A night of laughter, smiles, hugs and tears saw the very best of the Horsham district recognised at the County Times’ annual Community Awards this week.
The event returned for its sixth year thanks to the generosity of local sponsors and once again saw the Capitol Theatre packed out with deserving volunteers, fundraisers, organisations and charities on Tuesday night.
The recurring theme of this year’s awards was the humility shown by many of the winners, who sought to deflect attention away from themselves, instead praising the people they worked with.
The final award of the night, but by no means the least, went to Dianne Loates, Horsham’s Poppy Appeal organiser, who received the WSCT Achievement Award from editor in chief Gary Shipton.
Dianne said: “Martin my husband nudged me and he said ‘he’s talking about you’ and I said ‘you’re being silly!’”
The beaming North Horsham resident expressed her ‘shock’ and ‘elation’ at her award, and looked forward to sharing the news with the rest of the Poppy Appeal volunteer team the following day.
Dianne explained: “I hope I can tell them it’s for them, not just me. We are as strong as our weakest link. We are all stronger because we work together.”
On stage she described herself as ‘just a spider at the tip of a huge web’.
She was preceded on stage by John Le Rossignol, of the Rotary Club of Horsham, who received this year’s Special Recognition Award and also praised the effort and hard work put in by the people he worked with.
He said: “I’m a bit shocked by all of this as being part of the Rotary Club it’s not just me.
“It’s a group of 50 to 60 people, and as a club we have done some amazing things like the giraffes in the town, raising about £20,000 for charities.”
John described how they helped put on events with the help of Horsham District Council, such as the pancake races every year, to raise money for charity, but also to provide entertainment for children and families in the town centre.
He explained: “All of this kind of stuff it adds to what Horsham is which is a fantastic community and a fantastic place to live in. It’s great to be part of it.”
Katrina Greenfield-Osgood from Roffey won the Best Neighbour Award and was described by one of her neighbours as an ‘amazing’ woman who would help anyone with a problem, even though she has to look after her 13-year-old son Reece, who has a life-threatening illness.
On stage Katrina said she felt ‘overwhelmed’ to win but added: “I do not think I do much. I’m just grateful for all the dramas that come through my door because it takes my mind off everything.”
This year’s winners stretched right across the district as Pulborough-based Lorraine Dale was named Volunteer of the Year for giving up her time to raise money for Cancer Research.
Lorraine, a founding member of the RH20’s Fundraising Group for Cancer Research, was nominated by her son Martin, who praised her determination to fundraise for research into cancer, having lost many friends and family to the disease.
She said: “This month has had a lot of anniversaries, but to have this today has made this month feel a bit nicer.”
Another winner from the south of the district was Best Fundraiser Jenny Kern, who lives in Adversane.
She and other volunteers have raised a staggering £696,000 in 19 years for Macmillan nurses through events such as film shows and coffee mornings in the Billingshurst and Pulborough areas.
Jenny said: “Local people are amazing. We put on events and the support we receive from local people is phenomenal.”
Horsham and District SANDS was one of several organisations recognised at the Community Awards, as it was named Charity of the Year.
The local branch, based at the Salvation Army Hall in Booth Way, supports bereaved parents after the death of a baby before, during, or after birth.
Co-chair of Horsham and District SANDS Ruth Summerfield said: “We are all volunteers and we are all bereaved parents ourselves.
“We have monthly support group meetings at the Salvation Army Hall and offer phone and email supports and one to one visits.”
Another charity to be recognised was Horsham Matters, which won Best Community Organisation. It runs food banks across the district, has recently opened a night shelter for the winter, and also manages a community youth work programme.
Accepting the award Horsham Matters’ chief executive David Sheldon said: “It’s a fantastic team. Everybody works really hard and everybody believes in what we do, all the staff and volunteers.”
He added: “The whole reason we are here is because people are in need. It’s great we get to meet that need, but it would be great if we did not have to.”
Meanwhile The Salvation Army in Horsham was named Best Volunteer Group.
Major Ann Stewart, leader of the Horsham Salvation Army, said: “As the award said it’s for volunteers who help us to run the local Salvation Army and I’m grateful for that work.”
Jane Burrows, founder of the Rangers Lodge Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Colgate, said she was ‘totally gobsmacked’ to win this year’s Care for the Animals Award.
She leads a team of volunteers who look after small animals such as hedgehogs, birds, foxes, and deer, and asked if anyone wanted to donate pet food or their time it would be appreciated.
Continuing the outdoors theme Friends of Chesworth Farm walked away with the Friends of the Environment Award in recognition of their recent project to restore a wetlands habitat to the open-space facility south of the town.
Diane Sumpter, chair of Friends of Chesworth Farm, explained how they were looking to get school children and scouts down to see the wetlands project, and hoped ‘it would be there for everybody to enjoy’.
The night also gave people the opportunity to thank those who had helped them out in their time of need.
Tony Burroughs, who lives in Billingshurst, nominated paramedics from South East Coast Ambulance Service who helped save his life when he suffered a heart attack at Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre last year.
The team of Duncan Jones, David Lashwood, Mark Durrell, Isabel Mills, Sarah Sidway, Mark Young, and Joseph Radoux won the 999 Award.
Duncan said: “It’s something that we have been trained to do, and are experienced members of staff in our day to day job.
“We hope we always provide that high level of service, and we are just very pleased we could help Tony.”
Tony added: “I’m terribly humbled. Duncan saved my life and the rest of the team carried on that treatment all the way to the A&E and surgery. It’s very very humbling. They all do a fantastic job. Not just a job, but a fantastic job.”
The next group to be recognised was the Horsham Community Midwives team, who were led on stage by Lina Colville to receive the Health Worker Award.
She said: “Between us we have got about 150 years of midwifery experience. We are passionate about our job, all of us are really passionate and we feel very blessed to be working in the job we are in.”
They were nominated by Southwater mum Kerrie Reeves, who felt all the midwives in Horsham deserved to be thanked and recognised.
One of the loudest cheers went to the night’s first winner Dawn Tarrant, a teaching assistant at Colgate Primary School, who received the Outstanding Teacher award.
One of Dawn’s colleagues explained that she ‘does so much for Colgate’, and goes out of her way to help everybody at the school.
Another winner that received a thunderous ovation was David Clayton, coach of the Horsham Hawks Under-11 basketball team.
He was joined on stage by members of the team to collect the Good Sport Award, who he described as a ‘pleasure’ to coach, with seven of them representing the South East in the regional finals recently.
David was nominated by a parent who described his ability to coax such dedication, effort and performances from the team as a ‘joy to witness’.
One of the final awards of the night went to Barry Barnes, who received the Public Service Award for his 45 years on Billingshurst Parish Council.
He felt ‘honoured’ to receive an award, thanked the people who nominated him, and described how he had ‘just got on with the job’, working on projects such as the Billingshurst Fireworks Display, the village’s Jubilee Celebrations in 2012, and the creation of Jubilee Fields.
Another major figure in Billingshurst Don Newport received the Local Hero award for more than 25 years of volunteering in the community. Don is the honorary treasurer and trustee of the Dame Vera Lynn Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy based at Ingfield Manor School, chairman of the friends of Ingfield, chairman of Billingshurst Street Pastors, and organist at the Trinity United Reformed Church in Billingshurst.
Don said: “I feel honoured and humbled to be here tonight.”
Continuing the theme of the night he added: “I’m just the tip of the iceberg. If it wasn’t for the volunteers and their talents then I think the community would be poorer for it. I’m just representing everybody else really.”