Celebrating our community stars
We held our annual Stars of the community awards on Thursday evening (22 February) as a massive thanks to customer groups, individual volunteers and staff members who have been outstanding in supporting communities over this last year.
More than 300 people attended the celebration event at Bolton’s Macron Stadium, most of whom were nominated for an award by other members of the community or our employees.
Our awards recognise the efforts and dedication shown by people who are committed to making a positive impact within the communities they live or work.
Tracy Woods, Chair of our Board, said: “We are really proud to host these awards, they celebrate outstanding people who build stronger communities and achieve fantastic things. We had nearly 100 nominees this year. Thanks to everyone who was nominated and those who took the time to nominate a star in their community.”
We presented the following awards across nine categories.
Sparkling environment star
Winner: Breightmet Litter Picking Superstars
Since last summer, this group of enthusiastic youngsters has been out and about around the Breightmet estate picking up litter, tidying up and showing great pride in their community. The children are aged between seven and 14 years old and they have carried out a litter pick each week. They have also taken opportunities to learn more about health and safety, race issues and the environment.
“Awesome, amazing and quite shocking” was how members of the group described winning Sparkling environment star, which came as the crowning glory on what has been a remarkable year for the youngsters. Speaking after receiving their award, they said the best part about being part of the litter-picking group was having the opportunity to meet new friends whilst also keeping their community clean and tidy.
Charlie Kay (10) said: “I have been part of the group since it began and I joined because it gave me something to do. Since then I have learned a lot about safety and the community, and I have also enjoyed making the estate a better place to live. I have even come up with a saying, which is love Bolton, hate litter”
Charlie added: “Val (Hulme) and Naz (Patel) from Bolton at Home who run the group are really nice, they always put a smile on our faces. We have had a fantastic night and hopefully, we’ll be back again next year.”
Highly commended: The Litter Pickers of Johnson Fold
Healthy community star
Winner: On Your Own Club, Tonge Moor
A local voluntary community group, which was set up for older people facing loneliness, the On Your Own Club has grown year-on-year since it was formed in 2010. The club organises regular trips, fortnightly coffee mornings and monthly social nights, which have generated real friendships among many older people in the community and improved their wellbeing.
Derek Turner is the Chair of On Your Own Club. He said: “We have 54 members, who all come with their ideas and decide together what we do and where we go. It is always great to see our members enjoying themselves and talking part the activities, particularly when they might otherwise be sat at home with not much to do or not have many people to talk to.”
Highly commended: Tonge Moor Men in Sheds
Bolton at Home star
Winner: Ogechi Ajet, Debt and Money Advice Mentor
Starting out with Bolton at Home as a volunteer, Ogechi was motivated to improve the lives of as many people as possible. Working with our Money Advice Team, she developed her skills and achieved a promotion to the role of Money Advice Officer. Ogechi makes a difference to every customer she works with and has achieved over £400,000 of savings for 85 families that she has supported in the last year.
Ogechi said: “In my experience, when people balance their finances their outlook also becomes more positive and they become more productive in other areas of their life.
“Customers’ needs can be different, so I start by simply asking what I can do for them that day. It all starts with getting to understand someone and their circumstances. Knowing that I’m in a position to help them, drives me to do the best I can.”
Highly commended: Janet Lord, Business Support Officer, and Derek Warburton, Capital Works Contract Manager
Spirit of youth star
Winner: Christopher Buckett, Breightmet
Made homeless at 17, Christopher is hard of hearing and this affects his confidence. Despite this, Christopher manages to live independently, supported by our Outreach Team, in Bolton at Home temporary accommodation. He works as a volunteer at the Sue Ryder shop in Horwich and has recently been promoted to the role of store manager. Christopher also attends college and is a regular contributor to Bolton Young Persons Housing events.
Christopher (18) said: “Absolutely brilliant. The atmosphere and excitement has been amazing and as someone who’s never been nominated for an award before, I’m very proud and very shocked.”
As for the future, Christopher said: “I am taking each day as it comes. I have thoroughly enjoyed the past year working at the Sue Ryder shop and, now that I have been promoted to relief manager, I enjoy the responsibility that comes with the job. I am currently on a two year BTEC course at Bolton College, studying I.T. and so I’m hoping to continue on to university or into an apprenticeship once I have finished my course.”
Highly commended: Bethany Weall, Breightmet, and New Bury Vision Youth group
Stronger community star
Winner: New Bury Vision
The Storehouse Pantry at our New Bury UCAN Centre opened in May 2017 and has grown to support over 50 members weekly. Members not only benefit from food but also budgeting, food tasting and recipes, and switching to cheaper energy suppliers. None of this would be possible without the support of our pantry volunteers from New Bury Vision, who help organise deliveries on Wednesdays, run the open pantry on Thursdays, and put on crafts and games for pensioners on Fridays.
The group also voluntarily applied for £19,500 of funding over the last 12 months, which has been spent on various activities that run in the centre.
