A select few of Somerset’s many unsung coronavirus heroes are unveiled today as the first ever winners of the Somerset Medal.
The Somerset Medal has been launched by Somerset County Council to say a heartfelt thank-you to the best of the best – with the winners announced as the county celebrates Somerset Day.
They include vaccination volunteers, food deliverers, PPE producers, pop-up shop keepers and a whole host of other good Samaritans who all went above and beyond to make sure Somerset kept going during the pandemic.
Councillor David Fothergill, Leader of the County Council, said: ”The number and quality of the nominations we received were quite astounding. It was humbling and immensely heartening to read so many stories of how people have responded so positively to the coronavirus crisis, putting others’ wellbeing first and foremost.”
The cross-party judging panel – Cllr Fothergill, Cllr Christine Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Customers & Communities, Cllr Jane Lock, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, and Cllr Leigh Redman, Leader of the Labour Group – reviewed every nomination before coming to their decision on the winners. All nominees will receive a letter from the panel thanking them for their efforts.
Cllr Fothergill added: “On behalf of all the judges I would like to thank everyone who put forward a nomination, and I would thank all the nominees for their incredible efforts. Awarding the medal shines a light on those who have done so much for their communities during the past very challenging year.
“There’s no better way to celebrate the spirit of Somerset than to honour our unsung heroes on Somerset Day.”
Due to the high quality of the entries and the number of worthy community groups put forward, the judges unanimously agreed to open up the Somerset Medal to a second round of nominations – this time for community groups and teams.
To nomination a group, please submit a maximum of 250 words, providing the nominee’s name and location and describing why they deserve the medal. Please provide your own name and contact details, too. Please email DemocraticServices2@somerset.gov.uk and put ‘Somerset Medal nomination’ in the subject field. The second round will close on Monday 31 May, with the announcement of winners to follow.
All the winners will receive their medals later this year when Covid restrictions allow.
|Alison Waters coordinated with Cannington Health Centre and arranged safe delivery of prescriptions to the shielding patients around Cannington, Combwich and Stockland Bristol. Alison did the lion’s share of these deliveries using the opportunity to keep in contact with those isolated individuals. Alison also set up Cannington Volunteers which gathered offers of help and matched them with those who were shielding or housebound.|
|Andy and Betty Jennings volunteered to help out at Lloyds Pharmacy during the pandemic. When the pharmacy was unable to respond to the increase in demand for home deliveries for vulnerable local residents, Andy and Betty stepped in to deliver prescriptions across the North Petherton area.|
|Andy Childs has provided relentless service to his community through the Wookey Hub in Wookey. He is the only social contact many vulnerable and lonely people had through the pandemic. He provided door-to-door food deliveries and hasn’t had a day off in months. Deserves a medal for all his has done.|
|Claire Bristow has been the organiser of the Vaccination Centre at Minehead Hospital since December. She is ALWAYS smiling and joking despite the long days. She is fun to work with but is also a very lovely and humane person. Although all volunteers have gone out in all weathers (rain, snow, ice, and some sunshine) I believe she has gone MORE than the extra mile.|
|Colin Tennant is the Old Cleeve postman who has gone out of his way to help people during the pandemic by voluntarily picking up and delivering prescriptions, calling by and chatting to local residents, and engaging with the vulnerable and isolated community. He also delivered leaflets for the Roadwater Together emergency group that was set up in April 2020, as well as dealing with his increased workload brought about by the pandemic – all undertaken with a smile on his face. Colin is always cheerful, courteous and extremely helpful. He has made a huge difference to many people on a daily basis and is very much appreciated by all.|
|Daisy Reed started making face coverings during the first lockdown. She didn’t charge for the face coverings, she just asked for a small donation. Since then she has raised over £1,000 for the breast cancer unit at Yeovil hospital.|
|David Milton contributed podcasts to Watchet Online, very often dressed in his Town Crier outfits, in which he is a familiar sight in the town. It was like having a friend in your front room as he told us what was happening in the town, mentioning people by name and entertaining us with wonderful songs – some of which he had written himself! It would be nice for him to know his hard work and efforts were much appreciated.|
