DEDICATED groups, teams, and other volunteers were among the second round of recipients awarded a Somerset Medal for their outstanding service during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Somerset Medal was launched by Somerset County Council to say a heartfelt thank-you to the ‘best of the best’ – with the winners honoured at a special reception at Taunton Rugby Club.
Somerset’s Lord Lieutenant, Annie Maw, spoke at the start of the ceremony before the medals were presented by council chair Nigel Taylor.
Those honoured included vaccination volunteers, community groups set up to help people in need during the pandemic, and supermarket workers who went above and beyond to support others.
The cross-party judging panel reviewed every nomination before coming to their decision on the winners. All nominees received a letter from the panel thanking them for their efforts.
Cllr David Fothergill, leader of the county council, said: “It was a great privilege to meet the Somerset Medal winners and hear their stories.
“The coronavirus pandemic has been a true test of our community spirit, and the Somerset Medal winners have displayed more than their fair share.
“They have gone above and beyond to help others and I am delighted we have been able to recognise their contributions through these awards.”
Winning Groups included:
- Volunteers at Bridgwater PCN mass vaccination centre, North Petherton. There are about 30 plus volunteers of different age groups who have consistently given up their time to participate in supporting the mass vaccination programme.
- Stoke St Gregory Community Group. The village was in danger of losing its remaining shop and pub just before the pandemic started. As a result, concerned residents set up a community company, HOTV Stoke St Gregory Ltd, to pump life back into the heart of the village. The project aim was to buy the Royal Oak, transfer the shop into it and run both shop and pub. The combined shop and pub has evolved into a community hub alongside a cafe. The coronavirus pandemic has spurred villagers to volunteer to help others in the community. This crisis has brought out the best of community spirit.
- Bridgwater Corona Helpers: Within a few days of the first lockdown a group was formed and was made up with volunteers from all over Bridgwater, old and young – nearly 100 people sent their details. A small team sifted and set up a call list. Working with Village Agents and Spark, the jobs started to come in. From prescription delivery to shopping, no task was too small.
- The Purplespoon Café in Bridgwater: It became clear that some families were missing out and the team realised that people in receipt of benefits and free school meals would continue to receive Government food, but some were missing out or just could not afford to feed everyone in their household. The team tried to fill the gap, open to every family in need, no questions asked, they offered a top up. They took donated food to produce nutritious meals that were given for free. The team started a donations page supported by local people and at times funded this from their own pockets to provide meals.
- Bridgwater Foodbank: Thousands of people have benefited from the work of this group as Bridgwater foodbank serves a huge area – most of Sedgemoor is covered. The Somerset Medal will recognise their extraordinary hard work, especially Keith Barnard for his efforts in setting the Foodbank up.
- Morland Community Hub: Since the start of all the national Covid lockdowns the Morland Hub team have worked endlessly to support the local community. This has included supplying emergency food supplies to those in need, hot meals delivered weekly to the vulnerable and crafting supplies to the elderly, to provide a necessary distraction to their often long and solitary days. On Christmas Eve the Hub became a food distribution centre under their new ‘Food Not Waste’ scheme by becoming a major supermarket’s sole collector of their surplus food. This included collection of the food, making up parcels and delivering during the whole evening and once again on Boxing Day. The Hub team were generously giving up their Christmas time until midnight to help those less fortunate.
- Burnham and Highbridge Coronavirus Support Group: They are a team of about 120 people from all walks of life who came together in short notice to assist those that needed help since the pandemic started. They mainly carry out duties such as shopping and prescription deliveries and have had many other requests during the time. They have carried out over 3,000 requests since the start and have formed many bonds within their community. Each of the volunteers have gone over and above what could have been asked of them and as a community.
- Volunteers at Berrow Medical Centre: They are a team of about 60 people from all walks of life who came together at short notice and have marshalled, in all weathers, over 23,000 people safely to have their vaccinations. They are the most pleasant friendly group and have amassed over 4,000 volunteer hours between them to ensure the smooth running of the vaccination campus at Berrow.
- Co-op Team, Axbridge: The Co-op is the only food shop in Axbridge and the whole team, led by their manager Jo, has provided a sterling service to residents throughout the pandemic. The team has worked hard implementing Covid safe measures, which are still in place, providing a welcoming setting and service with a smile. The shop has been vital to many customers, many of whom have been unable to travel to larger stores or access online shopping. The Co-op has always been a valuable asset to the town and the support of each member of the staff is much appreciated.
- Corona & the Cheddar Valley Community (including Axbridge): This ‘Let’s help each other group’ has been a lifeline to many residents over the Cheddar Valley, including residents of Axbridge. Set up right at the start of the pandemic, their volunteers have worked tirelessly by helping others – whether by carrying out their shopping, collecting prescriptions or simply having a chat. They have helped so many people who have been unwell, isolating, or vulnerable – showing kindness at a time when it is most needed. They are a shining example of how small acts of kindness can grow into something quite wonderful.