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  • Writer's pictureGAVO IT

Caerphilly volunteers celebrated at GAVO awards evening

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Volunteers from across Caerphilly were recognised at a special awards evening, In partnership with Caerphilly County Borough Council at Blackwood Miners’ Institute.

Awards presented with Highly commended and Winners:

Youth Volunteer

This award recognised the incredible efforts of our younger citizens.

The first shortlisted candidate was Charlie Phillips who was nominated by Emma Chalk.

Charlie spends his spare time volunteering at Blackwood Cricket club where he supports the youth coaches. He has volunteered over 100 hours of his time since March, including during the summer holidays, supporting the summer scheme up at Blackwood Town Cricket Club to give children the opportunity to play cricket. Charlie’s volunteering goes beyond helping with just cricket, the club also ran a family jubilee party and he was there all morning helping set up and throughout the day.

Charlie is described as being a credit to his parents and to the club, someone others can look up to and see what can be achieved with hard work and determination. Nothing is too much trouble for him.

The second shortlisted candidates were Maddie Malpas, James Sage and Jacob Bryan who were nominated by Dave Cook. Maddie, James and Jacob together make up the Young Leaders involved in supporting the running of 1st Ystrad Mynach Scout group.

This team supported the group with fun activities during the COVID lockdowns and always approach tasks with a “can do, will do” attitude and a smile. The trio have also argued the cause for supporting the Young People within the Scouts, putting persuasive arguments to leaders around the delivery of Scouting and how it benefits mental health – and how important this was during those long lockdowns that isolated so many Young People resulting in a change in policy of the Scout group. Mental health sessions are now delivered to ensure that the Scouts have the best possible support.

They have given up substantial amounts of their own time to undertake additional training, Green Leaders, Advanced Outdoor First Aid, Archery, Climbing and Abseiling and are now permit holders that share these skills with Young People in Ystrad Mynach group and also within the Wider Scouting Community.

Winners: Maddie Malpas, James Sage & Jacob Bryan from Ystrad Mynach Scouts

Highly Commended: Charlie Phillips

Parent & Child Volunteer

This award acknowledges those that go the extra mile for our next generation. The first shortlisted candidate was Iona Watkins who was nominated by Sharon Harris.

Iona Watkins is a single mother to 5 children, some of which have additional needs. Iona herself has fibromyalga which can at times, be very debilitating. In addition to this, she also look after extended family members but still manages to find time to volunteer at her local weekly Parent Network group. Iona has a lot of experience when dealing with children that have additional educational needs and uses those skills while volunteering; she will sit with young mothers and offer reassurance and advice on a number of topics. Iona will also take with her a bag of crafts for the children who would like to engage in different activities, she will then sit with the children and offer assistance where needed. Iona has been described as an amazing volunteer who puts everyone before herself, she is always enthusiastic when volunteering and offers a listening ear to those who need it.

The second shortlisted candidate was Bridging Together who were nominated by Amanda Jones. The Bridging Together group are group of community members made up of residents from across the St James ward, covering areas such as Lansbury, Mornington Meadows & Porset Park. The group have been busy working all across the estate creating activities and community engagement programs. Over the past Year they have work tireless to engage and promote their community as one that maybe on the most deprived area in wales, but to prove it has the richest community support and spirit.

A few activities the group have arranged include suppling food bags to isolated residents throughout the pandemic, packing and personally delivering each bag to check in on residents, they walked the streets of the estates dressed as the Easter bunny during lockdown as well as hosting an Easter egg hunt in partnership with local housing associations, the police and the fire brigade. A swap shop for school uniform was set up by the group where 75 families attended and an additional 22 uniforms were delivered to residents who were isolating at that time. Just to name a few.

