Community Contribution Award

Kindly sponsored by

Plunkett’s popular Community Contribution Award, kindly sponsored by Thakeham, returns for another year as we once again seek to find an outstanding individual who has gone above and beyond for the community business over the recent months. The Award is looking for people who have gone the extra mile, perhaps they’ve:

  • been integral to ensuring those most in need within the community have been looked after during this difficult time
  • maybe they’ve lead the community business on food parcels or arranging social activities,
  • or maybe they’ve been at the helm of coordinating volunteers for the community business,
  • or they’ve simply been working tirelessly to ensure the community business has the funds it needs to see them through.

Following the nomination round, we received many wonderful entries telling us about people from all over the UK who have shown outstanding commitment and kindness to their communities. Those nominations were carefully considered by a panel of judges made up of representatives from Award sponsors and we are delighted to now be sharing with you, the three finalists of the Community Contribution Award as Karen Loftus, Simon Atkin and Vera Wright.

To help us find our overall winner, we’re asking you to vote for who you’d like to win. Voting will open on Monday 1st November and will close at 4pm on Monday 8th November.

Before registering your vote please do have a read through each of their stories by clicking on the individual buttons below

Karen Loftus has worked at Berrynarbor Village Shop for nearly nine years – her energy and enthusiasm leaves most of us breathless and we feel so lucky to have her here.

Karen’s commitment as Shop Manager to the shop, its volunteers and customers is abundantly evident, none more so than over the last year.

We knew how important the shop was to our community – we have an above average percentage of elderly and frail residents – many of whom rely on the shop for their essential groceries. As COVID struck we immediately decided on a course of action with the prime objectives of keeping our staff, customers and villagers safe while ensuring that we were still able to provide the vital service to those who have always depended on us.

Led by Karen, a small team of three, initiated measures in accordance to the Government guidelines – including restricting the opening hours; limiting the number of customers in the shop at any one time, social distancing, a one-way system and masking wearing, in order to protect those using the facility. A majority of our wonderful volunteers were considered in the high-risk category so were no longer able to support the shop, adding huge pressure onto the remaining team of three but Karen took it in her stride.

With a large number of people in the community shielding at home, Karen initiated a network of telephone volunteers who coordinated telephone orders and deliveries via a safe space above the shop. Using the power of social media, emails and telephone calls we informed our villagers, account holders and other customers (people come from quite a long way to use our fabulous shop) that if they were vulnerable or self-isolating they could phone through an order in the morning and we would make it up for them in the afternoon – either delivering it to them or they could come to collect at a given time slot. Karen recognised that some prefer to do their own browsing and so they were offered shopping appointments in the afternoon when they could have the shop to themselves. This proved invaluable to so many within the community.

To ensure our shop didn’t become a victim of empty shelves, Karen worked tirelessly to scour new local suppliers in the area to keep stocks at healthy levels, meaning our customers never went without. Now, thanks to Karen we are proud that a third of our food produce is from local sources within 30 miles of our beautiful village, thereby reducing our global footprint.

Karen had already contributed so much to the community shop during the initial months of the pandemic, going above and beyond to support those who needed the Village Shop the most, but thanks to one extraordinary commitment, Karen’s amazing efforts actually saved it from having to close when the shop was plagued by a number of power outages. Each time this required manual intervention to restart the power supply – not too much of a problem when the store was open, but when it happened during the shops closing hours, we were at risk of losing the huge and expensive amount of stock we had in the freezers.

After an electrician was unable to offer an explanation and therefore a solution, Karen decided to upload a link to the shop’s CCTV so that she could monitor the situation from home on her laptop and phone. Whenever the power supply failed she was alerted and would come down to the shop, even in the middle of the night and sometimes in the most awful weather, to reset the switches. She really did save the shop’s viability through her actions.

To underpin Karen’s commitment to Berrynarbor, we share the story of one of Berrynarbor’s most celebrated characters, Bill.

Bill is born and bred in the village and owned and worked a local farm until he retired about 20 years ago. He’s now in his late 80s. Those who know North Devon will appreciate how hilly it is and Bill’s house is no exception; up a very steep hill from the shop, up an even steeper drive and then 16 almost vertical steps to his front door. Bill has been fiercely independent, never married, and made a daily trip to the shop to buy all his grocery needs. He is dearly loved by all connected to the shop and we were saddened when he told us that he was having to stop three or four times on the way home to catch his breath. He was becoming increasingly unwell, had numerous hospital appointments and this eventually led to him not being able to come down to see us.

Step forward our Karen. She knew what his routine was, his shopping habits, what he liked to buy and his favourites. Karen would phone Bill each morning and assure him that she would do his shopping for him and deliver his groceries to his door. This she did on her way home for her lunch break each day. He would leave his front door unlocked so Karen could take his shopping into his kitchen and unpack it for him.  He was overwhelmed by her kindness.

Sadly, due to the onset of dementia, Bill isn’t able to make this submission himself. But I do know that he would passionately endorse Karen’s nomination for this award and if he could, he would still make that daily visit to our community shop.  We miss him!

