The Wokingham Paper

Civic pride: Wokingham residents' service to community recognised at awards ceremony

Civic awards
Winners of this year's Civic Awards Pictures: Phil Creighton

SOME of the borough’s finest volunteers were celebrated at a special awards ceremony on Friday night. 

Wokingham Town Council’s annual civic awards took place in the Town Hall, offering a celebration of individuals who deserve recognition for their outstanding achievements and support to others in Wokingham. 

Town mayor Cllr Lyn Forbes presented five people with honours to recognise their service, with one more award still to be made. 

Nominations were received from the public and judged by a panel that included members of Wokingham Town Council’s Civic Committee, David Riley the publisher of The Wokingham Paper, and the High Steward of Wokingham, Lucy Zeal.

Civic Awards
The young councillors with Wokingham town mayor and deputy mayor

And afterwards, Cllr Forbes recognised the dedication and commitment of the town council’s new School Councillors who took up their positions on Council committees last year. 

These new Councillors from The Holt, The Forest and Emmbrook Schools have ensured the Council represents the views and input from our younger generation. 

“Our students have amazed us, they come to meetings where decisions are made about key aspects of the work that we do and one or two of them have also helped at events,” Cllr Forbes said.

“As well as helping us hear the voice of our younger residents, we hope that this experience is giving them a taste of what local government is all about. I wish to thank all the students, who, like the Civic Award winners here today, have given up their time to serve others in the community.”

And Cllr David Lee, who chairs the civic committee, was delighted with the standard of nominations for the civic awards. 

“I am impressed by the contribution all volunteers make to the running and wellbeing of our town,” he said. “We are very lucky in that Wokingham has a multitude of organisations and charities set up to raise funds and help others. 

“We have so many dedicated and selfless people running and helping these organisations on a day-to-day basis and it is a great honour to recognise some of these individuals each year through the Civic Awards.  

“I would encourage anyone who is thinking of volunteering to ‘just do it’; you will gain more than you give.”  

Cllr Forbes said it had been a privilege to present the awards. 

“These people give so much time and energy to help others within our community,” she said.

“Congratulations to all our wonderful volunteers for the amazing work they do and to the many other people within our community who give freely of their time to help others. 

“This is truly the ‘heart of Wokingham’ in action, and these volunteers are the people that make Wokingham so special.”

The winners

Alex Baker

Civic Awards
Alex Baker receives his Civic Award from Wokingham Town Mayor Cllr Lynn Forbes

Nominated by Elizabeth McDonald and Laura de Moxom for his contribution to supporting teenagers with creative writing.

Alex has been a volunteer with the library service since 2014. Alex gives up every Saturday morning to come to Wokingham Library to run the teen creative writing group which is open to all young people aged 11 to 18 in Wokingham Borough who have an interest in creative writing. 

During the five years the group has been running, more than 100 teenagers have taken part in the group’s activities. 

The fact that the group members consistently attend and invite others to join in is a testament to Alex’s dedication, encouragement, inspiration and unending enthusiasm. 

Alex is a natural with this age group, something which is often remarked on by other library customers. Alex often volunteers to help with other library events not just in Wokingham but across the borough and is a real asset to the library service.

Emma Cantrell

Emma Cantrell civic awards
Emma Cantrell receives her Civic Award from Wokingham Town Mayor Cllr Lynn Forbes

Nominated by Eoin Donnelly and Katie Skilton for her contribution to the First Days charity.

Emma started the charity First Days Children’s Charity in 2013.  

Emma leads her team of helpers with passion and has selflessly given her time over the years since she started the charity to ensure the charity and services it provide goes from strength to strength.

Emma has developed a service that not only helps families at a point of financial crisis, by providing them with clothes, equipment, furniture and toys that they otherwise could not afford, but also helps professionals working with families – the health visitors, teachers, social workers and other professionals who refer families to the service often comment that they are able to do their job better because of the service that First Days provides. 

In the last two years, Emma has also worked very hard to establish support for children up to age 18 whose families are struggling to provide school uniforms for their children. 

