Christmas comes early for 34 Community Champions
A boxing club coach, neighbourhood gardeners, litter pickers and lunch club volunteers are among 34 people from across the Borough who have been thanked for their amazing contribution to their local communities.
The Borough's seven Community Partnerships put the heroes forward to be crowned "Champion of the Community" as a way to thank them for all the time, support or expertise they give to local people, groups and charities.
Each champion was presented with a sustainable hamper filled with locally sourced goods supplied by local businesses from across the seven partnerships.
The hampers were presented to the community champions at each of the Community Partnership's Christmas displays while children from nearby schools performed Christmas carols with the support of Wildcats of Kilkenny singer, Mike McGrother.
Councillor Bob Cook, Leader of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, said: "We're really lucky to have so many people across our Borough who contribute so much. Each Community Partnership has put forward those who have gone above and beyond, despite their personal circumstances, to help others, make their local area a nicer place or provide support to people in need.
"I'd like to thank these remarkable people and also praise all those behind the Community Partnerships who get involved and volunteer week in, week out. Their collective efforts certainly show the real power of community and that is something which should be celebrated, especially at this time of the year."
Our special thanks goes to:
Billingham Community Partnership:
Keith Wharrier volunteers at Billingham Boxing Academy and also in the club's Thornaby gym. He is an asset to the club, making sure that it runs smoothly with plenty of coaches.
Ryan Carter is the longest serving Sunday Lunch Volunteer for Billingham Town Council. Despite being a new parent to twins he always turns up with a smile on his face - even if he's had no sleep!
Albert and Glynis Williams are long-term members of the Billingham Tidy Up group and devote a lot of time and energy to litter picking and making their community look clean and tidy. Despite a bereavement they have continued to work hard throughout the year.
Jennie Houseby works part time in Billingham Family Hub café and volunteers in their "Biscuit Ninjas" after school group and parenting programme. Jennie was a huge support to the Hub's HAF summer activities. She is also a carer for her husband and son.
Norton Community Partnership:
Helen Deehan runs the local eco refill shop and actively supports other local independent businesses offering space for them to showcase and sell their products. She is a parent governor of one of the local primary schools and an active member of the local business forum.
Jamie Hughes is a member of Norton Clean Up Your Act group and is up litter picking and walking his dog before most people are out of bed. He has helped keep Norton Grange recreation ground tidy by visiting almost every day this year.
Everyone in Norton knows and speaks highly of Satveer Kaur, owner of the Silver Cod, and all she and her husband Gurjit Singh Sidhu have done for the community and local children. A busy mum, she still finds time to continue to give to others even when faced with challenges such as a fire at their shop.
Rachel Andrews works hard to support the creative efforts of the Groundwork projects. She comes up with so many ideas, brings peace and calm to any project and is always willing to help.
Heather Hammond is a committed volunteer at Groundwork helping with the Active Play sessions and Eco Shop. She also organised an ice cream treat for each child in the group over the summer.
Stockton Central Community Partnership:
Sarah Thomson volunteers at the Family Hub, helping with range of groups. She goes above and beyond making families and children welcome, providing a safe and fun space for them.
Julie and Clive Pereira from Hardwick are out litter picking almost every day and join in with group picks as well as picking on their own. Julie is known for recruiting others to volunteer too.
Jane Hookey is an active volunteer at the food bank based at St Andrew's Church, Hardwick and in Chad's Pantry at St Chad's Church Roseworth. She puts in countless extra hours to make sure the two projects are able to run successfully and provide families with extra food hampers during school holidays.
Papise Mendy and Vadims Petrovics are keen gardeners and regularly volunteer in the Primrose Hill community garden.
Katharine Lam is an active Community Partnership member and represents a number of organisations. She was instrumental in making the Stockton-on-Tees Great Big Green Week a success.
Stockton West Community Partnership:
Vicki Nicholson volunteers for Friends of Ropner Park and helps the local community come together and enjoy the park.
Tony Crossen is much more than a park keeper. He takes time to listen and talk to people as they spend time in Ropner Park. He supports Friends of Ropner Park volunteers at their events. He takes a pride in his work and helps the park to look its best. He also keeps a watchful eye on the wildlife on the lake.
Ingleby Barwick Community Partnership:
Rebecca Sanders has raised thousands of pounds for Pancreatic Cancer UK research in memory of her father, Phil who died at a young age.
Sam Grogan, 14, supported key workers throughout lockdown including NHS workers, Cleveland Police and teachers, making sure they had hot food and refreshments. He also hosted virtual events to lift community spirits and raise money for local charities. Sam has even set up his own charitable organisation, Tees Valley Community Support.
Colin Stangoe is a popular, long-standing volunteer driver for many groups across the Tees Valley. Those who know him say he always goes the extra mile and steps in at short notice.
Sue Francis is known as "the Bird Lady" locally and has spent the last two decades caring for ill and injured birds.
Thornaby Community Partnership:
Kath Bateman, Chantelle Shuttleworth, Callum Richardson, Joan Naylor and Deborah Wood are committed volunteer gardeners who help keep the On a Mission Community Garden in shape. Their determination and can-do attitude has made the community space what it is today; a place for everyone to come together for community growing and friendship.
Winnie Cammish Cleasby is the enthusiastic leader of Thornaby Litter Picking group and a great advocate for being more eco-friendly. She is very community minded and a friend to many.
Yarm and Parishes Community Partnership winners:
Carol Hyde continued to run and cook for the Yarm Lunch Club through the pandemic providing meals for around 80 older people every week which were delivered to their homes.
Yvonne Pybus from Yarm is a true champion of the community. She does so much for her local community of Willey Flats. Yvonne organises social events and even cooks Christmas dinner for her neighbours who might otherwise not get one. Always at the end of the phone, she is a big personality and friend to all.
Gwynn Dunn is the Parish Clerk in Stillington and spends much of her own time helping others in the community. She runs the village play group and "Tea and Tonic" session. She makes sure everyone in the village is included in activities and keeps everyone up to date.
Judith Turner goes out of her way to help everyone in her community. From helping neighbours to running the village art club and "Tea and Tonic" session she is always busy making a difference to Stillington.
Emma Smith, 14, from Eaglescliffe is an inspirational young person. She has survived cancer and tirelessly fundraises for charities. She is a valued member of Bright Minds Big Futures - the Borough's award-winning youth-led movement - and always has a big smile on her face!
The sustainable hampers presented to the Champions of the Community were funded by the Lt Col NL Cohen Charitable Trust.