Dudley CVS AGM and Covid Heroes Awards 2020 – Celebrating inspirational people and vibrant communities across Dudley borough

At our virtual AGM and Covid Heroes Awards 2020 this year, we shared highlights from our work during 2019/20 and celebrated the outstanding contributions made by both individuals and groups to support those most vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the first part of the evening we shared highlights from our year; how we’ve been connecting, inspiring & championing great community work across Dudley borough: http://dudleycvsreview.org – You can download a snapshot of our annual report 2020 here: https://bit.ly/35xHUgO

During the second part of the evening, we recognised the amazing volunteers, staff and local groups who have truly gone the extra mile during these challenging times.

We are delighted to share this storyboard on our blog and hope you enjoy reading about our main awardees. You can watch nomination videos and also videos from some of our awardees, who have shared their thoughts on receiving an award.

Faith in the Community Award – Presented by Mark Axcell

Main Award: Michelle Smith

Michelle has a demanding full-time job and three young children, and yet for almost two years has led the Champions Kitchen outreach ministry. Pre-COVID 19 this involved organising and managing a weekly soup kitchen that served sit-down hot meals to around 70 people while also providing all guests with a bag of essential food supplies. This was delivered by a volunteer team of approximately 20 people each week. Michelle led the team which involved co-ordinating rotas, arranging food purchasing, liaising with local supermarkets for essential supplies and supervising the evening’s activities. 

Since COVID19 and the lockdown Michelle’s desire and passion to make sure no-one in need goes without has seen the weekly soup kitchen grow and expand into a weekly hot meal and essential supplies delivery service now catering for and delivering over 300 hot meals every Tuesday evening since the end of March.

Kindness in a Crisis Award – Presented by Paul Assinder

Highly Commended: Esther Olivier, Mary Stevens Hospice

Esther is from Mary Stevens Hospice and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has supported people with long-term conditions and their carers in the local community, in addition to patients receiving palliative and end of life care within Mary Stevens Hospice. Esther has worked above and beyond her role in several ways, with a dedication to help those most vulnerable in our Dudley community and always with kindness and compassion.

Highly Commended: Zyllah Moranne-Brown, Black Country Radio

Zyllah is a volunteer at Black Country Radio and has worked tirelessly, both within her remit as volunteer Head of Marketing and in other capacities, to ensure the station stayed on air and its volunteer base remained consistent during the pandemic. Her work can often go unnoticed but was essential for ensuring the station remained on air throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. Zyllah was responsible alongside another volunteer for picking up some of the 500+ calls from frequently anxious and vulnerable individuals, to the Black Country Radio Covid Support Helpline and signposting them to partners such as DCVS for support.

Highly Commended: Lottie Woodward

Lottie had a stroke at the start of January so was unable to do any ‘hands on’ work, so she created a coronavirus mental health page on Facebook. Using her skills as a counsellor and 30 years’ experience in domestic abuse, people have used this group to seek help and support. During lockdown, cases of domestic abuse cases have soared, and Lottie has selflessly given her time for free to help women who have got in touch with her to help them escape or manage dangerous situation.

Main Award: Shona-Rose Gilsenan, Just Straight Talk

Shona was visible and responsive within multiple communities across Dudley from day one of lockdown. Providing essential food and prescription drops to the boroughs to many people that simply could not do these everyday tasks for themselves. From those that could usually function that found themselves housebound to those that are the most vulnerable within our neighbourhoods.

She provided an avenue for people that live on their own or with people that do not communicate with other in their household talking to them for long periods of time over the phone and setting up zoom meetings and coffee mornings. Shona gained funding from additional sources to enable the purchasing of digital devices to connect with lonely and isolated people. She arranged events and quiz’s for people from all walks of life to get involved, make new friendships and grow and develop their own confidence and self-esteem without even leaving the house. In particular Shona encouraged people to lead within the groups and each week they became the co-ordinator of the session, they led the quiz and this gave the individual an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction.

Shona led and facilitated this and it became something very special. She stepped up almost immediately to the challenges Covid presented whilst juggling her own personal life and childcare. We feel very fortunate at Just Straight Talk as does the community as a whole, to have had her dedication and loyalty, always with a spring in her step and a smile.

Shona Gilsennan

Covid Community Champion Award – Presented by Kim Madill

Main Award: (Group) Sedgley Coronavirus Support

This community volunteer group was specifically formed quickly under the guidance of Jack Withers to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak. Jack recruited 20 volunteers local to the Sedgley area and immediately answered the call from Dudley CVS to register the group. They also arranged leaflet drops around the local community, so that vulnerable people could feel safe in the knowledge that there was someone there at the end of the phone, to help provide essential supplies of food and medicines and befriending telephone calls.

Main Award: (Individual) Andrea Childs and Carly Grandini-Williams

These wonderful ladies re-created Art during lockdown and shared via Facebook with hilarious results!! They gained a huge following of over 400 people on Facebook, people who just needed cheering up. The amount of comments they had from people saying that they were helping them to keep smiling through this difficult time was unbelievable. Each day was sillier than the last, with some of the photos causing hilarity when people were struggling to lift their spirits.

