Groups, teams and other volunteers will be presented with the Somerset Medal next month after being recognised as some of Somerset’s many unsung coronavirus heroes.
The Somerset Medal was launched by Somerset County Council to say a heartfelt thank-you to the best of the best. The first individual winners were announced on Somerset Day with a second round of nominations opened up to groups and teams.
Those honoured include vaccination volunteers, food deliverers, pop-up shop keepers and a whole host of others who all went above and beyond to make sure Somerset kept going during the pandemic.
The cross-party judging panel – Cllr David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council, Cllr Christine Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Customers & Communities, Cllr Jane Lock, former 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 said: “Reading the nominations was humbling. So many people stepped forward to help others at a very difficult time. Somerset’s record in volunteering is second to none – but so many went that extra mile during the pandemic.
“I would like to thank them all on behalf of our county and I look forward to meeting them at the awards ceremony in September.”
The second presentation evening will take place on Wednesday 15 September at 6pm at Taunton Rugby Club.
Earlier this summer, individuals were awarded with the Somerset Medal to thank them for their efforts on behalf of their communities during the pandemic.
Award details (descriptions taken from nominations):
Individuals unable to attend the first award ceremony:
Charles Bell was a very good dog walker for my two dogs. He’s not just compassionate but also very kind, considerate and empathic. He would collect my medication for me, cuts my garden grass. The best part of meeting Charles is I think I’ve made a long-life friend. He is a lifesaver, a godsend and there’s no better person who deserves this medal than Charles.
Paolo Van Der Steenhoven is a statistician and has used his technical and analytical skills to support the Kingston community to great effect including setting up, editing, and managing the Kingston St Mary website, building a database for Good Neighbour Volunteers to record details of those needing support, and producing flyers and a local newsletter delivered to all KSM households. The community benefits in so many ways from Paolo’s voluntary input, probably without realising what he does, and for that reason this recognition would be most appropriate.
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.
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 managing the Regal Theatre and during the pandemic has been committed to ensuring that Regal 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.
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.
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 marshal, 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.
Samaritans Taunton: They have maintained almost 24-hour cover for callers every day of the week. Many volunteers have had to shield or self-isolate and yet those together who have helped run the branch together with volunteers able to come into the office to take calls have offered a vital service, there to support callers going through various troubles in their life or to be there for those who are isolated and need a friendly ear.
First Bus drivers, Yeovil: They have been working all the way through and making sure other key workers got to their jobs.
Volunteers at Bridgwater PCN mass vaccination centre, North Petherton: There are about 30 plus volunteers of different age groups who have consistently given up their time to participate in supporting the Mass Vaccination programme – they deserve recognition.
Intensive Dementia Support Service: Through the pandemic, they continued to support patients with dementia who were in crisis, and their carers. They continued to visit patients and carers, putting their own feelings about Covid to one side. They followed strict Covid rules keeping themselves and patients safe.
Wells Coronavirus Network: They have, since December, been providing volunteer marshals to help vaccinate the population of West Mendip, some 52,000 people. They are now so integral to the vaccination programme they provide onsite marshals, meet and greet team and also observers in our recovery area. They are always so cheerful and helpful and operate with such a high level of professionalism and reliability.
Stoke St Gregory Community Group: The village was in danger of losing its remaining shop and pub just before the pandemic started. As a result, concerned residents set up a community company, HOTV Stoke St Gregory ltd, to pump life back into the heart of the village. The project aim was to buy the Royal Oak, transfer the shop into it and run both shop and pub. The combined shop and pub has evolved into a community hub alongside a cafe. The coronavirus pandemic has spurred villagers to volunteer to help others in the community. This crisis has brought out the best of community spirit.
Bridgwater Corona Helpers: Within a few days of the first lockdown a group was formed and was made up with volunteers from all over Bridgwater, old and young – nearly 100 people sent their details. A small team sifted and set up a call list, working with Village Agents and Spark the jobs started to come in, from prescription delivery to shopping, no task was too small.
Purplespoon café: It became clear that some families were missing out and the team realised that people in receipt of benefits and free school meals would continue to receive Government food, but some were missing out or just could not afford to feed everyone in their household. The team tried to fill the gap, open to every family in need, no questions asked, they offered a top up. They took donated food to produce nutritious meals that were given for free. The team started a donations page supported by local people and at times funded this from their own pockets to provide meals.
