamental British weather!

Their usual premises have unfortunately been closed since March and so they have been unable to provide their normal sit- down service, but this has not stopped Sadaka from continuing to get food to those in need in the Reading area. Through passion, determination and versatility, they have been able to adapt to providing a new take away only service for the attendees (outside of the Queens Arms on Great Knollys Street, every Saturday at 12pm.)

Throughout this challenging period, Sadaka has also launched three new great projects that have enabled them to expand their services and help even more people. They are now providing meals once a week to refugees, as well as working with Whitley CDA to provide meals for children in need during the holiday season. In addition they have a training programme for their service users called “Step Up With Sadaka”. The training scheme aims to help build the confidence of the attendees, as well as teach them basic literacy and IT skills, in addition to employability skills. Throughout the programme each individual is assigned a mentor to provide support if they encounter any issues along the way."

Becoming Mums

From the nominator: 'For helping new mums talk about mental health issues. Particularly prevalent in light of covid and they have done amazing work online.'

Berkshire Youth

From the nominator: 'Berkshire Youth is a local charity which has been committed to improving the lives and experiences for local young people (aged 10 to 18) for the past 80 years.

Many of the young people supported are vulnerable, disadvantaged and at risk, often unable to access help anywhere else. The charity works tirelessly across the county to support, empower and inspire more than 12,000 young people each year through a range of projects and activities.

The past few months have been exceptionally challenging for local young people and Berkshire Youth has seen requests for help increase exponentially. In addition to the great youth work already taking place across the town, Berkshire Youth recognised and was deeply concerned about the impact of the pandemic on young people and swiftly devised the West Berkshire Youth Hub (https://wbyh/co.uk) to address the issues they were experiencing.

The charity quickly secured funding and cooperation with a number of local organisations and charities to launch this virtual, text and telephone-based support platform to bring together all of the information and links to support young people, parents, carers and youth workers through the lockdown and beyond. The hub also provides access to Berkshire Youth’s youth workers and volunteering opportunities.

The hub has already supported thousands of young people across West Berkshire (including those in the west of Reading) and, due to the project’s success, will be extended across the whole of Berkshire in early 2021. Berkshire Youth’s other vital work has continued throughout the pandemic, when safe and legal to do so. Some examples of this are: Specialist on-the-street youth street workers: Berkshire Youth’s specialist youth workers interact and build relationships with young people where they ‘hang out’; shopping precincts and parks late at night and encourage the young person from the streets into local youth activities.

They receive one-to-one mentoring and support from trained community volunteer mentors for up to 12 months. The specialist youth street workers focus on hard to reach young people at risk of exploitation and crime. Berkshire Youth also works with schools across Reading and Berkshire - preventative education for young people, helping with early identification of those at risk of gangs, drug and knife crime.

Throughout the pandemic, Berkshire Youth’s youth workers have supported local authorities, such as Thames Valley Police, through their conversations with local young people, speaking to them about the current Covid-19 guidelines and restrictions, listening and responding to young people’s concerns, and signposting and encouraging them into positive activities still available. Youth Clubs: Berkshire Youth provides support to local communities in the towns and villages of Berkshire to set up youth clubs. Support includes training: First Aid, managing risk, sport and art programmes, safeguarding, mental health and how to engage young people at risk. In addition, the charity also provides advice on best practice and ideas for weekly events and activities. During the pandemic, Berkshire Youth has supported local youth clubs by offering advice and recommendations and has been at the forefront of ensuring that facilities reopened when safe to do so. Berkshire Youth has also offered all local youth clubs free affiliation for the year.

 

Projects: Providing young people with the chance to improve their health, become active and make a positive contribution in their community, including: • Youth workers in schools. Berkshire Youth’s youth workers regularly visit students who have been identified by their schools as at risk and requiring extra support. They have had great success at supporting these students, many of whom have reengaged with their education and are approaching their education much more positively. • Fit 4 Youth. Inspiring healthier lives, helping to keep children and their families fit and healthy, a 6-week programme delivered through schools. • Youth Leadership Academy. Supporting young people aged 10 to 18 through challenging life transitions to help them make the right choices, grow resilience and mature as individuals and members of society. Improving key skills: confidence, communication, planning, problem solving, resilience, team work and, of course, leadership. • The Duke Edinburgh Award. Berkshire Youth provides support through clubs, offering the Duke of Edinburgh Award to all young people of Berkshire. • First Aid for young people. Training young people from both primary and secondary schools in basic first aid: how to make an effective call to the emergency services, CPR, bleeding, burns, breaks, choking, recovery position and more.