Business with a Big Heart Award – Presented by Tim Jones

Highly Commended: Abrar Ahmed, One 4 You Services Ltd

Their nominator told us that Abrar and his team have been so much help to the community by keeping them safe and meeting their needs during the pandemic. He gave free taxi rides to nurses and doctors to the hospitals, delivered medication and food parcels to vulnerable people so they didn’t need to leave the house. He and his team also provided 3 course meals to staff at Russells Hall hospital. This demonstrates that Abrar and his team really care for the community and have been a big help to them.

Main Award: Dudley Arms

For our main awardee, disaster struck on Friday March 21st 2020 when all pubs were forced to close. They closed the doors not knowing what would happen to the business, the staff or their own future. During this time their team set about doing all they could to make sure that local residents were catered for and that any opportunities to be active throughout the pandemic were achieved. They heard of the plight of a local older peoples sheltered accommodation and their need to receive meals during the pandemic. Despite knowing there was no income from their regulars, the brewery pressuring them for rent and facing an immediate future of no income, they still continued to provide food for the centre to prepare meals. In fact they prepared more than 2000 during the lockdown period. They supported the team through regular communication and when they heard that their local football team coached by Adam from Black Country Wellbeing Centre were struggling for sponsorship this year, they once again stepped in and saved the day.

Young Covid Hero Award – Presented by John Cook
Joint Main Award:

Alex Griffiths

Alex Griffiths

Alex’s nomination form – 024 Alex Griffiths

Katie Davies

Katie’s nomination form: 018 Katie Davies

Covid Superstar Award – Presented by Bal Kaur
Joint Main Award:

Rose Cook Monk

As soon as the pandemic started in March, they were one of the first volunteers to sign up to support Dudley CVS’s Covid Community Networks. They were matched up with Dennis on their first day, who had been referred for support by his neighbour. Dennis was vulnerable, isolated and shielding, but they started doing his shopping each week and cooking him home-made treats. They were horrified to hear he subsisted off frozen ready meals and was soon dropping off homemade dishes for his freezer. They used to chat a couple of times a week on the phone too and used to ask if he was ok. Dennis always said “I am now I’ve seen you and bless you for looking after me”.

When Dennis was rushed into hospital after falling down the stairs, they were the person he rang as he had no-one else to call. They were horrified that someone they had known for 5 weeks was completely alone and was determined to be a friend to him going forward. After he came out of hospital they continued to support him and when they couldn’t reach him on the phone a week later, called around his house to be told by his neighbour that he had died. They were devastated, but a little consoled with the fact they had made a huge impact on his life in a very short time, providing him with a friend when he needed one!

During the pandemic this volunteer looked after 14 vulnerable, isolated people, with shopping, prescription collections etc. They also raised money through their own voluntary group, the Duncan Edwards Foundation, to purchase PPE for those who needed it, making up over 500 care packages for keyworkers with toiletries such as skin creams – as wearing face masks all day was causing skin issues for NHS and care staff. They have even been so far as Derby delivering care packages for those who need them. They have, with the support of their family and friends, donated over 7,000 pieces of PPE to key and care workers, people who have been caring for elderly or vulnerable family members, and latterly to people who have been self-isolating who could now go out but were still wary to do so. In addition, they have also become a donation point for the food bank and donated 600 meals to needy families.

Phil Alliband

They were an active volunteer for the Dudley CVS Covid Locality Networks and they told us this about them:

My colleague and I have nicknamed this volunteer ‘Thunderbird 1’ as they leap into action within minutes for any crisis that may arise and never say ‘no’! They are our go to volunteer for anywhere in the borough. We have had calls at 5 pm on a Friday to the Black Country Radio helpline, when people need urgent prescriptions but could not leave their house to get to the chemist, as they had been shielding. One call to this volunteer and within an hour the prescription is collected, delivered and they are on their way home.

Phil gives everyone he helps his number and he’s the first person some of them call in an emergency. Barbara rings him often when she had a problem, such as needing to go to the GP surgery. Phil kitted himself and Barbara out with PPE, settled her in the back of his car and took her there himself.

We had some PPE donated by an anonymous donor during the pandemic and this volunteer collected the items from the donor. On one collection they needed to go with another volunteer and they took 8 car loads each! They took charge of the stock, logging what was available and fulfilling the order lists that they were sent weekly. Driving the length and breadth of Dudley borough, distributing over 200,000 items of PPE to schools, faith groups, charities, community groups etc., ensuring it was shared out to those most in need, including the Foodbank. They have been invaluable and without their commitment and organisational skills, this would have been a challenge with the restrictions during the pandemic.

Phil Alliband

A special thanks to all the amazing Covid heroes across the Dudley borough, and to those who contributed to making the evening such a special event!

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