Everyday Heroes winners: These are the people who make Bedford brilliant

Bedford Independent Everyday Heroes Winners Revealed 2020

The wait is now over and the winners of the 2020 Bedford Independent Everyday Heroes Awards, in partnership with The Harpur Trust, have been announced.

Thank you to all of our judges, who gave up their time to read through and consider all of the nominations to select their winners.

Every single nomination made us all feel so proud to be from Bedford and to be able to give a platform to our town’s Everyday Heroes.

Congratulations to all of our highly commended nominees and of course, all of our very worthy winners.

Each of them will receive the incredible Everyday Heroes original artwork designed by Carli Pfurtscheller, professionally framed by the awesome team at the Arc.

Everyday Heroes Awards certificates
Each highly commended and winner in each category will receive original artwork by Carli Pfurtscheller

So who won and why? Here they all are.

Please note: we have emailed all highly commended and winners at the address provided to us by the nominators, please respond to this email so we can arrange for your certificate to be delivered to you. If you have not received an email, please email admin@bedfordindependent.co.uk.

Volunteer of the Year – sponsored by The Harpur Trust

Highly commended: Susie Spyropoulos

Winner: Joanne Lambert

Why they won: Joanne spends almost all of each Monday organising and running St Andrew’s Brownies group meet, despite having Fibromyalgia, which often brings her to her knees. She also organises annual week-long pack holidays, sleepovers, carol singing, fun days, theatre, museum and London trips, the River Festival parade, making the costumes and props, so the girls can participate.

In October 2018, also Joanne set up a social/educational group for the Young Unaccompanied Refugees in Bedford, “Phoenix Rising”. Along with two others, she helps the Y.A.R. with college work, learn about UK society and their new life, socialise, build new friendships, and have fun through a series of life skills classes she has designed.

Excellence in Education – Host sponsor Bedford School

Highly commended: Sarah Stott

Winner: Natasha Carey

Why they won: During the last ten years, Natasha has worked passionately, round the clock, delivering West End style theatre training to children who come from all walks of life. Many of the children have special needs and they focus on allowing everyone to have equal lines to learn and as many songs and dances as they want to do.

Raising the Profile of the Town – Venue sponsor the Quarry Theatre at St. Luke’s

Highly commended: Taste Bedford

Winner: Mark Harrison

Why they won: Mark has worked tirelessly and selflessly to create and stage Bedford Park Concerts in Bedford Park. 2020 sees him celebrate Bedford Park Proms 25th Year.

His intention was to help put Bedford on the map by bringing some of the top music stars in the music industry to play in Bedford Park.

His contacts and sheer hard work has meant that Bedford has enjoyed concerts by the likes of Sir Tom Jones, Dizzee Rascal, UB40, Kaiser Chiefs, Jess Glynne, Michael Ball, Feeder, Basement Jaxx, Tom Walker, Tom Oddell, Cafe Mambe and countless more.

The Concerts bring in thousands of people to our town and in turn, local businesses benefit.

Local employment is also increased, with a largely local crew being employed to make sure the concerts work efficiently.

Mark’s community efforts are also apparent with a local charity benefitting from the concerts, which for the last few years have been the MS Therapy Centre.

Community Business – sponsored by Woodfines Solicitors

Highly commended: Jigsaw Marketing

Winner: Watton Recruitment

Why they won: Over the last few years, Watton Recruitment has supported YMCA Bedfordshire with their Women’s Refuge Christmas appeal.

Pretty much all the women who come to the refuges do so with nothing. They and their children have fled leaving clothing and toys behind them.

When Watton Recruitment were asked for her help, they didn’t hesitate to say yes and their passion and zeal in getting contacts to donate to the appeal blew us away.

They go above and beyond in sourcing gifts for the women, making sure no one is left out and that everyone receives something from Father Christmas on Christmas day.

On top of this, Watton Recruitment also supports the Night shelter, Faces Charity, Kings Arms refugee families and Sue Ryder. They also sponsor a local young DJ on In2Beats.

Independent Retailer of the Year – sponsored by Brewpoint

Highly commended: Caffe Crema

Winner: Beerfly

Why they won: Beerfly opened in 2018 and their nominator said: “the range of beer products and knowledge of products is great as well as the great community of visitors to the shop.”

The shop also put on the Hops and Dreams beer festival at the Harper Suite. Many of the volunteers that helped at the event were customers of the shop and were there to help support Beerfly and its owner, Tim Edwards.

Beerfly’s Bedford Homebrewer’s Club, which gave the opportunity to have a beer brewed commercially and served at Hops and Dreams, hosting the first “St. Cuthbert’s Street Party” with Herd and local music collective Roll Your Own Records.

They also hold regular collaborations with other local businesses such as Brewhouse & Kitchen on special beers and supporting Record Store Day with Slide Record Shop and supporting the Town Centre Champions’/Totally Locally FiverFest.

