Thursday, 24 May 2018

Henley Honours its Heroes

Henley Honours its Heroes

HENLEY’S unsung community champions were honoured at a ceremony at the town hall.

More than 100 people attended the presentation of the inaugural Henley Heroes awards, which were launched to celebrate those who make a positive difference to life in the town but aren’t always recognised.

Ten trophies were presented in four categories before a surprise 11th went to the woman whose service to the community and to charity inspired the scheme.

Friday’s ceremony, which was hosted by BBC Radio Berkshire presenter Andrew Peach, was organised by town manager Helen Barnett with a committee of business people, town councillors and community workers with the support of the Henley Standard.

Guests were welcomed at a drinks reception in the council chamber before adjourning to the Queen Elizabeth Room for a three-course dinner with entertainment.

Each winner was called up to the stage to collect a glass trophy.

Ms Barnett told the audience: “It is wonderful to see so many of you who are enthusiastic about the place you live in, clearly shown by your attitude and contribution. Tonight we are here to recognise and celebrate that.

“We want the people of Henley to be passionate about the place where they live and it is a huge honour to be a part of this special event.

“However, the real stars are all of the nominees who characterise the positive values and strengths of our town.”

In the Greener Henley category, the community champion award went to DAVID DICKIE, of the Henley in Transition environmental group.

Mr Dickie, of St Katherine’s Road, was nominated by environmental campaigner Julia Carey and Edith Gardiner for his efforts to reduce pollution in the town centre by raising awareness of the dangers of car engines idling in stationary traffic.

He also launched the Close Your Door initiative in which businesses are encouraged to shut their doors to protect staff and customers from harmful nitrogen dioxide and fuel particulates.

Mr Dickie could not attend so his trophy was collected on his behalf by Charles Langler, of Queen Street, Henley.

A short acceptance video recorded in advance was then played.

The runner-up was Angelina Jones, of Greys Road, who co-ordinates the annual Toad Patrol initiative to protect the creatures as they cross the busy Marlow Road to reach their spawning ground at the Henley Business School. It helps thousands of the amphibians during the six-week spring migration.

Artist Clive Hemsley was also nominated for installing a “living wall” on the side of his house in Hart Street which absorbs pollutants.

The winner of the business environment award was NICOLE HEWITT, owner of the Chi hair salon in Reading Road, Henley.

She was nominated by Mrs Carey, of Reading Road, for using only environmentally-friendly products and avoiding the use of plastics where possible while encouraging other traders to follow her example.

Mrs Hewitt has always tried to be a responsible consumer but embraced greener business practices after seeing a washed-up shampoo bottle on a beach in Jamaica and realising it was a brand she stocked.

The ceremony fell on her 48th birthday so she was presented with a cake and candles while the audience sang Happy Birthday.

Mrs Hewitt said: “There’s a lot of pressure on consumers to ‘do the right thing’ for the planet but businesses must also do their bit.

“I’m very honoured to have won an award for simply following my heart and doing what I think is right but it was a magical night and a great boost for Henley.”

Jane Tutill, who launched the Willow Basket whole foods store in Friday Street last year, was the runner-up after being nominated by Helen Fraser.

The store sells coffee in compostable cups, encourages customers to bring their own containers to buy produce and sells goods in exact quantities so that customers don’t waste them.

JULIA CAREY won the waste recycling and reduction award for setting up the Refill campaign with Henley town councillor Sarah Miller.

This encourages traders to allow customers to fill up their water bottles in their shops.

She is also campaigning for a plastic-free aisle in the town’s supermarkets and has bought the rights to Bag It, a film which illustrates the effects of plastic pollution on the world’s oceans, and shows it to the public for free.

Mrs Carey said: “I’m absolutely thrilled and quite honoured to be among all these wonderful people. I want to say a big thank-you to Henley in Transition as they’re a fantastic group and I’m working under their umbrella.

“It’s extremely promising that other nominees are campaigning for plastic reduction. I think we’ll become a plastic-free town in a few years’ time as there is so much support for it.”

The runner-up was interior designer Lynne Lambourne, who organises the Love Local markets for local producers at Henley town hall and also runs Love Nellie, which produces upcycled home fixtures and furniture from second-hand goods.

In the Henley Business Partnership Awards category, GILLIAN NAHUM was named entrepreneur of the year.

She owns Henley Sales and Charter, which is based in Friday Street, and last month launched a new venture called E-Boatique which sells and hires electric and hybrid boats.

She was nominated by Barbara Foks, of Green Lane, Henley.

Ms Nahum could not attend so her award was collected by Niki Schäfer, chairwoman of the Henley Business Partnership.

The runner-up was Paul Carpenter, who runs Henley Computer Repairs in Hart Street. He was nominated by customer Judith Rowlands, from Wargrave.

