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Community Awards celebrate unsung heroes across Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough

Group photo of the Community Awards winners

Unsung heroes from across the borough have scooped a prestigious Community Award for their vital contribution and dedication to their local community.

Local champions from areas throughout Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon were VIP’s at the council’s high-profile gala reception last week.

Sponsored by Almac, this is the first year of the distinguished awards.  Guests enjoyed an evening of entertainment with dinner, music by Swingabella and citations by local well-known radio and television presenter Siobhan McGarry.

Grainne O'Neill presented with her Volunteer of the Year Award by cllr. Brendan Curran

Grainne O’Neill presented with her Volunteer of the Year Award by cllr. Brendan Curran

With 12 award categories and over 80 well-deserving nominees, competition was tight. Winners on the night included Oasis Youth Club (Portadown) for the “Youth Sector Excellence Award”, Bann Youth Camp Steering Group (Banbridge) for the “New Community Group Award” and ABC Community Network for the “Large Community Group Award”. All winners received a stylish bespoke award created by Ciara Campbell Ceramics.

“I am delighted to present awards to these fantastic people who provide unrivalled support and help in their local communities” Comments Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Councillor Darryn Causby, “They are very special individuals who give their own time freely and use their skills and expertise to help others. Congratulations and well done to all – the borough is a richer place because of them”.

“The Community Awards are an excellent opportunity to reward local volunteers and groups who have “gone the extra mile” in supporting our communities.” Comments Jennifer Forsythe, Almac “The awards are very timely with Volunteers’ Week just around the corner. Well done to all the nominees and winners, your passion, drive and commitment for helping and supporting your area has shone through.”

WINNERS IN EACH CATEGORY

1-      OLDER PERSON’S AWARD – Winner: Richmount Rural Community Association    (Portadown) PIC – 19 Award presented by the Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Cllr Darryn Causby

Richmount Rural Community Association has been providing a lifeline to older people in the community for over three years. Weekly provision of traditional lunches and sessions in craft, dancing and drama keep minds active and promote healthy living. With a Men’s Shed initiative, bus trips and a community pharmacy this group combats social isolation in a rural area and is described as one big family.

2-      LARGE COMMUNITY GROUP – Winner: ABC Community Network PIC 20 Award presented by the Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Cllr Darryn Causby

The ABC Community Network has been providing on the ground support to the community and voluntary sector for 20 years. Its range of physical support services and practical assistance helps to establish and develop groups so that they can be better trained, informed, networked and publicised to serve the communities of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon.  They have also established a newly refurbished community hub in Portadown and hosts the community radio station ABC 100.2 FM.

3-    SMALL COMMUNITY GROUP – Joint Winner: Edgarstown Residents Association (Portadown ) & Keady Community Festival

The Edgarstown Residents Association continues to improve the lives of their community through community clean-ups, healthy living projects and fun days. Their homework club is one of the educational programmes supporting young people and their befriending scheme for the elderly does amazing work to restore a strong community pride in an area that has faced many challenges. PIC 22 Award presented by Chair of the Leisure and Community Services Committee, Cllr Mark Baxter

The Keady Cultural and Festival Group has revived a rich cultural activities calendar, benefitting the local area. Dedicated to solving local problems of anti-social behaviour and social isolation they provide volunteering opportunities and improve community self-esteem through this provision of safe and affordable events, festivals and activities. PIC 23 Award presented by Chair of the Leisure and Community Services Committee, Cllr Mark Baxter

4-YOUTH SECTOR EXCELLENCE AWARD – Winner: Oasis Youth Club (Portadown) PIC 24 Award presented by Chair of the Leisure and Community Services Committee, Cllr Mark Baxter

Founded in 2010, Oasis Youth caters to over 500 members through 11 varied projects per week. Oasis empowers young people from 15 different cultures by giving them opportunities to develop leadership and employability    skills. This is evidenced through the 2,000 volunteer hours completed by members in 2015. Oasis promotes an integration model for BME youth that is both vital and recognised as a good practice model in Northern Ireland.

5- GOOD RELATIONS AWARD – Winner: Richmount Rural Community Association (Portadown) PIC 25 Award presented by Chair of the Leisure and Community Services Committee, Cllr Mark Baxter

Richmount Rural Community Association have been heavily involved in good relations work in their area for years, with their committee consisting of representatives from the local ethnic groupings. Their inclusion work with the Bulgarian and Ukrainian community has provided language classes, family support training and media skills training to over 200 people. Richmount Rural Community Association has also proudly been involved in a host of cross cultural community events and exchange trips.

