The outstanding efforts of individuals who have contributed selflessly to the community have been recognised at the Haslemere Volunteer Award Scheme’s annual ceremony at Haslemere Museum.
The annual awards celebrate the outstanding contributions of individuals within the community, nominated by those who have seen their selfless service first hand.
With a strong focus on community service, this year's nominees have gone above and beyond to make a positive impact on the lives of those around them.
From fundraising to coaching, these exceptional individuals have selflessly dedicated their time and energy to enriching the lives of others.
And star of the show this year was a group of volunteers who have helped around 150 Ukrainian refugees find homes in the area since the start of the war in their homeland 12 months ago.
Other awardees included former Haslemere mayor and founding member of the Haslemere Youth Hub Jim Edwards, Rotarian and farmer Paul Mills for his significant contributions to local charities, former Beacon Hill Football Club chairman Alex Gowing and Antonia Plant of the Fernhurst Centre and latterly the Hub.
The award scheme is run by volunteers and nominations are sought annually for those who have provided help and support to vulnerable members of the community.
The medals for the awards were donated by the late proprietor of the Herald, Sir Ray Tindle.
Below are the nominations sent in by various members of the Haslemere community who have put in their own words why each recipient should be honoured...
Proposed by Elizabeth Wren Seconded by Kay Cracknell
In 1994 Jim opened his business Basix in Weyhill and immediately threw himself into local activities. He took over as chairman of Haslemere Border Athletic Club in 1990 and his keen interest in athletics led him to train as a coach for multi-disciplines. During his 17 years as chairman he was instrumental in obtaining funding from the National Lottery for the all-weather running track and field event facilities at Woolmer Hill. He was also director of Woolmer Hill Sports Association for nine years.
He became a governor in 1995 at Shottermill Infant School and its chairman in 2007, eventually retiring in 2022 after 27 years. Jim enthusiastically involved himself in all aspects of the school and in so many fundraising events over the years.
From 2007 to 2019 he was elected a Haslemere town councillor and he also served on Waverley Borough Council. He was mayor of Haslemere 2011-2012 and keenly raised funds for chosen local charities during this time.
In 2008 Jim became a founding member of Weyhill in Bloom and is currently treasurer. He can be seen in all weathers, watering can in hand, attending to the containers and hanging baskets lining the street.
In 2015 he took over the Haslemere Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal and to date has raised more than a quarter of a million pounds. Indeed, the 2022 appeal raised over £37,000, its best result ever.
In 2018 Jim also became a founder member and trustee of the Youth Hub and volunteers regularly as a barista!
He is a dependable supporter of all good causes, is trustworthy and has an excellent work ethic. If he thinks he can do it he will and he is exceptionally driven to complete projects. So many organisations locally have benefited from Jim’s tireless work and wisdom. He never demands recognition and has worked quietly without reward. He is a sincere and genuine person who has contributed so much to the Haslemere community over many years.
Proposed by Ken Griffiths, Seconded by Peter Mathews
Paul started his community work in Plastow as a youth leader in 1981. In 1984 he moved to Prestwick Farm to start his own farming enterprise and continued this youth leader role in Plaistow for about eight years.
When Cub Scouts in Chiddingfold were short of leaders, he enrolled in the training courses and eventually became assistant Explorer Scout leader, a position he held for about 20 years until 2014, when he was approaching retirement from full-time work on the farm.
His main farming enterprise initially revolved around a flock of 500 breeding ewes and by 1990 the local communities starting taking an interest in his flock around lambing time and quite soon word spread that he was quite happy for families to view the lambing process. For health and safety reasons, he made the decision to formally publicise the event and invite visitors on one agreed Sunday in early March, about one week into the three-week lambing period. This gave him time to create publicity, organise insurance, parking signs, crowd barriers, hand-washing facilities, toilets, tea and cake stall, straw maize and for children to sit on a big red tractor and enjoy a bouncy castle, etc.
