Recognition for the inspiring volunteers of Central Bedfordshire ‘the glue that holds communities together’

Hundreds of people turned out on Tuesday night (4 June) to celebrate the inspiring achievements of Central Bedfordshire’s volunteers.
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The fifth Cheering Volunteering awards and celebration evening took place at the Grove Theatre, in Dunstable.

The annual event began in 2015 to thank the many volunteers and voluntary organisations across Central Bedfordshire for the often-unheralded work they do to help others in their community.

And they have grown each year since then, with the judging panel this year particularly impressed by the quality of the entries.

Cheering Volunteers 2019. Photo: Joanna CrossCheering Volunteers 2019. Photo: Joanna Cross
Cheering Volunteers 2019. Photo: Joanna Cross

It was organised by Central Bedfordshire Council, working in partnership with the Volunteer Centres as part of Central Bedfordshire Together, and sponsored by Ringway Jacobs, Grand Union Housing Group, ProLogis, Jeakins Weir and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Before the ceremony began, people attending the event enjoyed a showcase of volunteering opportunities from organisations across Central Bedfordshire.

And then it was on to the event itself, with the hundreds in attendance watching seven awards being presented as well as a host of great entertainment.

The winners and highly commended in each category were:

Young Volunteer of the Year: Winner – Emily McCabe (volunteer with Aldwyck Housing Group); Highly commended – Junior Ambassadors from The Bedfordshire Junior Dignity Network; Ella O’Flynn (Volunteer with the Bedford & District Cerebral Palsy Society)

Volunteer of the Year: Winner – Janet Burgess (volunteer with St John’s Hospice); Highly commended –Stephen Foley (pharmacy volunteer); Pam Johnson (Carers in Bedfordshire)

Volunteer Group of the Year: Winner – Home Start Voluntary Group Dunstable; Highly commended – Salvation Army Debt Advisors Team; Pam and Dave Sainsbury (feeding the homeless in Dunstable).

Outstanding Contribution: Winner – Kayleigh Dalton (Domestic Abuse Victim Support Advisor); Highly commended – Dianne Foyle, Volunteer for Luton & Dunstable Hospital; Pam Brown, Volunteer for Luton & Dunstable Hospital.

Lifetime Achievement: Winner – Clare Kilby, Volunteer for community of Stotfold. Highly commended –Jonathan Payne (Supporting communities of Upper Caldecote, Northill and neighbouring villages); Jo Blair-Stuart (Chair of Trustees at Families United Network).

Sports Volunteer of the Year: Winner – Rotary Club Leighton Linslade. Highly commended – Sarah Blackburn (Houghton Hall Casual Joggers); Ian Smith (Ampthill Town Cricket Club).

Panel’s Choice Award: Winner – Alex and Jackie Vickers (The One Big Christmas Team at Ampthill Baptist Church). High Commended – Mary Cheshire (Conservation volunteer with Greensand Trust); Cognitive Stimulation Therapy Volunteers (helping people living with dementia in Leighton Buzzard and Arlesey).

Tom Jones impersonator Billy Lee compered the awards as well as belting out some crowd-pleasing classics, with additional offerings by talented local young artists – Claire Wilden and Lana Tookey.

The ‘Inspiring Volunteering’ small grants scheme, with a total funding pot of £5,000 to help local voluntary and community sector community projects, and to start new projects involving volunteers, saw seven voluntary and community organisations receive grant awards ranging from £100-£1,000. They are:

Shefford Greenspace Conservation Group - £250

Barnardos - £250

Caddington Scout Group - 105.70

Houghton Regis Hub Café - £920

The Greensand Trust - £450

Sorted Bedfordshire (counselling project) - £300

Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire - £840

Central Bedfordshire Council’s chairman, Councillor Cllr Brian Saunders, attended the evening in his ceremonial role and said: “What an amazing and inspirational event to be part of. I would like to congratulate not only the award winners and those who were highly commended in each category, but all of the other nominees and everyone who had a part to play in the evening.

“Volunteers are glue that holds communities together, so it was very fitting to celebrate their achievements during national Volunteers’ Week.”

To find out more about Cheering Volunteering, as well as the grant scheme, visit