Community champions are honoured

Joanne Blackwood (centre) and Jane Conroy (right), from Hospital of God at Greatham Hartlepool Day Centre, with Newcastle Building Society's Hartlepool branch manager Jean Fairweather. Below, Eileen Gardner, 90, picks up her award from Newcastle Building Society chief executive Jim Willens
Joanne Blackwood (centre) and Jane Conroy (right), from Hospital of God at Greatham Hartlepool Day Centre, with Newcastle Building Society's Hartlepool branch manager Jean Fairweather. Below, Eileen Gardner, 90, picks up her award from Newcastle Building Society chief executive Jim Willens
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SHINING stars of the community have been honoured at a glittering awards ceremony.

Community champions from Hartlepool were praised at Newcastle Building Society’s (NBS) Cornerstone of the Community awards.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

During a glitzy bash at Middlesbrough Football Club, town residents, as well as others from Darlington, Middlesbrough and Stokesley, were rewarded for doing something outstanding within their local community. Each winner received a trophy and £200 prize money.

The Hartlepool winners, chosen after the community nominated them through the town’s York Road-based branch, were Eileen Gardner, Josh Cooper and Hospital of God at Greatham Hartlepool Day Centre.

Mrs Gardner picked up the People’s Choice Award, which goes to people who are a “great ambassador for their area”, after a panel of judges heard how, despite reaching 90, she has managed to dedicate 32 years of volunteering to Hartlepool & District Hospice.

Mrs Gardner, who lives off Park Road, turned 90 on Tuesday and the awards event was held the day after she finally hung up her “volunteering hat” and retired from her role with the hospice, which has seen her volunteer with its day hospice patients, arrange a sponsored walk, sell calenders and organise the hospice’s tree of remembrance at Middleton Grange Shopping Centre over the years.

Carol Sennett, from the hospice, who attended the event, said: “Eileen is a rarity and an absolute gem and it was even said on the night that for a lady of her age, she puts people half her age to shame.”

Josh Cooper, 15, won the Young Person’s Award, which was open to young people who had inspired their friends, family or community through hard work. Josh has also done good for work for the hospice, especially having ran the Junior Great North Run eight times and is due to take part this year for the Wells Avenue-based facility.

Josh has also shown great commitment in the Scouts, achieving the highest award possible in each age group and helping with a local Beaver Scout group, where some members have learning difficulties.

Josh also leads the Green League at High Tunstall College of Science, where he helped win the Green Flag award and he also won Young Citizen of the Year and Green Champion accolades in 2011.

The Bishop Cuthbert youngster said: “I’m overwhelmed. So many good people were up for the award it makes me want to keep going.”

The Hospital of God at Greatham Hartlepool Day Centre, based in Heather Grove, which provides facilities for people with dementia and their carers, scooped NBS’s Hartlepool Branch Award.

The centre was chosen by branch staff as some customers had used it and received vital support in times of need.

Centre co-ordintator Joanne Blackwood said: “We were absolutely delighted just to be nominated, but to have won was absolutely fantastic.”

NBS chief executive Jim Willens said: “All our award winners should be proud of the positive work they have done on their community’s behalf. In many different ways they have made a significant difference to their local communities.”

“This event celebrated their selflessness and dedication to a cause. I was humbled by the work that people do within our communities.”