|Ed and Jackie Cullen made the facilities of their catering business available to provide Sunday lunches for the housebound, initially funding free meals themselves and then working in partnership with organisations such as Taunton Rotary Club to provide meals funded by donations. They partnered with Home Instead care providers to ensure that older people had a Christmas meal delivered and helped promote their Easter egg appeal. They have ensured that veterans have both received meals and helped deliver them to others. Ed and Jackie are rightly and richly deserving of public recognition.|
|Georgina Lloyd is a retired nurse who volunteers for a charity that connects people who are lonely with someone to talk to, she delivers library books, and she sits on committees for Wivey Pool and the Jim Laker Fund. In addition, she had raised many smiles during these tough times as part of the Wivey crotchet group, who regularly undertake stealth yarn bombing around Wivey. Georgie also volunteered to support the vaccination programme as a steward at Taunton Racecourse, and even dusted off her clinical skills and retrained as a vaccinator to help the programme. She is an inspiration and the world would be a much better place with more “Georgies” in it!|
|Helen Stacey is the Practice Manager at Quantock Medical Centre. Whilst all of the practices have worked hard to contribute to the local vaccination hubs, Helen has gone above and beyond for her patients in the rural villages as well as being the lead manager at the North Petherton Vaccination hub far more than her allocation. She has ensured it runs smoothly on the ground and not had a day off for months. Her biggest strength is putting the needs of the patient first – making sure services work around them.|
|Helen Jowett: The individual effort of Helen, who never looks for praise or thanks, was, and still is, astonishing. She knows practically everyone in the village – those that are in need of care, help and support or are vulnerable or lonely. She would go to, and is still going, to great lengths to visit these residents and give them assistance in any way she can. She runs errands, shopping, walks people’s dogs, welfare checks, bakes cakes and biscuits, talks to people in their gardens, even shouting through letter boxes and windows, realising that some human contact most days can lift the spirits of worried, lonely and vulnerable people during this crisis. If ever there was an example of community spirit and human compassion, you would need to look no further than Helen.|
|Ian Jeffries was instrumental in the setting up of the Burnham and Highbridge Coronavirus Community Support Group in February 2020 to support anyone who was isolating or shielding due to the virus and offers services such as shopping, collecting prescriptions and many other odd jobs. Ian has co-ordinated the group from the start and built a fantastic team of volunteers. In addition, Ian has built another team of volunteers to marshal the car park at the Berrow Vaccination Centre and he regularly stands in the carpark all day himself and offers support not only to the patients but the volunteers he has organised to be there. I have never heard him complain and he often works 12-hour days and 7-day weeks. Ian’s commitment to serving and supporting his community is outstanding & an inspiration to us all.|
|Ian Kelham retired as a GP in 2018 but was very keen to offer help in the Covid-19 crisis. He joined the NHS’s Covid 111 helpline in April 2020 and worked 7 days a week for many months, speaking to well over 1,000 people with the disease. He signed up for the vaccination programme as soon as it started and has been vaccinating since early January, often working 12 hour days in Taunton and in Minehead. He has been the Clinical Lead at the Vaccination Centres and, in addition, has advised local schools and businesses. Aware of how vital pulse oximeters are in the assessment of patients with Covid, Dr Kelham planned a local loan service for Porlock. Instead, however, he joined a working group to help establish a Somerset NHS scheme so that now pulse oximeters are available to anyone who needs one.|
|Ian Robinson is the CEO of The Oak Partnership multi-academy Trust, which is a collaboration of three primary schools and Selworthy Special School in Taunton. Ian led school leaders and staff to set up one, unified childcare hub to support our most vulnerable children and those of key workers. He also arranged for a caravan to be set up on the school site and stayed in it for six weeks. There is no doubt that although it took all the staff to get through this period, it was his leadership, commitment, care and vision that enabled so many children and families to be supported.|
