Unsung Community Heroes Recognised In National Awards

published on 6 Mar 2015

A host of unsung heroes from across the UK have been honoured at a national awards ceremony held on Wednesday 4th March 2015.

The annual Salvation Army Social Services Awards recognises volunteers and staff who have made an extraordinary contribution to help change the lives of vulnerable people. 

This year, award winners included:

A children’s club manager from Nottingham who has changing the lives of children in one of the most deprived areas of the city, and who is also providing emotional and practical support to their parents.  A tireless volunteer at a homelessness residential centre in Plymouth who has set up a literacy and numeracy programme, an allotment, cooking classes and introduced healthcare visits for residents. A couple who have brought their community of Easterhouse, Glasgow together despite a range of complex needs. The couple forged a new role for the church (corps) including prayer walking and door to door conversations, making the Salvation Army a central part of area.  



Major Paul Kingscott, Territorial Social Services Secretary in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, said:  “These awards are about the winners and winning centres which tell a story of dedication to caring for people who are vulnerable or in need in every community. This awards ceremony was an opportunity to recognise their hard work, support, and self-sacrifice. These people are there for others no matter how dark and difficult the circumstances and are truly good Samaritans helping others who might need compassionate support, a listening ear, or practical help.”

Lyndsey Withers, who volunteers at Plymouth’s Devonport House Lifehouse, received the Exceptional Contribution accolade. Lyndsey is a regular volunteer at the Plymouth Lifehouse, a residential centre offering support to people experiencing homelessness.

During her time volunteering Lyndsey has set up a literacy and numeracy programme, where lots of residents continue to learn to read and write, she has also been engaging residents in developing an allotment which has won a number of awards in the town. Alongside this work, Lyndsey has set up a cooking programme and holds weekly cookery classes to help build residents’ self-esteem and confidence. She has built excellent links with the university and introduced healthcare to the centre, with regular visits and treatments from the dental school and other health initiatives.

Lyndsey said: ‘I am very fortunate to work alongside some exceptional people, and in that I include our residents who have allowed me into their lives. It is a privilege to share a small part of their journey and witness the courage with which they confront huge challenges.

‘I thank The Salvation Army for its inclusiveness in allowing me to volunteer, especially for the freedom I have been given to build a programme of activities. I also want to recognise our partners in different organisations, particularly the staff and students of the University of Plymouth, including the Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. By working together, we are able to further our complementary aims, be it helping our residents to improve their health and wellbeing today, carrying out research that will benefit them tomorrow or training the practitioners of the future.’

Francesca Brown, received the Manager of the Year Award for Community Services thanks to her work as the Manager of an out of hour’s children’s club and early year’s provision which she runs at The Salvation Army’s Corps (church) in Nottingham.

As well as providing a vital service to children and local families, the service now offers work experience for young people. Francesca’s work in the community is making a real difference to local people. The out of hour’s club received an ‘outstanding’ rating in its most recent Ofsted inspection. “Leadership is inspirational,” says the report. “The dedicated team create outstanding provision for children, who thrive.”

An 11 year-old who uses the services said, at the time of the inspection: “The Salvation Army after school club is a really fun place. I really like Fran and will miss her plus the staff when I leave for year six. They are all helpful and they all care for me. I feel very comfortable when I spend time here.”

Francesca said: “It’s such an honour to win this award. I’d like to dedicate this award to my team. Without them we wouldn’t be able to move forward. We are based in an area of high deprivation and our work and we do what we do for the children.

Tom and Pamela Mitchell run the Easterhouse church (corps) in Glasgow. They received the ‘I’ll Fight’ award for their dedication to the community. Tom and Pam have a range of ongoing initiatives including a foodbank and children’s club.

Tom said: “We’re speechless to be honest. Obviously there is a team of people who have been part of this whole journey that we’re on.

 “I’d like to thank the staff at our headquarters in Glasgow for their support.

“I really believe that this is just the beginning of the work that Pam and I are doing in Easterhouse.  The Salvation Army stands out as an organisation that rolls its sleeves up and gets on with it. We’re in 2015 but William Booth in his I’ll fight speech could easily have been talking about our society today.”

The Salvation Army’s Social Services Awards, held in The Hayes Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire, recognises those who have made an exceptional contribution to the church and charity’s work helping vulnerable people as the largest provider of social care in the country after the government. With 16 older peoples’ homes, more than 80 Lifehouses to support homeless people, and more than 800 churches and community centres offering a range of services, The Salvation Army is on hand to help people across the UK and Ireland.

The awards are split into three categories - homelessness services, community services, and older people’s services. They are judged by independent panels, with hundreds of Salvation Army social centres and community churches along with thousands of staff in the UK and Republic of Ireland eligible for nomination by employees, service users, residents and local community groups.