All the Pride of Whittlesey finalists
- Credit: Supplied/Fenland Youth Radio
From restaurateurs to army cadets and fundraisers, many in and around Whittlesey have had a part to play in lifting their community’s spirits during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Today, we want to shine a spotlight on the finalists for the Pride of Whittlesey awards for 2020 and their achievements, from those who nominated.
Lifetime community hero
Brian Smithyman - as chairman of the Whittlesey Emergency Food Aid (WEFA), Brian has been at the forefront of ensuring that vulnerable families are supported and fed during the pandemic.
He has also recently been seriously ill and recovered from pneumonia and Covid-19, as well as being Pastor of the Whittlesey Christian Church.
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Colin Martin - Colin has raised thousands of pounds for people in the community from two sick children, to a family who lost their son through bullying and other causes have benefited, including Posh legend Tommy Robson.
Deborah Slator - founder of the Helping Whittlesey Facebook group, Deborah has organised Christmas presents for elderly and vulnerable people in Whittlesey, and meals for the elderly and vulnerable during lockdown.
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Deborah helped organise the poppy campaign decorating Whittlesey and the Defibrillators for All group founder.
Mick Cooke - Mick has been looking after the Whittlesey war memorial and ensuring it is in pristine order on a daily basis. He has been a consistent supporter of Royal British Legion events and a reserved gentleman.
Volunteer of the Year
Deborah Slator - whenever there's an issue that needs attention, Deborah is there, not just getting the job done but getting it done in spades. Defibrillators for All is a resounding success that she has under her belt and with Helping Whittlesey.
Gill Lawrence - Gill has been out in all weather throughout the year when safe to do so and enhanced the town with her fantastic horticultural skills. This includes maintaining flower beds at The Pound, beds outside the Manor Leisure Centre and the hanging baskets on the road railings.
She is an integral part of Whittlesey in Bloom and was the independent judge for the Whittlesey Town Council allotment awards.
Sue and Joe Jennings - both are members of WEFA, despite their age and current virus concerns, they are out every weekend collecting the surplus and donations of food from supermarkets, Sue is also treasurer of WEFA.
Brian Smithyman - Brian has been at the forefront of ensuring that vulnerable families are supported and fed during the pandemic.
Secondary school champion/volunteer
Ellie Nicholls - Ellie is a student at Sir Harry Smith Community College and supports two after-school netball clubs at Park Lane Primary School. She also supports all holiday clubs and is extremely popular with the children and staff.
She gives her own time to support the primary school to which she attended and is a member of the Whittlesey Warriors Netball Club.
Frankie Newbatt - Frankie is an army cadet based at the Whittlesey (GREN GDS) Detachment. During 2020, he took it upon himself to undertake some charity collecting and fundraising for Helipads for Hospitals towards new helipads for air ambulances.
He has collected thousands of aluminium cans to donate to the charity. Alongside this, he set himself the goal of cycling the distance between Land’s End and John O'Groats in and around Whittlesey with the aim of raising £300.
Frankie has shown a selfless commitment to helping others through his charity work.
Primary school champion/volunteer
Emilee Wardley - during the first lockdown, Emilee was very involved with the Helping Whittlesey organisation. She collected bottles and painted them to create over 250 poppies for the displays around the town.
She spent a day helping to create the beautiful displays to commemorate Remembrance Day and helped many people in Whittlesey by picking up their prescriptions and doing their food shopping throughout the lockdown.
Emilee first helped her mum deliver food on behalf of Helping Whittlesey, and within a few weeks she became part of the main team. As volunteers arrived to collect their delivery, Emilee would assign them with the families and ensure the tick list was kept up to date.
As soon as Emilee heard we were going to have a poppy blitz, she volunteered immediately painting plastic bottles to make into poppies. She made hundreds and then came to the main hub to help make panels for the display.
She really does go above and beyond and shows great community spirit, all from a 10-year-old.
Jenson Brannigan - Jenson is an active and positive child in all PE lessons at school and always with a smile. During the 2020 lockdown, he completed a push-up and a running challenge, both of which he won virtual medals.
Jenson has dyslexia so sometimes finds the classroom a challenge and is a keen footballer. Jenson is in year five at Park Lane Primary School.
Lily Burnett-Shepard - Lily became the youngest radio presenter in the county aged seven when she helped launch the Fenland Youth Radio last September. She can be heard every Saturday morning delivering the weather for the weekend just after 10am.
