UNSUNG heroes from the Herald and Gazette area were lauded at our Community Stars awards ceremony last night.
It was an emotional evening in Worthing College’s exhibition hall, witnessed by people from across the area who had been nominated and their supporters.
Host Kevin King spoke of the many inspirational stories that have been told in our newspapers over the last few months, in the build up to the awards night.
Musical theatre students from the college’s Academy of Performing Arts entertained the audience with snippets from rock opera Rent, ahead of their main shows on January 20 and 21, 2016.
Waitrose donated a hamper and £177 was raised for Chestnut Tree House in the raffle.
The main sponsor this year was JSPC Computer Services and every award category was sponsored by a local businesses. Every winner received a glass trophy and every nominee received a certificate.
Best Youth Group went to The Wonder Girls, a pom-pom troupe set up by Debbie Marsh in 1992.
She said: “I started with ten in my back garden and from there, there are now 72. The youngest is three and the oldest is 55.
“They have done really well this year, mostly winning first place, but this means more to them than the other prizes they win all year. They work hard and they deserve it.
Young Libby Pritchard from Rustington was named Insirational Star, having donated her hair to Little Princess Trust and raised money in sponsorship for Enable Me.
Mum Claire Pritchard said: “She had hair down to her waist. She decided she wanted it trimmed in the summer then decided to get it all chopped off and raise money for charity.
“I am very proud of her. It was all her own idea.”
Elsie Jelley from Littlehampton won the first of three charity awards, Best Fundraiser.
The 85-year-old has been helping a number of charitities in the town for decades, baking cakes and collecting money in all weathers.
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “I have helped so many charities over the years. I stand for hours collecting. I didn’t expect this.”
Best Volunteer Cameron Harris, 21, from Worthing, spoke movingly about his work with young people.
“Two years ago, I had a brain tumour operation, very suddenly. I decided straight after to help everyone out in the same sort of way that I had been helped in rehab. It really helped me, helping other people.”
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, Enable Me was named Charity of the Year.
Community fundraiser Sue Pegrum accepted the award on behalf of the volunteers at the Littlehampton charity.
She said: “I am so surprised. It is fantastic, I am overwhelmed. We are a complete team and we get so much support from the town. It is local children and they are all disabled.”
World champion Daphne Belt, a 76-year-old Littlehampton triathlete who won the 75-79 age group in the ITU World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Chicago earlier this year, was named Sports Star.
She said: “I was astonished. I was expecting to come along and clap for everyone else. It is the icing on the cake for the year.”
Joyce Brunt, manager of the Age UK shop in Shoreham, was named Super Senior. She has run the shop for a number of years and still does everything at the age of 86.
“Getting up in the morning and going to work keeps me going,” she said.
A woman described as ‘an inspiration to all’, Mel Humphrys from Southwick won the award for Outstanding Bravery.
She was hit by a tree in Southwick last year and despite the effect on her multiple sclerosis, she continues to bake cakes for community events.
“The community has been fantastic,” she said. “I would not have got out of hospital if it wasn’t for them. I am really glad to have my family and friends around me. I am very proud to have won this award.”
Darren Power from Littlehampton was named Star of the Community for his charity work, including for Cancerwise and as a compère for Mewsbrook Park fun days.
He said: “I give my time over to charity because I am rubbish at doing everything else! I am blown away by this award.”
Carer Nikki Rowling was named Health Hero. The mother of four works at Brockenhurst EMI Residential Home in Littlehampton, looking after people with dementia.
“We have got a great team,” she said. “The residents are brilliant, they join in and have a laugh.
“I didn’t expect to win against doctors because they are so important.”
The 999 Award went to Red Cross fire and emergency support volunteer Nigel Robert Stubbs, from Worthing.
He said: “I don’t do it for rewards, I do it for the two words, ‘thank you’. When someone has lost everything, it puts it into perspective. You just get on and do it for them.”
This year, Animal Heroes were highlighted for the first time and the winner was Chester, a 12-year-old Cairn Jack Russell cross that is a bit of a celebrity in Littlehampton and Rustington.
The dog suffered a serious spinal deformation last year and needed major surgery to save its life. It is now regularly seen riding around Mewsbrook Park in his custom-fit ‘wheelchair’.
All the winners were decided by public vote, except the final trophy, the Herald Award for Special Achievement.
This award was decided by the Herald and Gazette team, who chose the most deserving candidate who had proved popular with voters but had just been pipped to the post for the prize.
Winner Paul Wood had been nominated by his wife, Carol, for his fundraising efforts at Chippingdale Cricket Club in Worthing. He also runs a breakfast club, bringing local businesses together, and raises funds for Worthing Churches Homeless Projects and The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home.
Dedicating the award to his wife, Paul said: “I work nights seven days a week. We have just had our first holiday for 23 years.
“This has blown me away. It is a joint venture, we are a team. What we are trying to do is bring the community support back to the community.”
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