Winner: Iona Watkins

Highly Commended: Bridging Together

Trustee/Director Volunteer

This award recognises the often unseen work of trustees and directors. The first shortlisted candidate was Tara Holloway who was nominated by Dawn Derraven. Tara is the co-founder and director of RCV UK. The organisations aim is to ensure no-one in our community is lonely, hungry or frightened. Tara runs the day to day logistics of the charity along with the overall future plans. Tara has spent the last 2 years voluntarily working all hours to ensure that people in our community who are vulnerable get the help and support that they desperately need. She has been instrumental in producing a community coffee shop and food pantry along with an allotments to help improve local peoples wellbeing and mental health.

As a result of Tara’s hard work, the charity supports over 400 people regularly with shopping, prescriptions and befriending services. The organisation has recruited over 200 volunteers and the projects also include toddler groups, a bike hub, a food bank, coffee mornings and much more.

The second shortlisted candidate was Michelle Jones who was nominated by Karen. Michelle is the director of Libanus Lifestyle Wales, a community hub located in the heart of Blackwood, created to serve the needs of the town, and to facilitate and promote inclusion, recreation and leisure. The organisation provides a range of complementary therapies, mindfulness and relaxation sessions, bereavement and loss sessions, fitness and exercise sessions, line dancing classes, arts and crafts groups, parent and toddler groups as well as offering room hire for events and functions.

Michelle, recently retired, has dedicated and volunteered her time to Libanus Lifestyle. She has been described as a kind and caring lady, with calming nature and warm smile; who truly cares for her community and wishes to make positive changes within it.

Winner: Michelle Jones

Highly Commended: Tara Holloway

Food Sustainability Volunteer

This award is to recognise those who help us to waste less food and support those in need.

The first shortlisted candidate was Roger Hewitt who was nominated by Katy Stevenson. Roger is a lead volunteer on Groundwork’s Routes to Life programme who attends the programme regularly, 4 days a week. Described as being ‘truly inspirational’, Roger used his knowledge, connections and skills to develop a water system for the Routes2Life programme. The programme site has no mains water, and by sourcing used materials he has built an effective water capture system, harvesting rainwater for use in watering plants.

Roger has also engaged with the broader community during the developing cost of living crisis. He used his food growing skills to lead a virtual growing workshop, teaching community members how to grow their own food with limited resources and space.

The second shortlisted candidate was Cwmfelinfach Community Hub who were nominated by Stephanie Davies. Cwmfelinfach Community Hub opened during the peak of Covid in November 2021. The hub runs a food pantry with the aims of helping anyone in the community and the surrounding areas dealing with food poverty. During the pandemic, volunteers at the hub delivered food packages to those who were self-isolating; they also regularly bring food to the Cwmfelinfach Primary School yard to donate free of charge to parents and residents in need to ensure that none of the donations they receive go to waste.

Volunteers are now looking to expand the Hub beyond just a food pantry, with kids' clubs and back-to-work support meetings and coffee mornings planned.

Winner: Cwmfelinfach Community Hub

Highly Commended: Roger Hewitt

Sport Volunteer

The Sport category celebrates those who give their time to nurture local sporting talent.

The first shortlisted candidate was Sam Palmer who was nominated by Heather James. Sam coaches both under 8 football for Blackwood Town Football club and under 11 cricket for Blackwood Cricket club. Sam always puts coaching first and never misses a session; Even going as far as coaching football on the evening of his 18th birthday. Whatever the weather, Sam is always a willing and eager volunteer, travelling anywhere he is needed and visiting schools to help coach both football and cricket sessions.

The second shortlisted candidate was the Tennis Leaders at Caerphilly Tennis Club who have been nominated by Jonathan Morgan. Caerphilly’s Tennis Leaders consists of a group of 20 teenage players who assist the Head Coach with weekly junior coaching lessons, special events and school holiday activities. The group work with children aged 6 – 14, interacting with almost 160 players each week. Since launching the project in May 2021, the team leaders have become a huge asset to the Head Coach and the Club as a whole, having collectively volunteered over 550 hours of their time. They enhance the quality and enjoyment of activities for those that they coach.

