Inspirational volunteers are honoured by awards

Helen Nottingham - Unsung Hero
Helen Nottingham - Unsung Hero

Hundreds of people celebrated the achievements of Central Bedfordshire’s volunteers at the first Cheering Volunteering awards evening last Tuesday night.

The event was devised by Central Bedfordshire Council, working in partnership with the Volunteer Centres as part of Central Bedfordshire Together, to say thank you to those who give their time to help others.

Ukie Toones, Fundraiser of the Year

Ukie Toones, Fundraiser of the Year

And more than 400 people flocked to the Grove Theatre, in Dunstable, to celebrate the inspirational volunteers who make a huge difference to their communities and to the lives of individual people across Central Bedfordshire.

The winners were:

Unsung Hero of the Year (sponsored by Aragon Housing Association) went to Helen Buckingham (Hockliffe Helping Hands).

Helen has acted as the volunteer coordinator for the village care scheme since it was formed in 2006 to help people in times of need.

During that time she has managed more than 500 calls, day and night, to help friends and neighbours, and even recruited her husband and daughter as volunteers to help others – especially those who are disabled, inform or less mobile due to age.

Highly commended were Gillian Plummer (1st Woodside Brownies) and Enid Miller (Home-Start).

Fundraiser of the Year (sponsored by Biffa) was presented to Ukie Toones (Totternhoe Football and Social Club). As well as offering people a chance to play music together, Ukie Toones has helped many charities since it was formed in 2012.

These include the Alzheimer’s Society, Lymphoma Research, Yawn 16 – a club for young adults with learning difficulties, Charlie’s Gift and a Ukes for Kenya project which, helped by a grant, allowed 15 ukuleles and teaching resources to be sent to a school in the African country.

This year the group is fundraising for Luton and South Beds Motor Neurone Disease Association as well as supporting Yawn 16 again.

Highly commended was Clophill Support Group (Leonard Cheshire Nursing Home).

Panel’s Choice Award (sponsored by Prologis) wentto John Buxton (Greensand Trust).

John, 84, has been involved in volunteering for most of his life, working tirelessly to clear ponds, cut hedges, trim overhanging branches, and clear pathways and bridleways to improve access and habitats at various green sites across Bedfordshire.

As well as the Greensand Trust he has supported Bedfordshire Natural History Society, the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire and the local geology group.

Maureen Cloke (Girl Guiding) and Shirley Ansell (IT Family History - Dunstable Library) were highly commended.

Young Volunteer of the Year (sponsored by Volunteer Centre, Bedford) went to Helen Mountford (Leighton Buzzard Children’s Theatre) with Jamie Randell (Leighton Buzzard Railway) and Tess Bettle (Girl Guiding) highly commended.

Volunteer of the Year (sponsored by Central Bedfordshire Council) went to Jodie Chillery (Arlesey Remembers You), with Margaret Mozley (Road Victims Trust) and Rebeka Hillyard (Houghton Regis Helpers) highly commended.

Lifetime Achievement Award (sponsored by Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service) went to Peter Hodges (Leighton Buzzard Railway) with Nigel Green MBE (Bedfordshire Special Constabulary) and John & Pam Ward (Whipsnade Tree Cathedral) highly commended.

Outstanding Contribution to Volunteering (sponsored by Volunteer Centre, Central Bedfordshire) went to Gaye Beattie (Mencap Holiday Club), with Mary Page (Dunstable & District Disabled Sports) and Dunstable & District Citizen’s Advice Bureau highly commended.

As well as the awards ceremony, guests had the chance to find out more about voluntary organisations across Central Bedfordshire and enjoyed entertainment from internationally renowned Tom Jones tribute act Billy Lee.

Councillor Carole Hegley, Executive Member for Social Care and Housing, who was instrumental in organising the awards, said: “What a fantastic evening! I would like to thank all of the sponsors and everyone involved in the event who made it such a success.

“It was wonderful being able to celebrate the achievements of our volunteers – not just the winners but the thousands of people who give their time across Central Bedfordshire – and we are already looking forward to next year’s event.”

The event fell on the second day of national Volunteers’ Week. To find out more about volunteering opportunities, visit