 

As a keen advocate and champion of young people, members of Berkshire Youth can often be heard speaking on local radio or commenting in the local press about youth issues. They are keen to champion young people and to get their voices heard. At the beginning of the year, nobody at Berkshire Youth could have foreseen what was ahead in the charity’s 80th year. The world for young people has changed in so many ways, with many experiencing mental health issues, worrying about their future prospects and struggling with many issues during the lockdowns.

In spite of all this, Berkshire Youth has quickly adapted to address these needs and still remains optimistic for the future, always striving to provide the best possible help that they can. I would love for Berkshire Youth’s tireless work and commitment to young people to be recognised at these awards. Everything the charity does has their best interests at heart, and the way the charity has worked with other local organisations and charities to best address young people’s needs and fill in any gaps in the support that they need during these unprecedented times has been truly remarkable.'

Reading Refugee Support Group 

From the nominator: "2019/20 saw RRSG celebrate 25 years of supporting asylum seekers and refugees. They should get the PORA just for that! They also received the Queen's Award for Voluntary Services, which is the charity sector equivalent of getting an MBE demonstrating their ongoing commitment to supporting their volunteers. One such volunteer was Alice Driver who posthumously received a PORA award last year, after volunteering with RRSG whilst battling a brain tumour.

RRSG proudly stand up for the Reading refugee community in the face of increasing hostility and toxic social media generated as a result of the negative coverage of asylum seekers crossing the channel.

They have supported and protected mothers and children who have been trafficked, people sleeping rough with no recourse to public funding and assist 100s of people every year with their asylum claims and immigration problems. In 2015 RRSG led the establishment of Reading City of Sanctuary, and still hosts and Chairs it today. After much hard work, in 2017, Reading was awarded official City of Sanctuary status as a place of welcome for refugees and asylum seekers, building on Reading's proud history of welcoming refugees since WW2. On top of the challenges we all faced with CV-19, RRSG were hard hit after the Forbury Gardens tragedy.

RRSG received direct hate threats but quietly continued to stand up for, defend and protect the refugee community in Reading and across Berkshire. In his address after the Forbury Gardens tragedy, Leader of the Council Jason Brock referred to Reading being a City of Sanctuary as he sought to ease community fear and tensions, highlighting the important and proud role in RRSG has played in Reading’s history over the past 25 years.

At its 25th year closes, this is the year Reading can say thank you by awarding RRSG Charity of the Year. Please!"

 Claire Harrison - Fifis Vision

From the nominator: 'Claire founded and runs Fifis Vision which is a charity for families of children with additional needs. They are so supportive and incredible! Being a parent of a child with special needs can become extremely lonely as many don’t understand what you are going through every day. Fifis vision offers support beyond expectations. They hold a coffee group every Thursday which you can attend with or without your child where you can find no judgement and there is always a shoulder to cry on, information and contacts pointing you in the right direction, organised family days, a hug (well not right now but looking forward to when we can again!), zoom calls that go on for hours just because you end up chatting and laughing and forgetting the life that is your ‘normal’ for a little while or even just a nice hot cup of tea (mostly accompanied with a biscuit 🍪) is beyond incredible!'

LAUNCHPAD

From the nominator: 'Launchpad frontline staff have worked everyday in the pandemic as keyworkers and while putting themselves at risk they have moved in and moved on the most vulnerable in Reading on depleted staffing due to cvd 19 and sticking to social distancing guidelines.'

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY MACBETH INSURANCE

PAUL JONES

From the nominator: 'Paul Jones of Podium Fitness usually runs a bootcamp at Prospect Park, Reading and South Hill Park in Bracknell. But when government guidelines meant he could no longer, he started doing zoom sessions 4 times a week for us all. Since the 25th March these have all been provided free of charge to members.

Despite the fact Paul was not eligible for any of the government grants or furlough scheme, he didn't feel it was right to charge us when some of us may be having financial difficulty due to the pandemic. Exercise for us all was key to surviving lockdown. The online sessions have kept us all fit, healthy and most importantly happy. They have given us some structure to our week. We are all so grateful for what Paul has done for us and still is.

Due to government guidelines still not allowing groups of more than 6 to train outside , he is now proposing that from 25th July to reduce the zoom sessions to 2 sessions a week but hold back to back sessions outside twice a week with 5 people attending each session , again free of charge.