Apart from the lambing staff, all helpers were volunteers, so all the proceeds went to local charities. A collection of about £250 a day in 1990 steadily grew to around 1,000 visitors and £7,500 a day in 2017. Cash recipients were predominantly youth based and included Scouts and Guides and a new children’s playground in Chiddingfold. In later years a significant donation was made towards the Stoke Urology Centre at the RSCH.
This regular and reliable fundraising event drew attention from Haslemere Rotary Club who invited him to speak to them about more of his fundraising activities, such as climbing Kilimanjaro and Everest base camp (both for a prostate project). This also coincided with his retirement age looming and he made the decision to step back from full- time farming and become a full-time Haslemere Rotarian.
Soon after joining the Rotary Club he became president-elect in 2019 and during the pandemic was instrumental in setting up the Rotary pop-up shops, where we were offering face masks and other PPE equipment to the residents of Haslemere, not for sale, but for donations.
In 2021 he was president and during his time in office, which unusually has been for two years, he has overseen the collection of more than 200 used laptops from the people of Haslemere and the surrounding district. These have been refurbished and given to local Haslemere state schools to give to those children who did not have access to them at home.
This was during Covid and lockdown, so without these laptops the children were falling behind with their education.
He also set up a unique connection with HM Prison The Mount near Watford. Rotary had previously been making garden furniture from old wooden pallets. On hearing about this, Prison Industries offered to help and he set up an arrangement where we take the old pallets to the prison and the prisoners make garden furniture out of them, which we then collect and sell for the benefit of local charities. A win-win situation for everybody.
He has also been central in the Rotary Club’s appeal to raise money to help the people of Ukraine and here we have been able to send more than £10,000 to the Red Cross and others who have been leading the help for Ukraine. In addition to the money raised, a shipping container full of warm clothing, given by the people of Haslemere, has been sent to Ukraine to help them through this winter.
The list in his volunteering work within Rotary could go on. As the only member with a vehicle which can tow Father Christmas’ sleigh around the district, unlike the other Rotarians who volunteer forone or two trips only, Paul happily goes out on every run.
Proposed by Kate Livingstone, Seconded by Chris Boobyer
Antonia Plant has been involved with The Fernhurst Centre – now the Fernhurst Hub – since around 2005 and was appointed chair in 2020. The Hub is a financially sound, non-profit community centre located in the centre of the village.
Since Antonia’s appointment as chair, the Hub has been rebranded and a paid manager has been appointed to run the organisation on a day-to-day basis. This has transformed the efficiency of the operation and led to a much wider range of courses and events. Antonia works tirelessly to improve and update how the Hub is run and has been successful in getting grants to support it going forward. Under Antonia’s leadership the Hub was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2021.
Antonia is involved in every aspect of the Hub and devotes a huge amount of her time and energy to the promotion of its coffee shop as a meeting place and a venue for the many courses that are run for the local community and the wider Haslemere area. Antonia does everything she can to support the excellent group of volunteers who organise the courses that take place there, together with the social events and talks given by experts on a wide variety of subjects.
The Fernhurst Hub runs language courses (more than 70 students learning Spanish, French and Italian); bridge lessons (Antonia organised these herself and student numbers have grown from eight to more than 30 in the past few months); art and creative arts classes; ukulele lessons; yoga and phone/tablets/computer/Excel skills courses. In the past year, the Hub has welcomed Ukrainian refugees by offering free English lessons, courtesy of one of our generous language tutors, and held weekly social events so the refugees could meet other displaced compatriots.
The Hub is a fantastic example of a successful community enterprise, much loved by the local and wider community, and has benefited enormously from Antonia’s unwavering dedication.
Antonia’s commitment to The Hub and its hugely beneficial impact on the community demonstrates she deserves to be considered for the Haslemere Volunteer Award Scheme.
Proposed by Simon Dear
Seconded by Lisa O’Sullivan
I had the pleasure of meeting Alex Gowing during my year as mayor and learned he has been actively involved in Beacon Hill Football Club for the past 15 years. His role has ranged from a parent to coach to chairman of the club, a position he held from 2020 to 2022. Talking to others involved in the club, it was clear Alex has positively influenced countless young lives and reinforced respect, trust and team through the sport.