Karen really is our heroine and is fully deserving of this award. She truly underpins our community business’s tagline of ‘we go the extra mile so you don’t have to’.

Unlike other villages in the area, Cullingworth has never received any financial support or resources from the Local Authority for the youth of the village. Simon Atkin, who lives in Cullingworth, approached the Village Hall – a community-owned business, requesting help to start a Youth Café.

The committee willingly offered space and advice to operate the Youth Café from the Village Hall to help combat the lack of provision for youths in the area.

Simon promptly pulled together a team of new volunteers to form a committee and was instrumental in establishing the Cullingworth Youth Café which opened on January 28th 2020 offering a broad range of activities for young people aged 10 to 16 years, every Friday with a membership cost of only £2.50 a year.

Thanks to Simon’s enthusiasm, the Youth Café runs two sessions for young people, one for those aged 10 to 12 and another for 12 to 16 year olds. Simon has worked hard in providing a range of activities including martial arts, youth yoga, first aid, art, table tennis, indoor tennis, pool, snooker and a wide selections of games. After a short break due to COVID, activities restarted in summer 2021 with the Youth Café fully opening again in September 2021.

From an absolute standing start Simon has achieved so much – the Youth Café now has a membership of over 80 young people and that number continues to grow. Simon also initiated a partnership with the local secondary school for a group of twelve young people to design and build a community garden in the grounds of the Village Hall. The garden boasts fantastic vegetable and herb beds, as well as a den in the woods, bug hotels and a mud kitchen. Simon and the young people have created a lovely space for any youngsters to visit and play in, including children from Cullingworth Preschool who were also invited to have their own designated vegetable patch.

Simon has created something very special in Cullingworth. The young people enjoy it, get thoroughly exhausted with the exercise and can chill out in the café. It’s made an enormous impact in the village and many people and businesses have supported his efforts with donations of equipment and funds and their time. It takes a lot of effort and guts to make a difference to young people, but he’s a fantastic role model and has created something that’s not only fun but helps them to become strong, responsible and independent. The feedback from the youth and their parents is outstanding. He deserves to be recognised for all his efforts.

Vera Wright has been an absolute lifeline to the Down Ampney Community Shop. At 83 years of age Vera has been an integral part of community life for many years, serving on the Football Club Committee as well as being a dinner lady in the local school and being involved in the church. But it was during the first lockdown period that Vera became instrumental in the operations of the Community Shop.

Vera had been working in the shop prior to the lockdown last March, but upon things shutting down Vera altered her hours to support the revised processes in the shops, in particular around the distribution of the newspapers.

Due to the shop area being small, to meet COVID regulations the shop had to limit the numbers entering the site to two at any one time. The footfall peak was at 9am when customers came to collect their daily newspaper, and so to avoid long queues that could have been detrimental to the health and safety of customers and staff, Vera coordinated a new process using a customer account facility on the EPOS system. This new process meant sales could be separate from the main system, and therefore allowed customers to collect their morning papers without having to enter the shop – reducing the risk of contact with others and keeping the shop clear for those shopping for additional items.

It was imperative that the newspapers were entered on to the system as early as possible after they were delivered, so Vera altered her hours – coming in early, Monday to Friday to ensure the process was completed – no mean feat for anyone, let alone an 83 year old! For the last year, Vera worked the early mornings every weekday, and through to mid-afternoon on a Tuesday.

While this may seem to some to be of little significance, Vera’s efforts to adapt and support the shop meant a great deal to the community and the community shop. Not only were customers able to access their papers with ease, the shop was able to maintain its biggest line of revenue and margin.

Vera took on this role whilst continuing her existing responsibilities of completing returns and balancing voucher account, as well as collecting various supplier invoices and delivery notes and passing them onto the bookkeeper.

Vera has since produced individual process documents so any new volunteers can pick up the jobs easily and quickly when required. Her efforts have transformed how the shop now operates, for the better.

Whatever task Vera is undertaking she does so with an element of professionalism and an infectious dry sense of humour which has been essential during a period of change and challenges.

I am proud to be nominating Vera for the Community Contribution Award, not only because of her tremendous effort she put into the above during an incredibly difficult time, but significantly because she is aged 83!

The winner of the Community Contribution Award will be announced at a special award ceremony hosted by Dame Prue Leith, on 25th November and will receive a £250 cheque for their chosen community-owned business.

If you would like to follow along with the ceremony, you can register to join the live-streaming by clicking here. Our thanks to Power to Change for their generous support in enabling the live-streaming facility.

Terms and conditions

  • Only one vote per email address, per award category will count
  • Anyone is permitted to submit a vote
  • Votes submitted before 10am on 1st November and after 4pm on the 8th November will not be counted
  • Votes from the public will be counted and scored according to their final vote tally. The person with most votes will score 3pts, second will score 2pts and third will score 1pt. These scores will then be added to the judges scoring to identify the winner
  • In the event of a tie, the judging panel will decide the overall winner 
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