This means with an average of 20 people usually attending bootcamp. He will spend 4 hours twice a week training us for no financial benefit to himself. He has said he will not expect any payments until group sizes are allowed to be larger and we can then return to the parks twice a week. And even then he is going to finish off the 6 week course that we were only one week into when lockdown commenced! Paul has gone above and beyond to keep us all active and safe.'

FREELY FRUITY

From the nominator: 'Three guys, Ryan, James and Matt started up Freely Fruity right at the beginning of lockdown and have worked tirelessly throughout. They have worked through all the various weather conditions and elements to build up the charity to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for those a little less fortunate. Starting out with just a bare piece of land, and very little knowledge and how to grow and what to grow when, the guys have built up and grown an impressive amount of produce which they provide to various local food banks and churches. The guys have sacrificed a huge amount of their personal time with family to pursue their dream and help out those in need during these difficult times. The guys have such a selfless attitude and always go out of their way to help others and always thinking of new ways to help others and how they can expand their plot and vision even more.'

'This amazing group of individuals came together for the greater good of their community, putting others first despite all being furloughed - such a positive inspiration!'

TUTU MELAKU

From the nominator: 'Tutu Melaku has amazing community spirit. He cafe is Palmer park is awesome; when it was closed during lockdown she provided meals for children at school it Whitley. Post lockdown she organised a community dance in the park to bring people together. She is inspiring and her food is delicious!'

'During Covid Tutu did fantastic free meals for schools and vulnerable families. She has kept the cafe going in the middle of Palmer Park also, and organised community events to take place there. It’s such a pleasure to see the old building in some use, and for Tutu to be at the heart of it, always smiling, always inclusive of all, with just excellent and yummy food, coffee and cakes on top of it all as well. Tutu deserves to be recognised by Pride of Reading for all her efforts.'

Buddy from The Hatchgate/Burghfield Spices restaurant

From the nominator: 'He has continuously worked hard to cater for his customers and provided hot meals for NHS.'

PAUL STACEY

From the nominator: 'Paul Stacey is from Reading and wanted to create a cultural offering for his town, which is why he set up Reading Rep 8 years ago. This company is Reading's leading producing theatre company, not just performing award winning work in the town, but also co-producing with industry heavy weights such as The Young Vic and Birmingham Rep, helping to get Reading's name noticed throughout the UK as a centre for arts excellence.

Over the past 2 years Paul has worked to raise over half a million pounds to develop a new creative hub for the town of Reading. This is during a time when arts funding has been hard to come by. During the recent pandemic, he continued to fundraise, receiving grants from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as well as Arts Council England. The new arts hub is almost complete and will hopefully be open in spring 2021.

This is a centre for everyone in the town, not just for Reading Rep's work. Artists, arts organisations and the local community will all have their work shown and celebrated here. This is the first new theatre to be built in Reading for over 40 years and having been able to complete this project during a pandemic when lots of arts organisations are struggling is a real achievement.

Paul is very proud of Reading and the support that he has received from various bodies, such as Reading Borough Council, Activate Learning, Reading UK as well as multiple creative partners shows the importance of the work that he has done for our town. This is why I believe that Paul should be celebrated as Entrepreneur of the Year.'

Claire Anderton 

From the nominator:" I’d like to nominate Claire as Entrepreneur of the Year because she has successfully established and grown two businesses; NOODSkin and NOOD at Home.

NOODSkin was her initial business venture creating her own soaps when she couldn’t find anything that would work for her daughter’s chronic eczema. After learning how to make soap herself and trying out various different recipes, NOODSkin was born and her daughter’s eczema was under control.

Claire’s soaps are still handmade by herself, and her partner Jodie, and they have 4 different soap collections not to mention a whole range of other environmentally friendly natural skincare products. Claire then decided to bring her passion of natural ingredients and sustainability into people’s homes by creating NOOD at Home; a commercial and domestic cleaning company. Once again, the products used in her client’s homes are natural and non-toxic making them ideal for allergy sufferers, expectant mothers, and pets. Not to mention, the products are also made by herself using offcuts from her soap.

NOOD at Home now employs five cleaners and has approximately 50-60 properties on the books. On top of her two thriving businesses, Claire also founded the Caversham Artisan & Farmer’s Market which is still growing to this day.