Alex has also encouraged many parents to play a role in the club, whether volunteering, taking supporting roles or training to become a coach.
In 2013 Alex started the Beacon Hill under-seven girls’ football team. This comprised eight girls including Alex’s daughter Chloe. At this time there were no girls’ leagues so the team played friendlies, mostly with boys and the scorelines were quite unforgiving, Alex instilled a sense of team and fun that kept spirits up and it is that ethos we see throughout the girls’ football leagues at Beacon Hill.
Having an organised girls’ team inspired many girls to join and play football for the first time or to move from teams where they played mixed football. The club grew to a point now where there are now multiple teams in every age group and 120 girls playing for BHFC and loving the game.
This has inspired other clubs in the area to start teams and the girls’ sport has grown beyond all expectation.
This has all been due to Alex’s commitment to the club and his vision for girls’ football, all done as a volunteer.
CLAIRE GORDON, CHARLOTTE MAUDE, NICHOLE WORDSWORTH, SUE DICKINSON
Proposed by Joanne Mackay, Seconded by Claire Matthes
Four nominations – for Charlotte Maude, Claire Gordon, Sue Dickinson and Nichole Wordsworth have each fulfilled the same role, providing vital support to the Ukrainian community in Haslemere and the surrounding villages since March 2022.
When the Haslemere for Ukraine group was set up, their crucial and equal roles have ensured Ukrainians have had the opportunity to learn English here.
Not only that, but in running these twice-weekly lessons, they have also provided a safe space for the Ukrainian community and have become key figures in giving the visitors living here much-needed advice and support. In short, they have become trusted figures for those who have fled conflict.
On a practical level, every Wednesday and Friday, each lady is responsible for a different group dependent on their English ability.
In reality, it’s not just the actual teaching time but also the planning of lessons which also takes up a large chunk of their week.
They all continue to give up their time in this way and have committed to continue to do so until such time as their teaching is no longer required.
Sadly, with the war progressing as it is, it feels this will be for a long time to come since most Ukrainians feel unable to return home for the foreseeable future.
All four have also worked to secure funding to provide much-needed language resources.
This has enabled every Ukrainian to receive their own language course books, items that are normally very expensive but which they secured for free through their hard work.
They also ensured premises were given free of charge to enable them to have a space in which to teach.
First of all, lessons were held at Pathways and we must thank Claire Matthes for allowing us to use this space. However, since the group grew so quickly, this space soon became too small and since then, we must thank The Herons Leisure Centre for giving up space for them to teach in.
And they also worked to recruit other volunteers so those attending lessons had the opportunity to enjoy plenty of conversation practice.
By recruiting others, it also enabled the Ukrainian community to meet more ‘locals’ which in turn enabled them to feel more part of the local Haslemere community.
In effect, lessons became a way in which Ukrainians could receive a warm but very practical welcome here.
Charlotte, Claire and Nichole’s efforts should be recognised as part of the local awards.
Although the nominations normally request that someone has volunteered for two years’ minimum, their particular service has come in exceptional circumstances and it is hoped allowance is made for this.
Proposed by Consuelo Windsor
Seconded by Ken Griffiths
Jo has been one of the major influences in drawing up the group of volunteers who are currently helping our Ukrainian friends.
And how could we possibly miss her out of the awards?
As her proposer, Consuelo Windsor, and seconder, Ken Griffiths, said, she works tirelessly for many causes and has worked to help Ukrainians in many capacities.
She organised a Ukrainian hosts’ get-together to introduce everyone and has a service helping to match refugees with families wishing to host, not only long-term but also Ukrainians needing housing for a few days or weeks.
Jo puts people of all ages who have clothes with people in need via Facebook – she acts as a go-between, and traces out to the community when someone is in need. She does the same with items for the food bank, specifying actual needs to target what is wanted by the food bank.
She is truly a very special volunteer in all senses of the word.