Unsung heroes of the pandemic presented with Somerset Medal

A select few of Somerset’s many unsung coronavirus heroes have been presented with their awards as the first ever winners of the Somerset Medal.

The Somerset Medal was launched by Somerset County Council to say a heartfelt thank-you to the best of the best – with the winners honoured at a special reception at Taunton Rugby Club.

Somerset’s Lord Lieutenant Annie Maw spoke at the start of the ceremony before the medals were presented by Council Vice Chair Councillor Mark Keating. 

Those honoured included 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.

Cllr Keating, a Senior Youth Support Worker, said he felt privileged to be presenting the medals: “Having read the citations, it was an honour to be able to meet so many of these unsung heroes in person to thank them. Their stories are remarkable – they responded so positively to the coronavirus crisis, putting others’ wellbeing first and foremost.”

The cross-party judging panel – Leader of Somerset County Council David 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 received a letter from the panel thanking them for their efforts.

The Lord Lieutenant said: “The medal shines a light on those who have done so much for their communities during such a very challenging year. They thoroughly deserve Somerset’s thanks, and I am proud to be able to add my gratitude.”

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 for groups and individuals. This has now closed and the winners of the second round will be announced later this year.

A video of the ceremony is available here: Your Somerset Medal winners – YouTube

Somerset Medal Winners

Tracy Evans is nominated for organising and coordinating the volunteers and marshals at North Petherton Rugby Club Vaccination Hub.  
Mark Stephenson is nominated for delivering over 500 prescriptions around Wellington to people who were shielding and unable to go out of their home.  
Linda Newton supported a care home in Somerset who were so desperate for staff as 90% of their team had Covid 19. Linda sang and danced and kept spirits high whilst the people she cared for were passing away all around her.  
Claire Bristow drove most days at the start of the vaccination programme in December 2020 from Ilminster to Minehead to support the setting up a vaccination centre at Minehead Hospital.  
Kelton Black worked tirelessly throughout the first lockdown to support the food bank, organise food drop offs, medicines etc to people around the Huntspill area, as well as mobilizing a team of volunteers.  
Kirstie Davis cared for several of our International students who were unable to travel home to their families, leaving them no option but to remain at school with Kirstie acting as parental support for these pupils, even moving into school accommodation to be with them.  
Karen Harvey offered to do the shopping etc for her neighbours who were shielding after they could not get any on line shopping delivery slots, even though she is 83 years old herself.  
Daisy Reid made face coverings during the first lockdown for which she didn’t charge and just asked for a small donation, raising over £1000 for the breast cancer unit at Yeovil hospital.   
Leila Browning held workshops which have been disrupted because of lockdown, resulting on these going online.  She started doing support groups and gave craft challenges throughput the pandemic, for both adults and children making up craft packs for doing at home.  
Georgina Lloyd volunteers for a charity that connects people who are lonely with someone to talk to, delivers library books to people who can not get out and supports the vaccination programme as a steward at Taunton Racecourse, as well as retraining as a vaccinator to help the programme. Mike Facey has worked with the community in a number of roles including chairing Burnham Round Table for more than 15 years and also sat on the Burnham & Highbridge Medical Equipment Fund.  All this knowledge has been key during the pandemic, helping others in the community.  
Lauren Parker is only sixteen years old and has been volunteering at the vaccination centre at Musgrove since it opened, whilst also working hard on her schoolwork and attending school, giving up her weekends and school holidays to volunteer.  
Jenny Harrison of the Taunton Scrubbers was key to a voluntary group of hundreds of people who worked from their homes to sew accessories for health and care workers during the early part of the pandemic.  
Sarah Kana-ah gives up her time voluntarily to run two support groups in Somerset – Somerset Anxiety Support and EMPOWER protecting women’s safety, as well as collecting over 1,000 toys for her local hospital, collected 80 Easter eggs last Easter for NHS staff at Musgrove as well as delivering nearly 200 Easter eggs to the children’s ward.  
Ed and Jackie Cullen when lockdown was announced last year made the facilities of their catering business available to provide Sunday lunches for the housebound, initially funding free meals themselves.   
Paul and Fiona Gaffa have used their business PDaddys Pop Up Kitchen to provide free food and ready meals to families in Wellington, Taunton and villages around, including families in Kingston St Mary.   
Rebecca Dyer has volunteered as an NHS responder over the past year, 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.   
Helen Stacey is Practice Manager at Quantock Medical Centre, Bridgwater and has worked hard to contribute to the local vaccination hubs, going above and beyond for her patients in the rural villages as well as being the lead manager at the North Petherton Vaccination hub.  
