PROUD community champions say they are “humbled” after being recognised at a glitzy presentation night.
Groups and individuals across Hartlepool were praised for their hard work and dedication in making the town a better place to live.
The awards were presented by Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA) at a ceremony to mark its landmark 25 year anniversary.
HVDA has supported 566 groups and 7,957 adults, helping draw in £6,631,574 in funding from external bodies.
Awards were also presented to other groups either celebrating 25 years service or who have had support from HVDA including Hartlepool Blind Welfare Association, Hartlepool Survival Group and All Our Yesterdays.
Hartlepool Blind Welfare Association, in Avenue Road, was established in 1923 and provides support and advice for 400 people who are blind or partially sighted.
Pat Bartram, vice president and chair, said: “HVDA have provided support, helped us obtain grants and volunteers and really fought our corner.”
Hartlepool Survival Group takes people into the North Yorkshire Moors to train them in the art of survival to help them cope with outdoor emergencies.
Leader Don Vaughan, 52, a former instructor in survival with the Territorial Army, said: “The group has had a lot of support from HVDA over the past 25 years.”
All Our Yesterdays was established in 1984 by West View resident Mary Power with the aim of bringing people together to talk about their life experiences and put them into print.
Copies of the short stories have been sent around the world.
The 79-year-old said: “We have had a lot of support over the years.”
Individual awards for volunteers with 25 years service were presented to David Byers, 60, and Paul Kinnersley, 47, of the Belle Vue Community, Sport and Youth Centre, and Jill Kitching of Epilepsy Outlook, which was established in 1987.
Founder Jill Kitching, 65, said: “Celebrating 25 years is a huge achievement.
“Our main achievement is helping those people with epilepsy and their families.”
Awards for HVDA board members were presented to Paul McCraith, for his 17 years service including chair for the past 11 and Jacqui Gettings, who has clocked up 12 years service, holding the treasurer post since 2007.
Mrs Gettings said: “I want to thank my fellow board members who are really supportive.”
Current HVDA volunteers Tony Leighton and Dianne Jones were also presented with awards alongside Keith Bayley, HVDA manager, and Peter Gowland, project development officer.
Mr Bayley said: “From doing voluntary work myself I have always recognised and understood the service to society and what people can get back.”
Mr Gowland added: “I feel humbled all of the time by the messages of thanks from groups.
“I get paid for what I do, lots of people out there do not but they have the passion.”
Wendy McLoughlin, who has served 18 years as chairman, vice-chairman and secretary, was also recognised.
Mrs McLoughlin, 67, who was the co-ordinator of Hartlepool Toy Library and PlayBus which now come under the umbrella of Hartlepool Families First, said: “This is a huge honour and it really is quite humbling.”
The Seaton resident was awarded an MBE in 2007 for services to disabled children and given the Freedom of the Borough in 2010.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright presented the awards and said: “HVDA has made a huge impression upon people in Hartlepool.”