The great place to work award went to Remenham technology firm PRACTICUS, whose staff raised £6,000 for the Ronald McDonald House charity in 2017.

It was collected by Jordan Blake, head of community management, who was one of 16 employees who took part in a series of sponsored challenges, including the Tough Mudder obstacle course. Mr Webster also cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

In the Sporting Awards section, COLIN BRATHWAITE, of St Mark’s Road, won the outstanding achievement prize for leading the Henley Skatepark Initiative, which successfully campaigned for a £290,000 “wheeled sports facility” to be installed at Makins recreation ground off Greys Road.

The work was completed last summer after years of campaigning and the new facility, which replaced a rapidly deteriorating skate park on the same site, is now popular with skateboarders, BMX cyclists and scooter riders.

Mr Brathwaite said: “I’m very happy to have won this and find it pretty humbling. It took a lot of effort and hard work to replace the skate park but it was definitely worthwhile.”

The inspiring individual award went to LOU PORTER, of Priest Close, Nettlebed, who is coach of the village’s Stingers netball team as well as a “back to netball” programme for returning players.

She was nominated by Chantelle Stubbs, from Fawley, who lost four stone by getting back into netball, and Totie Southwell, of Greys Road, Henley, who plays for the Stingers.

Henley businessman Alan Pontin, who sponsored the award, was so inspired by her contributions that he agree to sponsor the Stingers for the next year.

Mrs Porter said: “It was so unexpected and I’m sure there are more deserving candidates but it shows that all the hard work and effort I’ve put in has been worth it. It shows that my passion for the sport is shining through and that hopefully I’m not doing a bad job!

“I love netball so much and it has been wonderful to see it go from strength to strength. We’re looking to start another team because there’s so much demand and I’d love to launch a youth group as well.”

The runner-up was Trish Barnard, who oversees youth training at Henley Hockey Club and
co-ordinates a timetable for more than 100 young players every year. She was nominated by Madeleine Marston, of Greys Road, Henley.

In the Community Awards, CAITLIN DONALDSON was named child of courage after launching the Caitlin Rocks scheme.

The 10-year-old, of South Avenue, Henley, who is being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, has painted hundreds of rocks in different colours and designs and left them around the town for people to discover and rehide.

They have since made their way all over the world, with followers on her Facebook page reporting finds as far as Spain, Mexico and the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

Each guest at the ceremony was given their own “Caitlin rock” to either keep or rehide.

Lisa Stevens, of Crisp Road, Henley, nominated Caitlin after reading a Henley Standard story about her campaign.

Henley Mayor Kellie Hinton, who presented her award, told the audience she had considered backing out of the ceremony following the death of Henley Town Council’s parks manager Gareth Bartle earlier that day but didn’t want to let Caitlin down.

The youngster, who goes to Badgemore Primary School, attended the event with her parents Nick and Tammy Kelly and brother Lewis, nine, and was given a standing ovation by the audience. Councillor Hinton said: “Caitlin, I’ve had possibly the worst day I’ve ever had as a councillor and you are the reason I’m here tonight.

“Knowing that I was coming here tonight to present you with this well-deserved award was what made me leave the house, so thank you so much. You are more than an inspiration.”

Mrs Donaldson said: “It was amazing and very well-deserved — I think Caitlin really earned it. She got a bit of stage fright on the evening but she’s very proud and couldn’t wait to go back to school and show off her trophy.

“She and her brother were very tired after the ceremony but they enjoyed it.”

Fund-raiser of the year was DAVID YOUNG, who has volunteered for the Royal British Legion’s Kidmore End branch for 23 years. Mr Young, of Ashford Avenue, Sonning Common, spends hours every year preparing goods for the Poppy Appeal, dropping off charity boxes, collecting door to door, setting up stands outside shops and counting donations before sending them off.

He was nominated by Lily Tyler-Batt, from Binfield Heath, who was presented with an unannounced prize for the neatest submission.

Mr Young said: “I’m over the moon and can barely believe I’ve won this.

“It gets to the point where you don’t even think about the effort you’re putting in and it simply becomes a part of your year.

“I’m incredibly grateful but I don’t do it for the recognition — I want to give something back to our armed forces and honour those who gave their lives for this country.”

The runner-up was John Green, chairman of the Legion’s Henley and Peppard branch.

Mr Green, of Maidensgrove, is well-known for attending fund-raising events dressed in a First World War soldier’s uniform.

Earlier this year he won a Henley Town Medal for his efforts, which include walking 100 miles across Holland in four days in aid of the Poppy Appeal.