Phoebe Ockendon - Phoebe decided she wanted her hair shorter and that she’d like to donate her hair to charity. The Little Princess Trust make wigs for children with cancer and other health conditions which make them lose their hair, but it costs them £550 to turn the donated hair into a wig.
Phoebe wanted to raise that money so her hair wouldn’t cost the charity valuable resources. Phoebe has a JustGiving page and has so far raised over £300. Phoebe had 10 inches cut off her hair and posted the hair off to the Little Princess Trust.
Brian and Eunice Smithyman - as members of WEFA, Brian and Eunice have been at the forefront of ensuring that vulnerable families are supported and fed during the pandemic. They have also recently been seriously ill themselves and are now recovering.
Danny Bowyer - Danny been organising the pub quiz at The Letter B for many years. When the first lockdown happened, Danny decided to continue with the quiz via Zoom.
This was a massive help to me and my family. With the children off school and the adults on furlough, we would look forward to this family-friendly Sunday evening event. It helped provide focus, structure and maintained contact with the outside world.
The quiz has continued to raise money for local causes and has so far raised over £2,000. Contributions have been made to local care homes, helped to provide materials for the poppy display and other local causes.
Marija Lysak - a quiet, unassuming lady who has been the valued organiser of WEFA and assistant Pastor of the Christian Church. She has supported the most vulnerable in the community in these roles.
Whittlesey Street Pride - collectively before lockdown and individually during lockdown, Whittlesey Street Pride members continue to clear areas of rubbish and look for ways of creating new features to enhance Whittlesey and nearby villages with boats and other Fenland related items in and around the town, and also maintaining them for all to enjoy.
Jackie Prebble - Jackie volunteers as a warden at Lattersey Nature Reserve. She works tirelessly to ensure the site is safe for visitors and clear of rubbish. She also volunteers for Whittlesey Street Pride.
Roy Bridson - Roy is an Angling Trust volunteer bailiff. Volunteer bailiffs are always on the lookout for signs of illegal fishing, poaching, looking for set lines and nets.
Roy is often out and about ensuring our waterways are a credit to the town, bringing to the attention of the appropriate authorities any matters of concern.
Samantha Fleming - Samantha gives daily updates on the Wash road and North Bank when flooding occurs. This is of great help to the many users of the roads.
Whittlesey In Bloom - Whittlesey in Bloom continues to brighten Whittlesey up with their dedicated hard work around the town, even repairing beds that get vandalised. The team is out in all weather, ensuring Whittlesey looks its best.
Outstanding sporting achievement
David Edis, Whittlesea Wheelers - David did a virtual 24-hour cycle challenge on his birthday to raise over £1,700 for Helping Whittlesey to provide meals.
Freddie Johnson - Freddie was successful in winning the Whittlesey Primary Schools Sports Quiz. His knowledge of sport was excellent and spent many hours learning as much as he could. He also graciously commiserated with those he beat along the way.
Graham Sharman - Graham has been involved in local football for many years, especially Whittlesey Junior Football Club. 2020 was a difficult time for the club, but Graham has continued to lead the club in its quest to enable boys and girls to play football and to improve facilities at the club.
Imogen Mutimer - Imogen was runner-up in the Whittlesey Primary Schools Sports Quiz. She had been through a school qualifying round and beating two other students to get to the final. She worked extremely hard in learning as much information as possible and representing her school with great credit.
Janette Bowden - an outstanding teacher who inspires and is dedicated. Janette works part time at both Park Lane and New Road schools.
She is passionate about sport and a positive person; she looks to see things are done, not look at why things cannot be done, But, it’s what she does in schools in Whittlesey that makes her stand out with her desire that all her students have opportunities to enjoy sport.
She supports community sporting initiatives and has been willing to ensure students are able to take part in events out of school time.
Peter Hau – Peter is passionate about table tennis, chairman of the Whittlesey Table Tennis Club, created Ping in the Community and then Bat and Chat, both of which he gave voluntary time for to enable those who have never played table tennis before or for a long time the opportunity to.
Thorney Running Club - I feel that all the members of Thorney Running club are deserving of this.
To name a few, Laura Greenwood for organising fun virtual events through lockdown, Richard Coles for providing a weekly training session, Geoff Howes for keeping the juniors motivated, Kelly Maddy for her monthly captains reports, Andy Cowling for organising the virtual relay events and Lesley and Eamonn Dorling.
Thorney RC are responsible for helping myself and many others keep active and fit. I joined in 2017 after they organised a ‘couch to 5k’ programme at the Manor.
Having never exercised before, it felt great to part of a group who offered so much help, support and motivation.