This market has been a saviour throughout this year for both locals and small businesses alike. Locals were able to continue shopping from their favourite local brands during lockdown and in turn those small businesses were able to continue trading and keep their business afloat. Claire is also part of Plastic Free Caversham and Caversham Traders Association, which is a small, elite group that steers Caversham to benefit and support small businesses.

Claire really is an exceptional businesswoman. She has a true passion for the environment and ensuring that the products that we use are working alongside nature and this is truly reflected in both her businesses. She is also extremely passionate about helping and driving small businesses to success. She gives so much of her time to smaller businesses by creating websites, designing logos and advising new business owners on how to make strong, successful businesses. She believes that everyone should have the chance to create their own money while doing what they love. Her companies, the market and her advice and support has provided employment, financial security and hope for so many, in a year that could really have been very difficult otherwise."

VOLUNTEER/s OF THE YEAR SPONSORED BY AB WALKER

JAMES SUAREZ

From the nominator: 'James Suarez, Chairman of Shinfield Running Club. In November 2018 James Suarez founded Shinfield Running Club a free, unaffiliated running club for people of all abilities. It started with a post on a Facebook community page asking if anyone wanted to join him for a run from Shinfield Green. What started with one simple post about running has grown into a active club with over 500 members on the club's Facebook page.

The club is free to join and James gives so freely of his time to organise weekly club runs on a Wednesday night, arrange weekly Instagram live interviews with elite runners plus he has designed a branded club kit for members to wear on their runs. James has done this completely voluntarily whilst balancing the demands of working night shifts and raising a family of three young children. He gives so selflessly of his time and has an open door to anyone who needs help and advice. During lockdown when the club could not meet, he arranged virtual challenges each week to keep everyone connected and motivated. He checked in regularly and offered to undertake errands for anyone who was isolating.

The club is 100% inclusive and just before lockdown had started a couch to 5K group and a walking group for anyone who simply wants to get active. I am nominating James as he truly embodies community spirit and is such a fantastic role model of the sport.'

From the nominator: 'The Weller Centre in Caversham's, Simone and Hazel and their team have throughout covid-19 stayed open providing, games, books, puzzles, clothes, food and cooked meals for the community. So much support and love given when many places closed and so many families were desperate.'

'Hazel Bingham in the Weller Centre has been a lifeline to me and supported me when I have been at my lowest point. Helping fill out forms and making me feel like I’m not alone going through it all. She is a diamond!'

From the nominator: Claire Harrison - Fifi’s Vision. Claire has been an amazing support not just for me but for the community. Her weekly support group is amazing for parents whom have children with special needs. She gives so much of her own time up to everyone even when she is going through stress herself and being the mother of 2 children with additional needs. She still gives time for others. She is an amazing person and I owe her a lot. She deserves the recognition for all she does!'

Hospital Radio Reading, Royal Berkshire Hospital.

From the nominator: 'For many years the HRR team has provided great programmes to the RBH, and previously to the Battle hospital too. The dedication of their volunteer teams who go onto the wards to visit patients, then return to the studio to play requests is astounding. In 2020, of course, ward visiting was called off. But rather than drop the show, or fill with something else, HRR volunteers - led by Chairman Gerard Rocks - went to great lengths to enable broadcasts from their individual home addresses. With diverted phonelines and social media contact, request shows continued and thrived. I'm so proud to have started my radio career on this station...their strapline when I was there was '...the station that cares for you'. They've definitely raised that bar even further in this year when hospitals and the NHS have had such a high profile. Thank you HRR! Robert x.'

Karen Kersley

From the nominator: 'Karen Kersley was furloughed during lockdown. So she went and volunteered every day at the Whitley community cafe where they boxed up food parcels for hundreds of vulnerable, elderly and isolating.'

Young Ambassador Team

From the nominator: 'We are nominating our Young Ambassador (YA) team for Volunteer of the Year because of their sustained passion for supporting local young people and championing mental health support over the last 5 years, and particularly their vital contributions and advice they provided very quickly in response to during the pandemic.

They have dedicated over 500 volunteer hours between them during the 6 months from March to September in order to support local young people who were struggling with their mental health during the pandemic and lockdown. The voices of the YAs were crucial in our transition from face-to-face to remote services as they brought the young person’s perspective and helped us think through what services young people needed during this time, and how they would want them delivered. The YAs also created, produced, and published a range of support for local young people: They decided to create daily craft challenges during May and launched #MakeitforMay across our social media in order to help their peers to feel better connected to other young people and to give them daily mindfulness craft activities to help occupy their minds whilst in lockdown.