Bridgwater Foodbank: Words cannot explain the admiration I have for the work this group of people have done during the pandemic. They suffered their own sadness due to Covid but soldiered on. Thousands of people have benefited from the work of this group as Bridgwater foodbank serves a huge area, most of Sedgemoor is covered. The Somerset Medal will recognise their extraordinary hard work, especially Keith Barnard for his efforts in setting the Foodbank up.
Active and In Touch Frome: The organisation’s aim is to tackle isolation and loneliness of adults in Frome and surrounding villages. By doing this they help to improve the health and well-being of individuals and, therefore, our community. This has been a particularly noteworthy year to have to tackle these issues. During the pandemic A&IT have seen a three-fold increase in numbers of both members and volunteers with increased activity (shopping) to those that have been shielding, delivery of prescriptions and safe lifts to vaccination centres. They raised their game at the right time in order to help others.
Reflect: This is a small organisation providing daytime support for adults with profound, multiple disabilities and their families at three Somerset locations – Hestercombe, Hornblotton and West Hewish. These are some of the most vulnerable people in the community, needing 24-hour support, 365 days a year from their families. The support offered by Reflect gives families a break and a rich, rewarding day to each person we work with. At the start of lockdown, Reflect was faced with the choice of closing down and taking away a critical lifeline for people and their families or trying to find a way of continuing to work that would keep people safe – a formidable challenge in the circumstances. This nomination is for our incredible team of staff, who made innumerable personal sacrifices to continue supporting people and families throughout both lockdowns.
Natalie Dyson: She is founding member and Chair of Coronavirus Community Help Taunton. In March 2021 she set up a network of 37 Covid-19 support groups across Somerset. She worked to establish a co-ordinator and a team of volunteers in each group. She raised thousands of pounds of funding and worked with Spark Somerset to get ID for the volunteers to ensure the recipients of the help felt safe. There were almost 1,000 volunteers in the network of groups which were founded by Natalie.
Tesco Minehead: The team worked the whole way through and are the forgotten heroes in this whole pandemic and deserve the recognition for their efforts to ensure everyone was able to get what they needed through the pandemic. They also continued fund raising efforts to help those charities that have lost out.
Morland Community Hub: Since the start of all the national Covid lockdowns the Morland Hub team have worked endlessly to support the local community. This has included supplying emergency food supplies to those in need, hot meals delivered weekly to the vulnerable and crafting supplies to the elderly, to provide a necessary distraction to their often long and solitary days. This last Christmas Eve, the Hub became a food distribution centre, under their new ‘Food Not Waste’ scheme by becoming a major supermarket’s sole collector of their surplus food. This included collection of the food, making up parcels and delivering during the whole evening and once again on Boxing Day. The Hub team were generously giving up their Christmas time until midnight, to help those less fortunate
Burnham and Highbridge Coronavirus Support Group: They are a team of about 120 people from all walks of life who came together in short notice to assist those that needed help since the pandemic started. They mainly carry out duties such as shopping and prescription deliveries and have had many other requests during the time. They have carried out over 3,000 requests since the start and have formed many bonds within their community. Each of the volunteers have gone over and above what could have been asked of them and as a community, we are very proud of their achievements and think they deserve recognition for their endeavours.
Volunteers at Berrow Medical Centre: They are a team of about 60 people from all walks of life who came together at short notice and have marshalled, in all weathers, over 23,000 people safely to have their vaccinations. They are the most pleasant friendly group and have amassed over 4,000 volunteer hours between them to ensure the smooth running of the vaccination campus at Berrow.
Co-op Team, Axbridge: The Co-op is the only food shop in Axbridge and the whole team, led by their manager Jo, has provided a sterling service to residents throughout the pandemic. The team has worked hard implementing Covid safe measures, which are still in place, providing a welcoming setting and service with a smile. The shop has been vital to many customers, many of whom have been unable to travel to larger stores or access online shopping. The Co-op has always been a valuable asset to the town and the support of each member of the staff is much appreciated.
Corona & the Cheddar Valley Community (including Axbridge): This “Let’s help each other group” has been a lifeline to many residents over the Cheddar Valley, including residents of Axbridge. Set up right at the start of the pandemic, their volunteers have worked tirelessly by helping others – whether by carrying out their shopping, collecting prescriptions or simply having a chat. They have helped so many people who have been unwell, isolating, or vulnerable – showing kindness at a time when it is most needed. They are a shining example of how small acts of kindness can grow into something quite wonderful.
Notes to editors
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