|Jen McClean, of the Victoria area in Taunton, helped with the setting up of a local pop-up shop to serve local residents in need and soon became an indispensable member of the team. She took care of all the staff rotas for the shifts and ensured that all the volunteers were happy. She also looked after and ran the delivery service and would hand deliver shopping to local residents who were too uncomfortable leaving their houses. On top of this, she was also volunteering in her local support group, helping people wherever she could.|
|Jenny Harrison is a key member of the Taunton Scrubbers, a voluntary group who worked from their homes to sew together scrubs, hats, bags and other accessories for health and care workers during the early part of the pandemic. During the last year Jenny has also cheered our small community up by keeping us all in touch. We had a socially distant VE Day street party and a Christmas catch up. Without Jenny proposing these events we may not have seen each other for many months.|
|Kara Bazley runs a local cleaning company and invested in PPE and extra cleaning products in order to protect her clients (many of whom are elderly). She has taken clients for Covid vaccinations, volunteered as a vaccine marshall, collected and delivered prescriptions to her elderly neighbours and generally gone the extra mile for people. Kara has gone above and beyond to look after so many people – she’s been an absolute star.|
|Karen Harvey approached several neighbours at the start of the first lockdown and has done the shopping for 7 or 8 households ever since. She has simply been a lifeline for so many, particularly those without family living locally. She did all this after a day’s work. Karen’s concern for our wellbeing, her cheerfulness and willingness to do this as well as work, has been very inspiring.|
|Kate Gardiner, of Purplespoon care at the YMCA in Bridgwater, is already known for her work supporting the disadvantaged and homeless. However, during this last lockdown she has worked hard to bring together a local community effort to use her café to provide free takeaway ‘school’ dinners for children whose families were struggling. On top of these they also provided – again free – ‘wellbeing boxes’ which had a range of healthy (mind and body) treats for those who needed that boost due to the impact on mental health through the last year.|
|Kelly De Silva has made a huge difference to some of the most vulnerable members of the community in Stoke St Gregory. Before most of us had even started to think about how we could help during the first national lockdown Kelly was out around the village delivering Covid information leaflets offering her help and assistance. Following on from this Kelly has been regularly delivering newsletters, shopping and collecting prescriptions for those in need of help. With her infectious smile and enthusiasm Kelly brightened many people’s day. Kelton Black of East Huntspill/Highbridge has worked tirelessly throughout the first lockdown to support the food bank, organise food drop offs and medicines to people around the area. Throughout, he also maintained contact with his church congregation through daily zoom “coffee times”! All the while he was still doing his “day job” too! Ask almost anyone in the area if they know Kelton and they will say yes!|
|Kelton Black of East Huntspill/Highbridge has worked tirelessly throughout the first lockdown to support the food bank, organise food drop offs and medicines to people around the area. Throughout, he also maintained contact with his church congregation through daily zoom “coffee times”! All the while he was still doing his “day job” too! Ask almost anyone in the area if they know Kelton and they will say yes!|
|Kirstie Davis, a Boarding House Matron at Taunton School, immediately and without concern for her own wellbeing, volunteered to remain at school to act as parental support and family focus for international pupils who were unable to travel home. For these young boys Kirstie’s selfless devotion was the reason they were able to cope with the unprecedented challenges they faced, half a world away from their own families.|
|Lauren Parker, at 16 years old, has been volunteering at the vaccination centre at Musgrove since it opened, whilst also working hard on her schoolwork and attending school. She’s given up her weekends and school holidays to volunteer.|
|Leila Browning set up create u to support the physical and mental wellbeing of children and adults through craft. She has been offering online support groups and giving craft challenges throughput the pandemic, for both adults and children. She has been amazingly supportive and encouraging.|