Winner: Sam Palmer

Highly Commended: Caerphilly Tennis Club

Welsh Culture & Heritage Volunteer

This award recognises the work of those that ensure our culture is central to our vibrant communities.

The first shortlisted candidate was Nigel Bull who has been nominated by Cllr Chris Morgan.

Nigel has been organising the completion of the Community Garden in Bedwas. After taking over the project, Nigel has inspired the community to paint, weed, plant, grow and also install benches; Through doing this, Nigel has helped create a lovely community space for all.

Nigel’s tenacity has encouraged other members of the community to join in this project. The group have since expanded from gardening to litter picking green spaces and planting wild flowers. The group consists of retired citizens and they always complete their day of volunteering with a cup of coffee or tea at the community café run by the Bedwas Theatre Group, therefore also supporting another local group.

The second shortlisted candidate was Christopher Williams who was nominated by Dean Jones. Christopher, a retired postman, had a dream to restore the Cefn Fforest Miners Institute to its former glory. Since retiring, Chris has been volunteering at least twice a week, doing manual work which is contributing greatly to the restoration of this iconic building.

Chris has been described as having a ‘real determination to get the job done’, the nature of the work is very physical and Chris has gone above and beyond what is required. Whether it’s digging out earth or removing blown render off the walls, Chris is prepared to roll up his sleeves and get the job done.

Winner: Christopher Williams

Highly Commended: Nigel Bull

Health & Wellbeing Volunteer

Health and Wellbeing celebrates those that help us feel the best we can.

The first shortlisted candidate was Mike Rees who was nominated by Wendy Williams.

Mike Rees is the secretary of Blackwood Stroke Support Group. He has held this role for approximately 10 years, having volunteered after his own beloved wife suffered a stroke. Mike wanted to help other stroke survivors and has continued to volunteer in order to keep the group together.

Throughout the pandemic, Mike arranged weekly zoom chats in order for members to stay in touch and to help support them in any way that he could. Now that the group are meeting face-to-face again, Mike arranges trips and outings so that members can continue to get out of the house and socialise. At times, these trips are the only days that members leave their houses. Mike is described as having a cheery and welcoming attitude for both old and new members.

The second shortlisted candidate was Haydn Pritchard who was nominated by Lisa Horton. Having spent 35 years in the Army and and 10 years in the Welsh Guards, Haydn continues to serve his community by founding ‘The FitYard’. 3 years ago, he noticed there was something missing in the community to help with both fitness and improve mental health.

Haydn runs exercise classes several times a week for all ages and abilities, he’s also incorporated a running group that ranges from beginner classes to marathon runners. Running and walking classes are all free of charge for anyone who wishes to join and Haydn kindly volunteers his time to help others achieve their goals.

In her nomination, Lisa commented, “The FitYard is an amazing group of people who have all been brought together as a result of Haydn’s selfless act of kindness. Running on a regular basis with the club has not only helped myself but many of my fellow runners with our mental health – something which we all agree on!”

Winner: Haydn Pritchard

Highly Commended: Mike Rees

Environmental Volunteer

The Environmenal category celebrates those who go the extra mile to protect the planet.

The first shortlisted candidate was Caerphilly Miners Centre Gardening Group who were nominated by Katherine Hughes.

The aim of the Gardening Group at Caerphilly Miners has been to create a ‘Climate Change Garden for the Future’ with plants, composting, biodiversity, and food growing to sustain the challenges of a more hostile climate, with welcoming and relaxing garden at the Centre, for local people to use and enjoy.

A pond has been created to welcome wildlife such as frogs, toads and newts, and plants have been used in the garden that suit both the soil and the topography, attracting birds, bees and butterflies in the process. There are also bird boxes and a bug hotel to attract more wildlife and a beehive is planned for the future.

