Community Volunteers Honored at 2022 GAVO Awards
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Volunteers across the County Borough of Caerphilly have been recognized in the annual Gwent Association of Voluntary Organizations (GAVO) awards.
The ceremony, held at the Blackwood Miners’ Institute, took place on Thursday October 20 – the first time the ceremony had been held since 2019 due to the Covid pandemic.
Ten different awards were handed out to volunteers during the evening, with finalists receiving certificates.
The first winners of the evening were Maddie Malpas, James Sage and Jacob Bryan, who took home the Young Volunteer Award. The trio, who help lead the 1st Ystrad Mynach Scout Group, have supported various activities during the pandemic.
Second in that category was 13-year-old Charlie Phillips, who volunteers at Blackwood Cricket Club, where he supports youth coaches. He has volunteered over 100 hours since March and hopes to play for the club’s senior team next season.
The second prize of the evening was the Parent and Child award, won by Iona Watkins. A single mother of five children, some of whom have additional needs, Iona volunteers in her local Parent Network group, helping young mothers and offering advice and comfort.
The runner-up was Bridging Together – a community group made up of residents of Lansbury Park, Porset Park and Mornington Meadows. The group organizes a variety of community engagement activities and events in the areas, such as providing food bags to residents in isolation during Covid.
The next category was the Trustee and Director award, which was won by Michelle Jones, director of Libanus Lifestyle at Blackwood.
Speaking after her win, Michelle said Caerphilly Observer“I am completely surprised but absolutely delighted. There are probably many more equally deserving people to be named as well.
Michelle, who was nominated by Karen James, director of Libanus Lifestyle, said: “I didn’t know I was up for the award – I thought I was here to support Karen.”
Runner-up was Tara Holloway, co-founder and director of RCV UK, an organization aiming to ensure no one in the community is left alone, hungry or scared.
Then, the Food Sustainability Volunteer Award, won by the Cwmfelinfach Community Hub.
The hub opened in November 2021 and runs a food pantry to help locals cope with food poverty. During the pandemic, hub volunteers delivered food parcels to those self-isolating.
The finalist was Roger Hewitt, who is a lead volunteer in Groundwork Wales’ Routes to Life programme. Thanks to this, Roger helped create a water catchment system, which collects rainwater to use in watering plants.
The Sports Volunteer Award, sponsored by Caerphilly Observerwas won by Sam Palmer, who coaches under-8s at Blackwood Town Football Club, as well as under-11s at Blackwood Cricket Club.
Speaking after his win, Sam thanked the cricket club’s Emma Chalk, who runs the youth section, for nominating him. He also thanked his fellow coaches for their support.
“It’s about giving kids the opportunity to play sports and the opportunity to have a physically active lifestyle,” he said.
The next award of the evening was the High Sheriff’s Award, chosen and presented by Malgwyn Davies, the current High Sheriff of Gwent.
The prize was won by Bargoed resident Carl Jones – whose heroic actions during a fire in his home town earlier this year saw him save three families and prevent further damage to nearby properties.
carl said Caerphilly Observer“I am humble. I just acted on instinct.
“I was walking past when I smelled smoke and turned to take a look. I was just curious really. I entered the building and led the old lady and her son out. .
“I received gifts from the family but was surprised when I was officially recognized.”
After the High Sheriff’s Award, the next honor given was the Mayor’s Civic Award, which was presented by Caerphilly County Borough Mayor Cllr Liz Aldworth.
The winner was Sue Griffin, who gave 50 years of tireless service by volunteering on several village committees, including serving as vice-president of the Maesycwmmer partnership. She was also a member of ‘Friends of Lewis School’ when her son attended Lewis Boys and also helped raise money for schools outside the borough.
Before Covid, Sue sang with the group Melody Makers, which supports various charities.
Meanwhile, the Welsh culture and heritage prize has been won by retired postman Christopher Williams, who has volunteered twice a week to do manual labor to help restore the Cefn Fforest Miners’ Institute .
The finalist was Nigel Bull, who organized the completion of the Bedwas Community Garden. He inspired the community to paint, weed, plant, cultivate and install benches in the garden to create a community space for all.
The night also saw St Cattwg’s Plaid Cymru Councilor Haydn Pritchard win in the Health and Wellbeing category.
Cllr Pritchard founded “The FitYard” three years ago, running free exercise classes several times a week for people of all skill levels. It was nominated by Lisa Horton, who said: “The FitYard is an incredible group of people who have all been brought together through Haydn’s selfless act of kindness.
“Running regularly with the club has not only helped myself, but many of my fellow runners with our mental health – something we can all agree on.”
Mike Rees, who is the secretary of the Blackwood Stroke Support Group, came second. He has volunteered in this role since his wife suffered a stroke ten years ago. During Covid, he hosted Zoom meetings to keep members connected, and now organizes trips and outings to give members the chance to hang out and socialize.
The ceremony also saw the Caerphilly Miners’ Center gardening group win the Environment category for their work creating the centre’s Climate Change Garden for the Future. John and Sue Venn, who handle litter selections at Crosskeys, were finalists.
The final award was the Inspirational Volunteer of the Year award. This was won by Theresa Heal, who has volunteered with the Parent Network for around half a decade.
After experiencing her own struggles caring for her nephew full-time when he was two, Theresa joined the Network’s Kinship Group – where she later volunteered to help run the group Ty Sign Two times per week. During the lockdown, she hosted online meetings and helped deliver Christmas presents to more than 20 families.
She said Caerphilly Observer“I’m thrilled to win. I started crying when I got on stage.
“It was quite unexpected but it’s nice to be thanked for something.”
Meanwhile, Royal Air Force veteran Kelly Farr, who dedicates her time to helping other veterans and serving Armed Forces personnel, was a finalist.
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