This year has been especially tough as we have not been able to take part in the large races and social gatherings we all enjoy, but it has brought home just how important running, fresh air and exercise is to our mental health.
The club has been great in keeping everyone's spirits up, organising fun events and inspiring people to keep running and excelling in what they do.
Five of us (Tracey Moore, Helene Upchurch, Claire Sibley, Sarah Marshall and myself) have even managed to run a marathon this year, something which none of us would ever have thought possible a year or two ago. But with the help of Thorney Running Club, we did it!
Community group/project or initiative
Helping Whittlesey - the group has arranged many things in these difficult times from meals, shopping, picking up medication, turning our town red for Remembrance Sunday, supplied wool materials to individuals and residents in care homes.
The group is always at the end of the phone ringing around offering support to anyone that needed it, setting up swap shops for puzzles and knitting patterns, raising £2,400 for the Royal British Legion.
Throughout the pandemic, these volunteers have helped and supported the elderly and vulnerable in the community, examples being the Wednesday hot food distribution with over 200 meals being cooked and delivered.
Other support has been by volunteers gardening and shopping. On top of this, a fantastic 10,000 poppy display was created for Remembrance Sunday by its volunteers to which money raised were donated to the Whittlesey Branch of the Royal British Legion.
Whittlesey Christmas Lights - a hardworking group that despite the pandemic, volunteered their time to fundraise, ensuring the town of Whittlesey was bright with coloured lights and trimmings and that the town had a Christmas feel to it.
Whittlesey Emergency Food Aid - before and throughout the pandemic, WEFA have collected and redistributed food and goods this included Christmas hampers to many vulnerable individuals and families.
Community wellbeing champion or group
Deborah Slator, Helping Whittlesey - not only has she always been fundraising for the community, such as defibrillators and first aid in schools and Christmas presents for under privileged kids and pensioners, she organised and delivered meals during lockdown to those who were desperate.
On Remembrance Day, we had the wonderful displays of knitted poppies, and then onto her usual annual charity work following a bout of Covid-19, not forgetting the three peaks walk she does annually.
I don't know where she gets the energy from, but she has been a godsend this year especially with her team of helpers.
Whittlesey Community Car Care Scheme - fantastic work supporting many vulnerable and elderly people within the district not only in 2020, but for many years before this.
Taking those without transport to surgeries, hospital and vaccination centres, all organised and driven by volunteers.
Whittlesey Sports Association - this association was founded in 2018 and brings together sports clubs and groups to promote sports and leisure to all in Whittlesey.
The association was successful in obtaining a grant for portable floodlights to support the local community.
The association has been on hand to support local sporting groups to help raise their profile and encourage more participation by all ages and abilities.
Business community champion
Chris Newman, Homme Nouveau - at the start of the pandemic, Chris and his new business supported the community by providing free food on his own initiative to those who needed it most.
Despite being a relatively new business, Chris continues to be aware of the needs of others despite these difficult times.
Colin and Michelle Wilson, Falcon Hotel - Colin and Michelle have adapted their business admirably throughout Covid.
The hundreds of hot meals cooked by Colin were distributed to the most vulnerable in our community, which was an amazing accomplishment and a show of true community spirit.
During the first lockdown, Colin was cooking up to 240 hot meals in a day once a week. This was the main food cooked as part of the Helping Whittlesey project.
Since the first lockdown, Colin has provided meals during the pandemic at a very reasonable price. Many who have had to isolate have very much appreciated this service.
Also, Colin worked with the Helping Whittlesey group to provide free meals to the most vulnerable members of our community on Wednesday evenings.
I believe Colin has gone over and beyond to help people in Whittlesey and many have appreciated the lovely meals and delicious Sunday lunches.
Fenland Youth Radio CIC – the radio station has kept the community spirit up, entertained the community and informed me of any information in Whittlesey. A new station continuing to grow each day.
The station is powered by young people with a few older hands added for guidance and experience.
Jason Staples, manager of Co-op Whittlesey - during the pandemic, Jason has donated food to add to our food parcels given to some families in need during school holidays and is always keen to help and support.
Sue Reeves, Dream Elite - for going over and above by looking after elderly residents in the town, ensuring they continued to be supported and fed safely during the pandemic.
The Hermitage Residential Home - The Hermitage have had no Covid cases, so thank you to management for putting safety in position and always thinking of others.
Young Tech CIC - this group caters for local young people who are looking to get a foot on the ladder in the entertainment business, either in front of the camera, microphone or behind the scenes.