Heroes' turn in the spotlight

Herald Series: Rear, from left, Trax staff members Matthew Wilde, Helen Bates and Ken Chrisp; middle from left, Matthew Leach, Jake Banbrough, Kyron Stevens, Adrian Scott; front from left, Alex Haselgrove, Max Johnston in the driving seat, and Harry Lyons Buy this photo Rear, from left, Trax staff members Matthew Wilde, Helen Bates and Ken Chrisp; middle from left, Matthew Leach, Jake Banbrough, Kyron Stevens, Adrian Scott; front from left, Alex Haselgrove, Max Johnston in the driving seat, and Harry Lyons

WORTHY local organisations and projects have been shortlisted for praise at this year’s Oxfordshire Charity and Volunteers Awards 2012.

The second annual award ceremony aims to celebrate people and charities for their dedication and inspirational work.

More than 20 groups will now battle it out for titles like Charity of the Year and a special lifetime achievement award at a glittering ceremony in October.

The awards are organised by Oxfordshire and Community Voluntary Action (OCVA) and spokesman Kate Hill said they were “overwhelmed” with the number of nominations this year.

She said: “We received over 140 nominations for volunteers, charities and community projects working to help people across Oxfordshire.

“The panel of independent judges had their work cut out shortlisting from such a wide range of outstanding entries, and were extremely impressed by the wide range of beneficial activities going on around the county.”

She added: “OCVA wants to thank everyone who nominated an organisation or individual volunteer for an award.”

Alongside the 23 groups battling it out for awards will be 60 individual volunteers, who will also received an honour recognising their work.

Among the groups shortlisted for an honour is SpecialEffect, a charity based in Charlbury dedicated to helping all young people with disabilities enjoy computer games.

Charity spokesman Mark Saville said: “It really is an absolute honour, we are chuffed to bits.

“It has been a great year. I think what really catches the imaginations of our fundraisers is that we look at what people with disabilities can do, rather than what they can’t.”

The charity received a boost earlier this year when Oxford United wore shirts emblazoned with its logo, which were then auctioned to raise cash. It is up for the Best Fundraising Work award.

Also nominated is Trax, the Oxford-based motoring project which started life as a way to help turn Blackbird Leys youngsters away from joyriding and into something constructive.

It has now helped more than 5,000 young people gain qualifications and this year celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Project manager Lyndon Biddle said: “The last few years have been very good to us, we moved to our new site four years ago, we’ve got more young people coming in and we offer formal qualifications and catering qualifications now too.

“As with all other charities, money is constantly an issue but what is comforting is that the demand is always there. We are managing to turn the lives of young people round, and that is what’s important.”

Manager of community-run Radley Village Shop, up for best community project, John Goodenough, said: “We are overwhelmed by it.

“We are in our sixth year now and we have 60 or 70 volunteers involved, so this really is great for them.”

Winners will be announced on October 23 at a special event at Oxford Town Hall in St Aldate’s.

OXFORDSHIRE CHARITY AND VOLUNTEERS AWARDS 2012 NOMINEES

CHARITY OF THE YEAR
Eve Women’s Wellbeing: Supports women to deal with the effects of emotional, physical and mental illness as well as empowering women to overcome the effects of domestic abuse in Bicester.
Startup: Charity based in Thame, which provides a transition from prison to community, by supporting ex-offenders into self-employment.
Vale House: 40-bed nursing home in Sandford, providing specialist care to the end of their lives for men and women who suffer from dementia.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
The Archway Foundation:
Serves those hurt by loneliness by providing regular social settings for people to meet and by offering a befriending service for those unable to attend these groups.
Pegasus Theatre Trust: Provides professional theatre and theatre training to young people.
TRAX: A motor project based in Oxford which has benefited more than 5,000 young people to help them turn their lives around, through projects such as mechanics and catering courses for school leavers with few or no qualifications.

BEST NEW GROUP
Banbury Workers’ Educational Association (WEA):
Provides access to education and learning for adults from all backgrounds, and in particular to those who have previously missed out on education.
Repatriation Volunteers Catering Team: Serves refreshments on repatriation days to the general public, military personnel, British Legion representatives, relatives, and extended family and friends of the bereaved.
Sustainable Witney: Works to change social attitudes and the built environment through projects such as swap shops, thermal imaging to help homeowners insulate intelligently and ‘carbon conversations’ to share tactics to reduce carbon footprints.

BEST FUNDRAISING WORK
Banbury Workers’ Educational Association (WEA).

Cultivate: A cooperative social enterprise that brings fresh, local, organically-grown food direct from farmers to the city and surrounding communities, with the aim to make great local food fairly-priced, convenient and accessible to more people in and around Oxford.
SpecialEffect: A charity dedicated to helping all young people with disabilities to enjoy computer games.

ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD
Abingdon Hydro: Working on hydroelectric power generation from the Thames by Abingdon Weir and is the first non-profit community project on the Thames to receive an Environment Agency licence.
Hogacre Common Eco Park: A resource in Oxford managed by local groups for the benefit of the whole community to recognise the need to act locally to reduce carbon footprint.

MANAGEMENT OF VOLUNTEERS AWARD
ARCh (Assisted Reading for Children in Oxfordshire):
Recruits, trains and supports volunteers in primary schools across Oxfordshire, to help hundreds of children a year who have trouble reading.
My Life My Choice: Run by and for people with learning disabilities; projects are based around the philosophy of people with learning disabilities being in charge which aims to improve confidence, self esteem and move towards greater independence.
Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre: A small local charity providing life-changing support services to women and girls who have experienced rape or sexual abuse at any time in their lives.

PARTNERSHIP AWARD

Aspire: Develops partnerships that span the business, voluntary, statutory and community sectors in order to create jobs, training and work placements for people living on the margins of Oxfordshire.
Creation Theatre Company: Partnered with Oxfam to present Oxford’s Shakespeare in the Islamic World festival to celebrate the cultural diversity of Oxford and place the city in an international context.
The Mind Response Housing Partnership: Run by Oxfordshire Mind and Response to provide a pathway of supported accommodation options for people with mental health and housing needs in Oxfordshire, aiming to simplify access, widen housing options, improve move–on and promote recovery.

BEST USE OF ONLINE TOOLS
Banbury Workers’ Educational Association (WEA)
Community Action Groups:
A network of local voluntary groups in Oxfordshire at the forefront of community led climate change action.

BEST COMMUNITY PROJECT
Oxfordshire Playbus:
Works with a diverse range of groups across the county, including youth groups via a specialist youth bus to encourage engagement in projects such as street hockey and DJ-ing, and helping people with dementia through the sensory bus.
Radley Village Shop: A community cooperative offering a range of basic essentials but with an emphasis on higher quality and local produce wherever possible.
Reading Quest: Dedicated to helping youngsters, mostly from disadvantaged homes, who are struggling with literacy.

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