Tears and cheers as Community Awards celebrate great and good of the Horsham district

West Sussex County Times Community Awards 2015. Retiring headteacher of St Mary's CofE Primary School, Pulborough, Alyson Heath receives the Special Recognition Award -  picture by Josh Smith for SMedia Group
West Sussex County Times Community Awards 2015. Retiring headteacher of St Mary's CofE Primary School, Pulborough, Alyson Heath receives the Special Recognition Award - picture by Josh Smith for SMedia Group

Everyone who came to the Capitol theatre on Monday night was in for an emotional night.

First on stage was head of house at the Weald School in Billingshurst Paul Sweeney, who took the award for Outstanding Teacher sponsored by Wakefield Jewellers.

Paul was nominated by a former student who had said: “He helped me through school and helped me on my long journey with mental health issues. He has been there for the good and the bad.”

David Spreadbury-Troy, was named Friend of the Environment for his work restoring woodlands at Ingfield Manor at Slinfold.

Ingfield Manor is a school for pupils aged between three and 19 who have difficulty controlling their muscle and movement.

David has worked passionately transforming derelict and unproductive woodland into a resource for education, the economy and ecology.

The Phoenix Stroke Club was named this year’s Best Community Organisation.

The club was nominated by a volunteer who helps at the Horsham based club for people who have suffered a stroke or other neurological disorder.

It is currently run by just two part time members of staff supported by 26 volunteers who help provide support for 52 club members.

The Health Worker Award, went to community midwife Leigh Robins, who works at Horsham Hospital.

The County Times received a number of nominations from new mothers describing her as an amazing midwife known for her patience and kindness.

Leigh is currently in Australia visiting her daughter, but was represented by her colleagues and parents.

Sky diving pensioner

As the 400 strong audience heard how Cpt David Owen had raised more than £150,000 for Help For Heroes, he showed modesty as he received the award for Best Fundraiser.

The 85-year-old retired officer has raised the impressive amount over the past five years. Among his achievements are a parachute jump with a Royal British Legion poppy in his mouth and a half marathon carrying five collecting tins holding £500 in coins.

James Burns , the Help For Heroes regional Manager for London, was there to personally thank him.

He said: “It’s just such a pleasure to come here tonight and say thank you to you on behalf of the charity, but also on behalf of the servicemen and women.”

Big year for Hospice

In the latest in a string of successes for St Catherine’s Hospice, it was named Charity of the Year.

The charity has only recently received a £6m legacy and a donation of land from another donor.

St Catherine’s director of fundraising Claire Irving said: “It feels a real endorsement for what our staff and more importantly our volunteers do.

“St Catherine’s is about having a real passion to care for people at the end of their lives to live well and to live well as long as possible.

“To have this endorsement from people and to be able to go back to work and tell everyone at St Catherine’s, including the patients, that we have had this endorsement, is a huge, huge boost.

“We are now just look forward to next year with the work on the planning. It is the icing on the cake for an incredible year.”

For more than 30 years they have been providing specialist end of life care to local people across the communities of Sussex and Surrey. Last year alone they received referrals for 465 Horsham patients and every year they care for over 2,000 people.

Later in the evening one of their volunteers was honoured for his work driving patients to and from the charity’s day centre.

In the two and a half years since Joe Brocking started volunteering for St Catherine’s Hospice his impact has been nothing short of incredible.

Joe, who shared how his wife stayed at the hospice before she died, supports the hospice four days a week as a volunteer driver for patients.

This often increases to five, six or even seven days if he’s supporting one of the charity’s fundraising events.

He collects patients, including those living in Horsham, from their homes and brings them to the Crawley and Caterham Day Hospices – a four hour round trip.

He has clocked up nearly 7,000 miles – the same distance as London to Beijing.

Sporting success

The Good Sport Award, sponsored by Places for People went to Paul Showell for his work getting more than 70 per cent of children at Southwater Junior Academy playing sport.

The school has this year become national under 11 Table Tennis champions and Sussex champions in both hockey and tennis.

In her nomination Louise Howard said: “These achievements have only come about by the excellent commitment, coaching, and encouragement from Mr Showell who is a fantastic PE teacher.”

Headline sponsor More Than also sponsored the Care for Animals Awards which went to Holbrook Animal Rescue. They received a large number of nominations from volunteers and by people who have homed rescue animals. The sanctuary is run by Laura Santini and her mother Sylvia Bradbury, supported by many volunteers.

David Kirkwood and his wife Hazel were named Best Neighbour after being nominated by neighbour Shirley Shea. She wanted them to be recognised for their kindness when she moved to Coldwaltham two years ago.

Receiving the award David said: “It’s very humbling. We are a couple who love our neighbours. We took to Mike and Shirley and when Mike passed away it’s made our role more interesting in supporting Shirley. We feel it’s part of our Christian ministry.”

Moving performance

At The County Times Youth Awards earlier this year, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the Ariel Company Theatre Othellos group performed. The group is made up of children with special needs and their buddies, who each mentor the Othellos while they learn.

On Monday, they not only returned to perform, but also went away with the award for Best Volunteer Group.

There was a loud cheer from the balcony as their name was called out and the audience gave the group a standing ovation for their performance. This year’s Public Service Award went to Horsham District Council’s work experience officer Jan English, who has earned the nickname Fairy Job Mother.

In her four years in the role Jan has helped hundreds of people find employment through the Journey To Work programme .

Nominating her, HDC chief executive Leigh Chambers said: “Not only does Jan help find people work but she is a mentor, counsellor and all round amazing support worker to people of all ages struggling to find work. She goes above and beyond the call of duty and deserves recognition.”

Helen Ralston took the award for Local Hero for her wide-ranging work serving the community. She is a member of her parish council, a county court magistrate and her volunteer work includes the Cinnamon Trust and Rangers Lodge Wildlife Hospital.

The County Times Special Recognition Award went to Alyson Heath, who has dedicated her life to teaching children, most recently retiring after 13 years as headteacher of St Mary’s Church of England Primary school in Pulborough. She has a keen interest in supporting vulnerable children and adults and has spent countless hours encouraging and never giving up on any individual child.

Alyson was nominated by Bridget Cordy who said: “You never walk away from Alyson without feeling inspired and supported. She is passionate about inclusivity and is a trustee to more than five charities including Ingfield Manor and set up Just Enough UK which is now the biggest anti-slavery children’s charity in the UK.”

The final accolade of the evening, the WSCT Achievement Award was presented by editor in chief Gary Shipton. This year that went to Joyce Brown, a dedicated member of St Mary’s Church in Horsham.

She helps run the holiday clubs and has just recently stepped down from helping weekly at Lighthouse.

One of her most important roles is Safeguarding Officer for the five Anglican churches overseeing the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

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