Leamington Awards Ceremony Celebrates Local Community Spirit

Leamington Awards Ceremony Celebrates Local Community Spirit

28 April 2023

A group of volunteers were honoured for their inspiring and selfless service at last night’s Community Spirit Awards, jointly organised by Royal Leamington Spa Rotary Club and The Kingsley School.

The ceremony has been an incredibly successful joint initiative between the Rotary Club and The Kingsley School since 2017. Nine well-deserving volunteers were chosen from nominations made by Rotary Club members and the school community.

Those honoured were:

Morgan Bethell, Sophie Clarke and Grace Green who as Year 13 pupils always respond with enthusiasm and energy when there is a crisis and people are in distress. The pupils worked tirelessly to support and coordinate donations for Ukrainian refugees, particularly essential food, clothing and bedding items. Kingsley minibuses were commandeered to take students and donations back and forth until all were safely deposited. Without Morgan’s initiative and the trio’s determination, there would not have been such a wonderful response in the time available.

Georgie Acton, an ex-Kingsley School pupil, and now employee, who has raised thousands of pounds by taking part in numerous marathons, including the London Marathon several times. She has raised money for Guide dogs, The Lullaby Trust, Cancer Research and notably £4,000 for Barnardo’s. This year she will be completing the Race to the King ultra-marathon (64 miles) for Leukaemia Care in memory of a colleague from The Kingsley School who sadly died in 2023.

Fern Arnold, who is a true ‘unsung community hero’, often working behind the scenes to improve local biodiversity and supporting climate mitigation. In 2020 she established Bee Friendly Kenilworth. Recognising the critical importance of pollinators to our economy, food security and indeed as the basis of our whole ecosystem, Fern wanted to coordinate action to stop the very worrying decline of the bee population. She quickly became chair of Bee Friendly Kenilworth and successfully led a bid to secure ‘Bee Friendly Town’ status for Kenilworth in 2022. Fern is now supporting the formation of similar groups in Warwick, Leamington, Cubbington and other places in Warwickshire.

Anne Cotton, who selflessly devotes her time to improving the lives of vulnerable people. She was one of the first members of PhonePals, a community response to the isolation of elderly and vulnerable people during the Covid pandemic. As well as organising, Anne frequently made 10 to 15 calls per week herself. Volunteers have become so committed and gained so much from the experience that many of them have continued to make calls in recognition that loneliness and isolation persists.

Nigel Milne, has supported the Warwick District Citizens Advice Bureau for over a decade. Nigel, though an unpaid volunteer, had become de-facto the IT Manager for the Bureau, requiring a hugely dedicated approach and it would be no exaggeration to say that the Bureau’s ability to perform effectively has been largely dependent on the commitment of his technical skills.

John Plumb was a volunteer Trustee and Director of Warwick District Citizens Advice Bureau from 2012 until 2017 when it merged with Stratford to form Citizens Advice South Warwickshire. His input was critical during the merger which resulted in a more resilient and cost effective advice service for people in South Warwickshire and he continued with the new organisation until the end of 2021.

Lucy Wheeler, for her contribution as a kitchen volunteer at Leamington’s Helping Hands community project which aims to offer practical help, emotional support and on-going mentoring to those facing homelessness, domestic abuse, low family income, addiction and related mental health problems. Helping Hands is very aware of the impact Lucy has made, not only within the charity itself but on the local community.

James Mercer-Kelly, Headteacher at the Kingsley School, opened the awards ceremony, and welcomed Brian Bassett, President of the Rotary Club, who then spoke about the origins and success of the Community Spirit Awards scheme. Warwick Schools Foundation Principal, Richard Nicholson, stressed the importance of continuing collaboration opportunities such as this, before Jasmine Spencer, a student at Kingsley, shared her experiences of volunteering for local charity ‘Kissing it Better’.

Mayor, Councillor Nick Wilkins was able to support the event by presenting the awards to each of the deserving recipients. He applauded their hard work for the positive and transformational impact it has on people’s lives.

Following the awards, Jo Merrick, Operations Manager of Helping Hands Community Project, spoke about the crucial importance of volunteering to her charity. Their popular soup kitchen and charity shop are making a big difference to those in need and utilise the support of around 75 volunteers.

The event was rounded off by James Mercer-Kelly, who conveyed the importance of role modelling by the award recipients, and Brian Bassett, who thanked the school for their pivotal role in promoting selfless service in the community. In particular, he highlighted the work of Christina McCullough, Senior Deputy Head at Kingsley, for her fantastic work in coordinating the annual awards ceremony.

The Kingsley School and Rotary Club look forward to further collaborations in the future. Both organisations place high value on volunteering and seek to promote opportunities and awareness in the local Leamington Spa area.

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