This campaign had a daily reach of over 500 young people. They produced 13 weeks of #AsktheYAs Q&A episodes in which they responded to questions asked by other young people, via video, and shared their experiences and advice to help young people support their mental health. These were viewed by over 550 young people. The Young Ambassadors have written blogs throughout the pandemic on themes that they think are important; telephone anxiety, generalised anxiety, loneliness, and finding a sense of purpose during lockdown.

Crucially, our YAs have complied and published a report on the impact of COVID-19 on young people locally (https://no5.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/The-Impact-of-COVID-19-Report-FINAL.pdf). This has given both us at No5 and our colleagues in the voluntary and statutory sector a unique insight into how young people have been impacted and what we need to do to support them through this second lockdown and beyond.

We have learnt so much from our Young Ambassadors over the last 5 years, but especially during this lockdown period. All of their work and contributions have led to No5 working in new innovative, pioneering ways that will continue into the future because of how successful they have been. We are so lucky to have our Young Ambassadors and the commitment and energy they bring to everything to do at No5. It has been an honour to watch them all grow and develop over the years and we want to celebrate and thank them for everything they do.'

Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice Befriending Volunteers

From the nominator: " As Befriending Co-ordinator for the Duchess of Kent, I believe the challenge that faced us all throughout those dark months of lockdown, was felt most keenly by our patients who at a time when they needed more companionship and social support were advised to shield at home.

For those living alone or caring for a loved one, this was a difficult time. Mixed emotions and frustrations were felt by all but Befrienders rose to the challenge and adapted from face to face practical and emotional support to a friendly telephone call - bringing much needed contact, reassurance and friendship from outside.

Where other volunteering roles ceased, they continued, where other services wound down, they pushed on and where other volunteers stumbled to adapt, they thrived and developed new skills. Learning how to recognise and support loneliness, fear and isolation remotely. Pushing aside and suspending their own needs and wishes our Befriending volunteers ploughed on during the pandemic. Digging deep and exploring new methods of communication, developing new listening skills and expertise in technical know-how to support their patients remotely.

This has been an unprecedented time of need for many. However our Befrienders know that this dramatically new way of life came at a time when our patients and their families were facing their own challenging times with a life-limiting disease. Duchess of Kent Befrienders have provided over 600 hours of comfort, companionship, hope and laughter in the last 8 months. Supporting over 30 clinically vulnerable patients shielding at home. This has brought great relief to their families. Their kindness and compassion has been astounding throughout the pandemic, through what has undoubtedly been a difficult time for them personally, they have continued to show incredible levels of empathy to others. We can't possibly thank them enough for the difference they make to the lives of our patients.'

I'd like to share a quote from a patient matched with Befriender Rachel since February this year, Rachael has met Sylvia a couple of times but switched to telephone support since March. Sylvia said: 'Rachael is a lovely kind caring person who was introduced to me by Sue Ryder following my big illness of cancer diagnosis. However Rachael is a peach as she never forgets me, ringing me every Wednesday to let me know she is thinking about me. We catch up on how everyone is, she is interested in my family - its important to me. Rachael brings light to a day and she always says, I am here on the phone if you need me, its comforting to know.' 

The kindness and compassion of our Befrienders to our patients who are living at home is always humbling but especially this year they have been astounding and through what has undoubtedly been a difficult time for them equally, they have continued to show incredible levels of empathy to others. We can't possibly thank them enough for the difference they make to the lives of our patients every day'

New Beginnings Reading 

From the nominator: 'I am nominating New Beginnings, as throughout this year they have not only helped the homeless community by providing meals, clothing and equipment but helped them be as safe as they possibly can. They have helped to offer clothing and food to the vulnerable and struggling families of Reading. For Christmas this year they are offering food hampers to those with the facilities to cook their own meals, and for those who don't they are offering hot meals to takeaway. They will also be giving gifts to nearly 200 children of families who are struggling to provide for their children. They will also be providing stockings to each of those children and for some adults within the community. This charity has many wonderful volunteers who have helped all throughout this difficult year, and have been overwhelmed with the rise in the help required by all corners of the community.'

Reading Red Kitchen

From the nominator: 'A grassroots group of volunteers who made an effort to support those in need over this dificult time of pandemic.'

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