6- NEW COMMUNITY GROUP AWARD – Winner: Bann Youth Camp Steering Group (Banbridge) PIC 26 Award presented by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Cllr Brendan Curran

The Bann Youth Camp Steering Group is a cross-community group made up of 10 young people aged 15-18 years old. Meeting on a weekly basis, they have provided residential opportunities for young people from a wide range of backgrounds to participate in diversity workshops. They have facilitated the formation of new friendships, the development of leadership skills and more awareness of community issues. What was meant to be a one-off project is now entering its second year of valuable work.

7- HEALTHY LIFESTYLE AWARD – Winner: Voice of Recovery/Singing for Health  (Dromore) PIC 27 Award presented by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Cllr Brendan Curran

The Voice of Recovery volunteers run many services from the Recovery Café, including a clothes and food bank, a reminiscence cafe, lunch club, acoustic music nights and training and workshops on addiction and recovery. The Voice of Recovery group is mainly made up of recovering alcoholics that have showcased their singing performances at major health conferences across the UK and are currently recording an album. The value of their work is shown through the statistic that 90% of people have abstained from drinking as a result of participation in Voice of Recovery activities at the café.

8- NEIGHBOURHOOD IMPROVEMENT AWARD – Winner: Inland Waterways Association of Ireland PIC 28 Award presented by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Cllr Brendan Curran

The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland was formed 10 years ago and it’s 50 voluntary members aim to have the Newry Canal restored and reopened. Recently, a 4 mile stretch has been rewatered for canoeing and small boat activity through the building and installation of new lock gates and clearance of vegetation.  The group has also opened a heritage centre and produced the Canal towpath history app. Encouraging physical activity, they also run a weekly cycle safari as well as wildlife gardening and planting initiatives.

9- VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD – Winner: Grainne O’Neill PIC 29 Award presented by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Cllr Brendan Curran

Grainne O’Neill sadly lost her Mother Annie to Pancreatic Cancer on 30 January 2014. Grainne went on to realise her Mother’s vision for a charity to give cancer patients a “fighting chance”. She has worked tirelessly with ‘Fight On For Annie’ to raise thousands for pancreatic Cancer charities; all while studying for a degree in Events Management. Grainne has reached out and supported countless cancer sufferers, put boundless energy into raising awareness of the illness and has lobbied extensively to get the provision of life-lengthening drugs which are currently only available in England.

10– INNOVATION AWARD – Winner: Banbridge District Youth Council PIC 30 Award presented by Jennifer Forsythe, Almac

The Youth Council, PCSP & PSNI Partnership has demonstrated an innovative approach to addressing serious issues of safety and criminality amongst young people through the ‘Night Safe & Street Scene’ project. Innovative workshops are have been delivered to school and youth groups since 2013, each changed to suit current issues as raised by the Youth Council. A resource pack and ‘StreetScene’ props have also been developed to make these workshops truly creative and impactful for their audiences.

11- UNDER 18 YOUTH VOLUNTEER AWARD – Winner: Kerrie-Louise Prentice PIC 31 Award presented by the Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Cllr Darryn Causby

Kerrie-Louise Prentice has been part of the Scotch Street Youth Club for five years and has been truly dedicated in her participation of cross community and cross cultural projects. Her increase in confidence and communication skills has seen her develop friendships and give support to those from a variety of backgrounds. Kerrie Louise has gone on to complete over 200 volunteer hours, supporting the rural community at every opportunity, from daily youth clubs to a service-based trip abroad. Kerrie-Louise has been heavily involved in fundraising efforts and has been elected to represent her area in the first ever Children in Need Youth Advisory Panel.

12– LIFETIME ACHEIVER AWARD – Winner: John Wilson PIC 32 Award presented by the Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Cllr Darryn Causby

John Wilson has been a community volunteer and fund raiser for local charities for over 30 years. John continues to make a huge impact with the groups he is involved with, including The Birches Vintage Club, Richmount Rural Community Association and Country Comes to Town ( for most of which he was a founding member). John has provided and enhanced services for those in need, promoted the council area and supported residents from all sectors of the Community. His fundraising efforts are legendary, having raised over £600,000 for a host of fantastic charities.

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