Also nominated were Anne Evans, of Wilson Avenue, Henley, who is conductor of Henley’s Aliquando choir, Stoke Row resident Joan Robins, a team leader at the Christian Community Action shop in Sonning Common, Peter Hopkins, of Wyndale Close, Henley, who has taken part in four charity runs for the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed, Annie Arscott, of Fair Mile, Henley, who is the Henley Poppy Appeal organiser, and long-serving Henley Poppy Appeal collector Connie Butt, of River Terrace.

Henley town councillor DAVID EGGLETON won the local hero trophy.

He co-founded the Gainsborough Residents’ Association with Paula Isaac in 2013 and has led numerous initiatives to tidy up the estate, including planting flowers and installing new signage at the entrance off Greys Road.

He organises an annual Santa toy run to the John Radcliffe children’s hospital in Oxford as well as regular food parcel collections for Tesco and Fareshare’s community foodbank scheme.

Councillor Eggleton, who lives in Gainsborough Road and runs a house clearance firm, performs good deeds throughout the year, including clearing snow from roads, salting icy pavements and even filling in potholes.

He received four nominations from his mother Anne, of Gainsborough Crescent, Chris Ward, of Ward Consultancy, Katie Conroy, of Market Place, and Mrs Carey.

Mrs Eggleton said: “David spends 90 per cent of his time doing things for someone else, no matter how large or small. He is always about, in the right place and at the right moment.

“He is a great asset to Henley and actually gives a damn about what goes on in this town. I, for one, am very proud of him.”

There were three runners-up: Richard Rodway, a solicitor for the Head Partnership in Bell Street, Henley, who has organised the Henley Living Advent Calendar since 2013, when he took over from founder Julie Perigo; Gillian Chappell, of Auton Place, Henley, who has run the town’s 1st Guides for 23 years; and Alfie Hay, who co-founded the annual Henley Youth Festival in 1993 and has helped to organise every one since.

Also nominated were Mr Brathwaite, Fiona Lloyd, Michael Colston, Ollie Collis, Julia Yeo, Tim Haigh, Paul McSweeney, Sue Prior, Richard Smith and Paul Barrett.

Councillor Eggleton said: “It was overwhelming — I knew I was nominated but never expected to win. The other nominees do as much for the community as me and any contribution, no matter how small, is important.

“It has a knock-on effect because the more positive things you do, the more likely you are to inspire other people to do the same thing.

“We’ve lost a bit of that community spirit some time ago and should do everything we can to bring it back because we all live on the same planet and should be more involved with helping others generally. People say they’re busy but you can always make time.”

The award for inspiring the event went to JILL HALL, a lifelong Henley resident who runs the town’s branch of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide.

The mother-of-two had been attending the support group since her husband David took his own life in 2009 and took charge when the previous leader stepped down about four years ago.

The group, which is run entirely by people who have lost loved ones, offers an environment where people can share their experiences or simply socialise over tea and biscuits.

Mrs Hall, 57, who lives off Peppard Lane, has worked in the kitchen at Trinity Primary School, which she attended as a child, since 2010. She started as an assistant and is now a cook.

The former childminder used to run a mother-and-toddler group at the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road and then prepared bacon butties for the fathers’ group at the d:two centre in Upper Market Place.

It was there that she met Giles Hoff, managing director of Savile Row Travel in Market Place, whose children Alby, 10, and Monty, 12, also used to attend Trinity.

He came up with the idea for Henley Heroes after hearing her story and wanting to honour those who quietly make the community a better place.

He said: “She gives an awful lot of time for nothing and the children absolutely love her. I felt that she and others like her deserve to be recognised for their valuable contributions.

“Her work with SOBS is especially valuable because so many people know somebody who has been affected by suicide, myself included, yet it remains a taboo subject.

“She was bowled over and gobsmacked but the people who don’t believe they deserve any credit are often those who deserve it the most.”

Mrs Hall said: “It was totally unexpected and I was in tears the whole time I was on stage so I didn’t hear anything that was being said.

“It’s a very lonely place when you lose someone and although friends stop by at first, their lives go back to normal and yours doesn’t.

“Counselling is all well and good but they don’t necessarily know what you’ve been through whereas everyone in the group understands.

“You don’t have to say anything at all although people usually open up after attending a few times and it’s very beneficial. The pain will never go away but it gets better.

“I’ve always loved helping people so I was happy to take over and I get a lot of benefit from talking to people who come as we’re all ultimately on the same level.”

Councillor Hinton said: “It’s been a real honour to be a part of this.

“When judging the awards, it’s really hard to narrow it down because there are so many wonderful people in this town. It’s a truly special place to live and work, and indeed to be Mayor of.

“It has been such a fantastic evening and I’ve had a wonderful time so thank you very much for creating something very special.”

Proceeds from the evening went to the Nomad youth and community project, which is based at the d:two centre in Upper Market Place.

To view the gallery of photos, click here

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