|Lewis Lintern has loyally served the Minehead community for over 44 years and has continued during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lewis is heavily involved in the managing of the Regal Theatre and during the pandemic Lewis has been committed to ensuring the theatre continues to serve the community, through arranging film shows and children’s entertainment. He sits on a number of local groups, Churches in Minehead, Theatre Groups. Despite Lewis being 77, he continues to approach every challenge with boundless energy, and is always at the front of the queue to take on tasks. No matter what day of the week, you will find Lewis either working in the theatre or the church, supporting the community.|
|Linda Hyde has played a leading role in setting up the Covid-19 support group in North Petherton and has worked throughout the pandemic to support the community, taking a leading role in ensuring that the vulnerable in the community have food, access to medication and social contact.|
|Linda Newton is a healthcare worker who has worked tirelessly throughout. When a care home was desperate for staff as 90% of their team had Covid, Linda being Linda offered her help, she sang, she danced and kept spirits high, even while people she cared for passed away.|
|Mark Stephenson for delivering over 500 prescriptions to those people who are either shielding or vulnerable in and around Wellington since March last year. He committed himself to this when he was on furlough between March and September and continued when he went back to work.|
|Matthew Hopkinson helped out in a local school, the Old Cleeve Primary school, and was often fixing windows, gutters and a host of other things. As well as this, he would stop and help the elderly every day on his way to and from the school. He helped with a range of things from putting bins out, moving heavy items in gardens and simply by just taking the time to talk. He has a huge heart of gold.|
|Oliver Davies has worked tirelessly as a volunteer marshal at the Mulberry Covid vaccination centre in Berrow, sometimes up to 7 days a week, helping with the monumental task of vaccinating the region. Many other people have been helped personally by Ollie; he spent the first lockdown running errands for people who were shielding. Ollie has always made it his priority to ensure everyone around him is kept happy and healthy – consistently putting others’ needs before his own. He is a shining example of community spirit and kindness in the face of adversity.|
|Peter Mountstephen, governor of the Moorland Federation, for providing singing classes throughout lockdown using Google classroom, and also for writing a special song to say thank you for key workers that was then sung by all the students and families and turned into a choir ensemble piece which was sent to the nurses at Musgrove.|
|Phil Clifton was part of the Misterton emergency team who formulated a plan to help the village in March 2020. Phil agreed to be the coordinator and put together a list of volunteers to help as needed. Over the last year the team has been called on many times to help the less able in the village to get to appointments, help with shopping and see to general welfare. Phil has always been at the end of the phone and no request was turned down or not fulfilled.|
|Rachel Parrish is the leader of the Willowset Pre-School based in Stoke St Gregory. Alongside providing wrap-around care for children during this time, Rachel as a qualified chef, set about providing twice weekly meals for those in need in the wider community. Rachel sourced all the ingredients, prepared the meals and delivered them all herself. This provided nutritious meals important for physical health but also a friendly face for those that were socially isolated during a difficult time.|
|Rebecca Dyer has been volunteering as an NHS responder over the past year. She has been collecting shopping, taking people to doctors and hospital appointments, collecting and delivering prescriptions and many other things for the elderly and vulnerable that have been isolating. One 90+ Veteran gentleman who lost his wife recently said she brightens up his day every time he sees or speaks to her and she is the reason he fights on every day.|
|Sarah Kana-ah gives up her time voluntarily to run two support groups in Somerset – Somerset Anxiety Support and EMPOWER protecting women’s safety. During the pandemic she has put on events for her mental health group to support those struggling, helping to educate around mental illness with guest speakers and organising social events to help minimise loneliness, isolation, and depression. Other efforts include collecting over 1,000 toys and Easter eggs for her local hospital. Her kindness and commitment truly deserve recognition.|
|Tracey Evans has devoted all her spare time and annual leave, from a very high-pressured job, to arrange and coordinate a huge team of volunteers to help at the vaccination centre in North Petherton as well as volunteering herself. She is an absolute hero to all who knows her.|