A pilot project in Wokingham Town has been hugely successful in helping families and especially children to feel equal to their peers in their classroom and remove barriers to access to learning that come with not having the right equipment for school.

Gill McKernan

Civic awards
Gill Mckernan receives her Civic Award from Wokingham Town Mayor Cllr Lynn Forbes

Nominated by Emma Altoft and Mike Spencer for her contribution to the Giving Tree Appeal.

When many are planning for their own Christmas, Gill dedicates many hours of her own time organising the Giving Tree Appeal which provides Christmas toys and gifts for local families in need. Working with both charity recipients and local businesses, Gill organises every aspect to ensure that all the gifts are delivered in time for Christmas.

Gill’s boundless energy, combined with her caring and giving nature means that she makes such a difference to families in need in Wokingham – particularly at Christmas which can be such a difficult time for some. Gill also plays a major role in the Reading Toy Run.

Jacqueline Pluves

Civic Awards
Jacqueline Pluves receives her Civic Award from Wokingham Town Mayor Cllr Lynn Forbes

Nominated by Vickie Robertson and Lyndsey Lapthorn for her contribution to Finchampstead Baptist Church and the wider community.

Jacqueline works tirelessly for multiple groups ranging from small children, single parents, youth, people with disabilities, the elderly, the sick, and abused and refugees new to our community. Jac unites people and shines a light where it is needed. 

Jac makes people her priority and will always find a way to help, through inclusion, integration and collaboration. From the small things like sending a card or flowers to the sick or recently bereaved, meeting up for a coffee to provide a listening ear and support, to providing services such as a transport solution for those that need it, managing a care team of people to cook meals, organising and visiting those that are ill, lonely or isolated, running youth groups and self-esteem building trips away. Jac’s energy and enthusiasm are endless.   

Her heart is huge and as a result, many, many people of all ages, ethnicity, religion and gender have been helped, guided and supported within our community.

Pamela Creech

Civic Awards
Pamela Creech receives her civic award from Wokingham town mayor Cllr Lynn Forbes

Nominated by Gillian Allen and Rev Colin James for her contribution to All Saints Church and the wider community.

Since Pam retired from a dedicated career in teaching, she has given her time and energy to caring for her extended family and volunteering to help members of her community in a variety of different ways.

She is valued very much by those who work with her and those who receive her love and caring help.

Pam deserves a wider recognition for her quiet, caring work with individual members of the community, always knowing when a member of the community needs to talk, a bit of company or helping hand.

Pam runs marriage preparation courses, parenting skills workshops, fundraises and works with charities such as Peapods, British Legion and charities run by the Mothers’ Union.

Pam has also served for many years on the Steering Group Committee of the Cornerstone Community Building helping to keep the building and facilities accessible to the local community.

Rosalind Hardy

Nominated by Marjie Walker and Kate Mitchell for her contribution to the Link Visiting Scheme (unfortunately, Rosalind could not attend the ceremony, but the Mayor will be making a separate presentation to her next month).

Ros is a kind generous person who is full of empathy and understanding. She volunteers for the Link Visiting Scheme, supports a local art group and visits elderly people who love to read but can’t get to the library by doing home visits. 

Ros has an impressive knowledge of books and the library service which she puts to good use on her many visits, be it to someone at home or in hospital. Ros has also taught adult literacy and helped hundreds of adults learn how to read for the first time. 

Ros has been a volunteer of The Link Visiting Scheme for eight years supporting older people who are lonely and isolated and who are desperate to see a friendly face. For the last six years Ros and her husband Ralph have organised, planned, implemented and overseen The Link Christmas Day lunch, an event for anyone who is alone on Christmas Day.

This means that nearly 100 people across the borough each year and specifically in the town do not need to worry about Christmas Day – which for many without family is a very difficult day. Ros finds humour in adversity, and together with her easy nature makes her a pleasure to work with.

Each year on Christmas Day Ros and Ralf get home after lunch and enjoy beans on toast! They say it’s the best meal of the year knowing they’ve helped to make Christmas special and safe for so many who would otherwise be alone.

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