Christine Bradshaw, a New Bury Vision volunteer, said: “We help people make their money go further with a better knowledge, and enjoyment, of food and cooking. We are also someone to talk to when people come in and want to open-up about something they’re dealing with.
“As a group of volunteers we have evolved to do things that reflect the community’s interests and needs. We are like a big family and we enjoy it. Personally, when I came to Bolton from London and started to volunteer for the first time in my life, I gained a whole new positive outlook based on doing nice things for others.”
Highly commended: Four Seasons Unite
Personal achievement star
Winner: Tracy Moran, Moses Gate, Farnworth
A former drug addict, Tracy has engaged with services in Bolton and been involved in community groups to get through the tough times and turn her life around.
Tracy joined the Dramatic Action community group in October 2016. As joint treasurer and secretary, Tracy has arranged Christmas parties for the group and been involved in lots of community arts and drama projects. These have included a film called Addiction, where Tracy gives a true reflection of what being an addict was like for her.
Tracy said: “I would say to anyone in similar position to what I was, please don’t feel like you’re alone. There is plenty of help out there. Joining community groups, doing new things and meeting fresh people are healthier ways to spend time than sitting at home and letting your past get you down. There is always a better future out there to be enjoyed.”
Highly commended: Kelly Heselwood, New Bury
Outstanding achievement star
Winner: Louise Kirkman, New Bury
Louise is the person behind Souper Social, where 15 older people aged between 65 and 93 years old meet-up to share stories and enjoy a delicious freshly cooked meal. Louise is also a main organiser of the New Bury Storehouse Pantry, secretary for New Bury Vision and helps to fundraise and apply for grants to keep the groups going.
Louise said: “I am not used to being the centre of attention. I just like to work hard behind the scenes and bring together all the groups I’m involved with to do the best work they can.”
“My motivation for getting involved in the first place was to give something back to the community. It is easy to just sit around and complain but I wanted to do something to help lift everyone’s spirits and encourage others to get involved too. Everyone is welcome and we do a bit of everything to help create a more happy community.”
Louise added: “The New Bury Vision Youth group of youngsters from our UCAN centre were nominated for an award tonight. It made me proud to see that they have looked at how we have all got involved and they’re now doing it for themselves. If we can all do our bit, it means there is less boredom and negative behaviour and the community is much better for it.”
Highly commended: Tracey Booth, Oldhams
Taking a stand star
Winner: Aminabhen Patel and Shantilal Jotangia, Deane
The actions and support we received from neighbours Mrs Patel and Mr Jotangia enabled us to take the appropriate actions to ultimately bring a sense of calm and peace to a troubled community that was being affected by a nuisance neighbour.
Shantilal said: “If someone is experiencing anti-social behaviour where they live, I encourage them to raise their concerns to get the right help and action. No-one deserves to be a victim. Thankfully support is available.”
Highly commended: Michael Cooper
Our star in Europe
Winner: FAST Romania
Based in Romania, FAST Romania was established 19 years ago to provide aid and support to orphanages and abandoned children in disadvantaged and remote villages across the country. The charity works with families, to get to the root of the issues that lead to abandonment, as well as working within the villages to create better housing and a support infrastructure.
After receiving the award, Daniel Hristea, FAST Romania President, said: “Our paths crossed whilst Bolton at Home were working on a project to improve housing in a village in Romania. Straight away we knew that we had a perfect fit, as we are both committed to improve the lives of people living in disadvantaged communities. Over the years we have learned so much from Bolton at Home about a holistic approach to helping communities through better housing and social care.”
“We are grateful for the collaboration with Bolton at Home, as well as the practical support provided by the teams that come to Romania each year to help build homes and workshops in Roma communities as part of our Better Homes Project. Bolton at Home is a main partner of our charity and it’s a great honour to be at the awards evening and to finally meet many of the people who have done so much to help over the years.”
As a key Bolton at Home partner, Oltalom has been working with us to give young people from our neighbourhoods a unique opportunity to gain valuable work experience whilst helping disadvantaged communities in Hungary. Starting out with building projects, the work now covers a broad range of project and all helps to improve the lives of people in remote areas. Whilst they are there, the young people gain new skills and life-changing experience, which helps boost their employment prospects when they return to the UK.
Speaking about the award, Dr. Andras Szalay, Oltalom representative, said: “The role that Bolton at Home plays in helping the communities in Hungary is vitally important. The young people that take part in the projects are helping to change the lives of vulnerable people whilst seeing for themselves a different way of life.”
“We mustn’t forget the role that the European community plays in helping these projects too. Much of the work that takes place is part financed by Europe and we hope that this will continue for many years to come.”
Thanks to the Mayor and Mayoress of Bolton for their support and attendance, Bolton Youth Brass Band and The Lazy Maybees for providing entertainment, our awards host Norman Prince and our event sponsors. They were AGR, Bolton Wanderers Community Trust, City Electrical Factors, Creative Pink Ltd, Forrest, Glendale, Graham’s Plumbers Merchants, J.G. Redford Ltd, Maxmedia, MCP Environmental, Seddons, Trowers and Hamlins, and Trustmarque.