Nourish Community Foodbank has been crowned the overall winner of this year’s Love Where We Live awards.
At last Tuesday’s ceremony at the Assembly Hall, Nourish was also named Charity of the Year in Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s nominations.
The awards, which have been running in their current format since 2012, recognise and celebrate those who make a difference to their local community.
Paralympic gold medallist Will Bayley attended the presentation, and the table tennis player from Groombridge was presented with a gold post box, made by Sevenoaks carpenter Terry Malone, in recognition of his achievements in Rio.
Local people have been requested to leave messages of congratulation in the box, which has made a tour of the Museum, the Assembly Hall and Farmer’s Market.
Nourish Community Foodbank was commended by the judges for the ‘huge contribution it has made to the local community’ since it was established in 2012.
The council commented: “They have helped over 4,500 people in crisis and work with over 90 partner teams who refer clients for emergency help when needed.”
Marianne MacDonald, one of Nourish’s Trustees, commented: “It’s a massive recognition. We were completely blown away.
“But we can’t take any of [the credit] because it belongs to the whole community and all the donations that local people make.
“It’s the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever been involved with. I do feel quite emotional about it.
“It’s really difficult, because we had a 38 per cent increase in referrals last year, and if you worked for a company you would be really happy with a result like that.
“But for us it comes on the back of crisis situations, on the basis of someone else’s misfortune,” she adds.
“It’s such a fine line between the haves and the have-nots. It could happen to any one of us.”
Seventeen-year-old George Milham was named as Young Volunteer of the Year for his work with Sherwood Men’s Shed.
The organisation, which started in October last year and was officially opened in April, aims to link the local community and the countryside.
It is based at TN2 Community Centre off Greggs Wood Road and acts as a ‘halfway house’ helping vulnerable residents back into the community, providing them with space to pursue DIY projects.
According to the judges, George has succeeded in ‘finding a niche where he can make a positive contribution to the community and learn new skills. Through volunteering he has been exposed to activities he would not normally have come into contact with’.
Chairman Tim Tempest, who started the initiative with Nick Robinson, paid tribute to George, saying: “He’s a friendly face, he gets on well with everyone and he keeps us all entertained – nothing is too much trouble.
“He comes up with some hair-brained schemes but there is always a grain of reasoning that makes them eminently sensible in the end.”
He added: “It makes it all worthwhile when anyone who comes to the shed gets something positive out of it. That’s what it’s all about.”
The village shop in Horsmonden, Heath Stores, run by Andrew and Kate Mills has won the prestigious Ethical Business award.
They describe themselves as a ‘fusion’ between a convenience store and a farm shop, with some 20 per cent of their produce sourced locally.
Andrew was brought up in the village and returned five years ago to take over the store. Kate said: “It’s great to be recognised by the community. We love living in Horsmonden, and it’s wonderful to be able to give something back.”
The couple are heavily involved in charity work in the local area and run a number of fundraising events such as last weekend’s scarecrow competition. They also sponsor the primary school’s football team.
The latest accolade comes on top of a number of other significant awards. It was named as the Daily Telegraph British Village Shop of the Year and UK Community Rural Retailer of the Year, and was also recognised as one of the 20 best small shops in the UK.
LOVE WHERE WE LIVE NOMINEES
Winner: Heath Stores.
Finalists: LitterGram, Grovehurst Lake.
Winner: Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun.
A non-competitive running club with an average of 130 runners participating in Dunorlan Park each Saturday.
Finalists: Compaid volunteers, Kent High Weald Partnership volunteers.
Winner: Zane Cheeseman, coach at Horsmonden Tennis Club for 14 years.
Finalists: Ellie Miles, Ben Baker.
Young Sports Achiever
Winner: Olivia Wittenberg.
Olivia, 11, came ninth in this year’s National Cross Country Finals and organised a sponsored run at her primary school raising nearly £1,000 for charity.
Finalists: Gymnast Harley Curtis-Lawrence, swimmer Annabel Guye-Johnson.
Winner: Heather Cullingworth.
A stalwart of the community of Frittenden, she is also the village lollipop lady and serves on the Parish Council. “She will always lend a hand and makes any occasion brighter and more community-oriented.”
Finalists: Susan Ashord, Pam Bridges.
Charity of the Year
Winner: Nourish Community Foodbank.
Finalists: Headway in West Kent, Compaid.
Young volunteer of the Year
Winner: George Milham.
Finalists: Keaton Smith, Lydia Rawley.