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 community effort to use her café to provide free takeaway ‘school’ dinners for children whose families were struggling.   
Oliver Davies has worked tirelessly as a volunteer marshal at the Mulberry COVID vaccination centre in Berrow, helping with the monumental task of vaccinating the region, as well as running errands for people who were shielding, including doing grocery shopping throughout the initial stages of the pandemic. Ian Robinson organised staff in schools to set up a childcare hub when the schools closed in the first lockdown.  This was a life line to many vulnerable children and keyworkers, which offered support and catering.  
Matthew Hopkinson was re-deployed from his main job in the Council and helped out in a local school, fixing windows and gutters etc. As well as this, he would stop and help neighbours who are elderly, everyday on his way to and from the school, with a range of things.   
David Milton is nominated for his podcasts on Watchet Online, during the lockdowns for keeping so many peoples spirits up.  I believe he did 39 different Podcasts altogether, no mean feat and for many people it was a highlight of their week.
Pete Mountstephen provided singing classes throughout lockdown using a google classroom.  He also wrote a special song to say thank you for key workers that was then sung by all the students and families which was sent to the nurses at Musgrove.  
David Stripp has been a prominent supporter of the Kingston St Mary community, chairing the Kingston Community Partnership to build a much bigger network of volunteers, which lead to David starting the Good Neighbour Scheme which helped with shopping, people being discharged from hospital, collected prescriptions and gave reassurance over the telephone.  
Kelly de Silva over the past 12 months has made a huge difference to some of the most vulnerable members of Stoke St Gregory.  Kelly was out around the village delivering Covid information leaflets offering her help and assistance, despite not driving, having two small children, one of which she home schooled while working as our local Parish Council clerk.   
Rachel Parrish is the leader of the Willowset Pre-School and working with her staff throughout the first lockdown, opened its doors to look after the children of local keyworkers as the local School was closed, providing twice weekly meals for those in need in the wider 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.  
Andy and Betty Jennings volunteered to help out Lloyds Pharmacy during the pandemic in response to the increase in demand for home deliveries for vulnerable local residents, delivering prescriptions across the North Petherton area.  
Louise Dennis played a leading role in liaising with the schools in North Petherton to identify families that were struggling for food, devices for home education and other essentials.  
Alison Waters identified the need for delivery of prescriptions and coordinated with Cannington Health Centre to deliver to the shielding patients around Cannington, Combwich and Stockland Bristol, also raising £1000 through a Just Giving Page to set up a village foodbank  
Colin Tennant is the postman for Old Cleeve Parish and has gone out of his way to help people during the pandemic voluntarily picking up and delivering prescriptions, calling by and chatting to local residents and engaging with the vulnerable and isolated community, delivering leaflets for the Roadwater Together emergency group.  
Jilly Wright lives in Milverton and has lots of problems with her own health, often in lots of pain, but she still always helps others who can’t look after themselves or are dying in their own houses.  
Ian Kelham recently retired and supported the NHS’s Covid 111 helpline, speaking to well over 1000 people with the disease. He then signed up for the vaccination programme and was aware of how vital pulse oximeters are in the assessment of patients with Covid, and planned a local loan service of these oximeters so that they are available to anyone who needs one.
A number of medal winners were unable to attend and will be invited to the next awards ceremony: Helen Jowett: The individual effort of Helen, who never looks for praise or thanks, was, and still is, astonishing. 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.   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. 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. Ian Jefferies was instrumental in setting up the Burnham and Highbridge Coronavirus Community Support Group and organising the vaccination hubs at Berrow Medical Centre and the Mulberry Centre. Andy Childs has provided a relentless service to his local community in Wookey, offering the only social contact many vulnerable and lonely people had through the pandemic, as well as door to door food deliveries. Kara Bazley runs a local cleaning company in Wookey and invest in ppe and cleaning products in order to protect her clients, many of whom are elderly, as well as volunteering as a vaccine Marshall, and collected/delivered prescriptions to her elderly Neighbours. Phil Clifton of Misterton has run the village fete along with other activities, however with the pandemic the Emergency team formulated a plan to help the village cope. Phil agreed to be the coordinator and put together a list of volunteers to help as needed.