Volunteers in the gardening group have worked tirelessly to put these plans into action, through all weathers and all seasons. They have attracted new local volunteers, made them welcome, inducted and supported them, and made them aware of how to work safely. Some volunteers have lots of gardening experience, whilst others have very little but are keen to learn.

The second shortlisted candidates were John and Sue Venn who were nominated by Margaret Thomas.

John and Sue have a joint goal which is to make their community in Crosskeys a tidier and greener place for all. Every Monday, the pair set off to litter pick their area, every Tuesday when walking with friends, they will always take a couple of plastic bags and collect litter; On top of this, they are both part of a number of litter picking groups.

As impressive as this is, the pair go the extra mile by separating the recycling from the litter they collect. They take the recyclables home and add it to their bin to be collected on their collection day. The cans are put aside, stored in their garage so that they can be sold and the money goes to help Risca Museum with its funding shortfall.

Winners: Caerphilly Miners Centre Gardening Group

Highly Commended: John & Sue Venn

Mayor’s Civic Award - Presented by Cllr Elizabeth Aldworth

"I’ve selected this individual to receive the Mayor’s Civic Award because she has tirelessly given 50 years of service to her family, community and any deserving cause.

This person has served on several village committees, including the Village Hall and Vice Chair of Maesycwmmer Partnership. While her son was a pupil at Lewis Boys, she was a member of ‘Friends of Lewis School’ and helped out where she could. She has also helped schools outside of the borough by raising money for a minibus for Linden Bridge School in Penarth, a school for speech impaired children where her son attended for eight years.

Before Covid, this individual sang with the ‘Melody Makers’ who support various charities and one of her favourite pastimes is attending the over 50’s club where has been chairperson for about 10 years. Some of this volunteer work was carried out when this individual was working as Head Cook at the Council offices.

It is my great pleasure to present this prestigious award to Sue Griffin!"

Winner: Sue Griffin

High Sheriff’s Award

Winner: Carl Jones

Inspirational Volunteer - Presented by The Lord Lieutenant of Gwent Brigadier Robert Aitken CBE

This award goes to a volunteer who has gone that extra mile to make a difference and who strives to make a positive impact.

The first shortlisted candidate was Kelly Farr. Kelly joined the Royal Air Force in 2003 and qualified as an avionics engineer. She spent 3 years in the Avionics Bay at RNAS Culdrose, 2 years in the Air Camera Bay at RAF Aldergrove, 5 years in Puma Depth Support Hub at RAF Benson and then 5 years at RAF Cosford. She left the Service as a Sergeant.

Since leaving the force, Kelly has dedicated and volunteered her time to supporting and improving the lives of serving members in the Armed Forces, their families and veterans. She co-runs 2 veteran support hubs and is the focal point for anyone requiring mental health and wellbeing assistance or signposting.

Kelly offers her time almost 24/7 and whenever there is a person in need, she is there supporting them from start to finish. She organises trips, functions and support agencies to combat social isolation and loneliness. She provides access to benefits and debt advice, mental health and housing support.

The second shortlisted candidate was Theresa Heal. Theresa has been volunteering for the Parent Network for around 5 years. Theresa was faced with family challenged which resulted in her taking full time care of her nephew when he was 2 years old and unfortunately, she received no support from family members.

She struggled by herself and eventually decided to join the Parent Network’s kinship group. From there, her confidence grew and she started joining other groups within the Parent Network and volunteering in her spare time.

Theresa’s volunteering consisted of helping to run the Ty-Sign group every Tuesday morning and also volunteering every Friday to help teach other volunteers. When lockdown struck, face-to-face groups ceased however, Theresa supported the online meetings and also helped deliver presents at Christmas time to over 20 families. Also, a keen gardener, she took over running a gardening group all by herself.

Winner: Theresa Heal

Highly Commended: Kelly Farr

More photos to come soon!

Congratulations to all our winners and highly commended and a big thank you for your continued commitment to volunteering in Caerphilly.

We look forward to doing it all over again next year!


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