Championing the Community Champions of North Kesteven

Date Published: 12 November 2021

Some of the best examples of voluntary community endeavour within North Kesteven have been celebrated at the annual NK Community Champion Awards.

Held in-person within the stunning surrounds of Doddington Hall’s Long Gallery, the evening saw 110-people come together in a Covid-conscious way to champion the contributions made by 36 finalists across an enlarged programme of 12 categories.

Celebrating the often-unsung efforts of people working quietly, tirelessly and voluntarily to make the lives of those around them - and indeed entire communities - better, the awards are an opportunity for North Kesteven District Council, the businesses and organisations which generously sponsor them and appreciative recipients of the work undertaken who nominate them to say thank you.

From almost 100 community-based nominations, a panel of judges - made up of sponsor representatives - selected three finalists and an ultimate winner in each category.

Finalists included an eight-year-old girl who had spontaneously delivered crème eggs and flowers to her neighbours to bring some lockdown cheer; an octogenarian turning in a couple of hours’ hard labour every day to keep bowls club running; the volunteers championing heritage at the International Bomber Command Centre; a group that covered Dunston in knitting to raise awareness of domestic abuse; initiating donations drives for Afghan refugees; and ambassadors of improved mental, physical and environmental welfare.

This year a new Contribution to Climate Action Award was instituted and last year’s pop-up Coronavirus Response Award continued in the face of the ongoing need to protect and provide for communities.

The awards presentation was hosted by High Sheriff of Lincolnshire Claire Birch at her Doddington Hall home and compered by BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s Melvyn Prior.

Council Leader Cllr Richard Wright said it was ‘always a pleasure to see the vast wealth of volunteering, caring, sharing and thoughtful acts expressed by our Community Champions’.

“These awards are our small way of turning the spotlight on the selfless many who contribute so much to making our lives so much richer in North Kesteven. 

“Against the ongoing uncertainties of the pandemic, it was important to us to maintain a celebration of community endeavour, ensuring that those who continue to make our District such a special place to live are not overlooked or forgotten. 

“Our 36 finalist and further nominees are representative of a huge many more, who – without a thought for themselves – freely give thousands of hours for others in our District. From spearheading, coordinating and fulfilling phenomenal responses in the face of the pandemic; combatting loneliness in the lockdown, initiating climate action, championing better mental health; spending years motivating young people and sports enthusiasts and; raising the profile of community safety.”

In her welcome, Council Chairman Cllr Susannah Barker-Milan said: “There are so many people in North Kesteven working quietly, tirelessly, selflessly and voluntarily to improve the lives of others: helping neighbours; supporting strangers; strengthening communities; keeping spirits up; protecting the vulnerable; and enriching lives.

“Those we applaud and award this evening represent only a tiny fraction of that immense contribution which continues – day and night, year in, year out  – and characterises life locally.”

“Every one of the nominees – and especially you, our 36 finalists across – is a winner in the affections of the broader community and this evening’s ceremony is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to you all,” she said.

On behalf of finalist Sleaford Islamic Centre, shortlisted for their expression of Community Spirit through an Afghan relief programme in addition to their regular community cohesion work, Shereen Ajumal summed up the ethos of the awards. 

“When you join hands you can achieve so much more. You can achieve so much more when you join as a community,” she said.

Category winners were:

  • Good Neighbour: Chris Banks, from Sleaford – for showing continued consideration for his neighbours over a prolonged period and inspiring a new generation in thoughtful kind actions.
  • Young Achiever: Riley Pickwell, from Sleaford – for instigating at the age of 19 a new football club, establishing two teams and a new ground in support of enhanced mental health matters and active lifestyles.
  • Contribution to Art & Culture: Natalie Mason, from Sleaford – for investing countless hours and personal expense over and above her paid work in transforming the William Alvey School’s air raid shelter into a community museum
  • Contribution to Sport: John Davies from Metheringham – for investing countless hours, day in, day out, month in, year out in green keeping, maintenance and general duties to ensure the successful operation of Metheringham Bowls Club. 
  • Contribution to Health & Wellbeing: Thomas Dunning from Waddington – as a mental health ambassador Tom is active in sharing his own mental health experiences in the hope of opening up dialogue and promoting access to support.
  • Contribution to a Better Environment: Roberta Bray, from Ruskington – for her active promotion of wide-ranging environmental measures, not least the Plastic Free Sleaford community she instigated and promotes with great passion.
  • Contribution to Climate Action: Benjamin Willetts, from Skellingthorpe – for his carbon-conscious approach to growing organically in a manner which captures carbon, promotes enhanced soil-health, greater biodiversity and personal wellbeing
  • Community Business: Manor Farm Shops, Leasingham – across five generations operating in a community-minded way, most notably in stepping up and continuing with a pandemic response to protect and provide for customers.
  • Longstanding Contribution to a Group or Organisation: Helen Zealand, from Sleaford – Marking her 25th anniversary of dedicated leadership of Scouting in Sleaford, co-ordinating activities, planning and supporting other leaders.
  • Contribution to Community Safety: Dunston Yarn Bomb, Dunston – for initiating a creative approach to raising funds and awareness of domestic abuse, opening up dialogue and creating confidence for victims to reach out for support.
  • Community Spirit: Mark Reynolds, from North Hykeham – a life-long resident of the town, passionate about building community spirit and cohesion through events, adding colour and enthusing a broader volunteer response.
  • Coronavirus Response: Sage Gardener, at Eagle Hall – for the way in which the core group and volunteers committed to improvements in health and wellbeing entirely re-thought delivery mechanisms to ensure inclusivity, befriending and therapeutic provision.

More information of what the winners’ and broader finalists’ community endeavours involve can be found on the NK Awards website.

A video presentation is on the NK Awards website too.

The awards are only possible as a consequence of community-minded businesses investing their enthusiasm and financial commitment. Some have loyally contributed throughout the 11 years of Community Champion This year they are. Ringrose Law, Duncan & Toplis, Lincs Inspire, BETTER, Branston Ltd, Doddington Hall & Gardens, Sleaford Renewable Energy Plant / Greencoat Capital, Banks Long & Co, Your Local Lincs Magazine, the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner, Lindum Group and North Kesteven District Council.

BBC Radio Lincolnshire, the Sleaford Standard and The Lincolnite provided additional support; with further input from Peachy Events, Chris Vaughan Photography and Bright Spark Studios.

NK Community Champions 2021 Finalists