Unsung Hero – sponsored by Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company

Highly commended: Martin Denny

Winner: Martin Keys

Why they won: The person nominating Martin has MS and has called him “one of the most caring, the kindest men” they have come to know in Bedford. Aside from Martin helping them when they visit, Martin also employs young people with learning difficulties and others who need their confidence restored or in some cases building up.

Young Achiever – sponsored by Bedford Heights

Highly commended: Cheyenne Circuitt

Winner: Varun Bandi

Why they won: 14-year-old Varun is a young disabled wheelchair user and was the first member of the newly formed Wheelchair Racing section of the Bedford and Country Athletic Club.

Varun quickly adapted to racing wheelchairs and it wasn’t long before he began to show his potential, amazing everybody who saw him. Within six months, he was racing in the London mini marathon from Tower Bridge to Buckingham Palace – he finished 3rd for his age group.

In the 18 months he has been racing he has continuously posted personal bests in track events during the summer of 2019. He was awarded the prize for the Young Disabled Sportsman of the year at the Bedford Sports Awards.

He also volunteered to work with the Backup Trust in London. Having been on a training course, he will now be going on his own to Exmoor during school holidays with the Trust to help those under 13 with spinal injuries.

Fundraiser of the Year – sponsored by The Bedford Swan Hotel

Highly commended: Paul Kellet

Winner: Emma Garrett

Why they won: “Emma is well known as the former owner of the Kiosk and Pavilion in the Park, making these two small businesses a community hub,” said her nomination. “Less well know is her extraordinary fundraising in 2019.”

After battling cancer since 2009, Emma’s beloved husband died on 22 December 2018. Coping with grief and staying strong for her five children Emma has also raised extraordinary funds for St. John’s Hospice Bedford, Primrose unit and the Bobby Moore fund.

She has done this through Challenge 51 – a remarkable series of events including jazz performances, sponsored walks, brunch, lunch, climbing, running, marathons and Mount Kenya. All this on top of Soupfest 2019 for homeless and running her two café businesses. “She is extraordinary. She is strong.”

Campaigner of the Year – sponsored by Explore Bedford

Highly commended: Helen Patterson

Winner: Melanie Stratton

Why they won: Mel is an inspiration to many, said the person nominating her. “If ever there was someone who epitomises the saying – walk the walk, don’t talk the talk- that’s Mel!” In 2018, Mel set up the Love in a Bag initiative, collecting donations of unwanted handbags filled with toiletries and essentials.

In January 2019, Mel was able to give 646 donated handbags to charities supporting Bedford’s vulnerable women. “Mel’s belief is to ‘Pay it forward’ and she does this with enthusiasm and selflessness,” said her nominator. “She is always generous of her time and truly does this out of the goodness of her heart- a truly philanthropic person through and through.”

Apprentice of the Year – sponsored by White Hart Press

Highly commended: Sophie Hood

Winner: Holly Perry

Why they won: “Proactive was a word invented for Holly,” said the staff at Mark Rutherford School who nominated her. She approaches her role with determination to succeed and to put her school on the STEM map.

Holly went from being a pupil at the school to their STEM assistant. “Holly’s journey leading up to this appointment highlights the successful output of identifying a skills gap, making the most of the educational opportunities presented and filling a highly skilled employment gap,” said her testimonial

COVID Hero (Business/Organisation) – sponsored by the Bedford Independent

Highly commended: FACES

Winner: Dine With Us Community Larder

Why they won: Dine with Us Community Larder repurposes unsold food and allows those in need to make use of it 52 weeks of the year. This service did not halt or decrease during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, instead the demands increased as members of the community struggled financially.

Every week 100 collections are made on average day and night from supermarkets and food outlets by 32 volunteers in Bedford. “The daily excess of food is delivered to the most valued and vulnerable members of our community – our care homes, schools and emergency services. The East of England Ambulance Service, Bedfordshire Police HQ, Bedford Hospital, Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue and HM Prison Bedford are regular beneficiaries.”

Each Tuesday, they serve between 40 and 60 customers at their shop on Greyfriars and they provide care packages to families identified by six schools highlighting the challenging circumstances many have found themselves in. A Saturday night hot meal has been provided for the homeless for the past five years – with no interruption to service during the pandemic.

COVID Hero (Individual) – sponsored by the Bedford Independent

Highly commended: Craig Dawson

Winner: Jaswinder Kumar

Why they won: Jaswinder Kumar of the Sri Ravidass Sabha Bedford has been put forward for “his unbelievable dedication to our Bedford community” said his nominator.

He led a team of people to put the community first, delivering 18,000 meals in 103 days during the first lockdown.

These meals helped the vulnerable, self-isolating and those that were struggling to get out to buy food, as well as making deliveries to the hospital staff, district nursing teams and ambulance paramedics.

They also delivered to care homes throughout the town, including but not exclusive to Bedford Charter House and Puttenhoe Residential Home and delivered meals once a week to the homeless who were being looked after in Holiday Inn Express in Bedford.

Jaswinder demonstrated through his leadership amazing selflessness and simply put everyone else’s needs before his.  “Jaswinder and his team are a credit to the town.”