East Sussex Big Thank You Awards shine a light on ‘very special people’ in our community

The East Sussex Big Thank You Awards held last night (Thursday, October 21) celebrated the work of key workers, neighbours, communities, families and friends through the pandemic.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 3:17 pm
East Sussex Big Thank you Awards 2021. All the Winners celebrate on stage (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-211022-103215008

The awards evening was held in Eastbourne’s Welcome Building – organised by the Eastbourne Herald, Hastings Observer, Sussex Express and Brighton & Hove Indy and sponsored by Hastings Direct.

Keith Ridley, host for the night, said, “We’re the lucky ones. We have the privilege this evening of being amongst some very special people. People who put others before themselves; people of all ages who showed incredible courage in the face of adversity.

“Let’s make this an evening never to be forgotten for some winners who we shall never forget.

East Sussex Big Thank you Awards 2021 (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-211022-103032008

“I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in local communities for almost half a century, but never have I witnessed a stronger sense of spirit and togetherness than I have in East Sussex.”

A total of 12 awards were given out:

Care sector hero - Elle Lakin

Elle’s job involves going out into the community to care for children with life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses.

Shop worker of the year – Maggie Dopson

Maggie took it upon herself to deliver essentials to vulnerable customers by walking an average of eight miles daily. During the second lockdown she decided to walk ‘virtually’ from Lands End to John O’Groats and back again which equates to 2,000 miles. She raised more than £700 for St Peter and St James’s Hospice.

Essential/Key worker, sponsored by Hastings Direct – DC Property Maintenance

During the pandemic, this company’s employees went about their business trying to protect people as well as they could by going into covid positive situations to help spray down properties at risk with a special fogging spray so it was safer for people living/working in environments most affected.  Community hero, sponsored by The Royal Hippodrome – Mankind: Ian Pickard and Paul Roskilly

Mankind was founded in January 2020 by friends Ian Pickard and Paul Roskilly to support men in need of mental-health support. Initially they met monthly at a local café but when covid hit the meetings moved online to continue offering support.

Collaboration award, sponsored by Hastings Borough Council – St Vincents Residential Home

St Vincents worked with families to give residents a safe and comfortable place to stay. This team of carers are well known throughout Sussex for the kindness, independence, choice, privacy, dignity and respect they offer to those in their care.

Child Hero – Usain John Graham

Inspired by Sir Captain Tom Moore, Usain decided to make the most of his own time during lockdown by creating his own gift sets consisting of keyrings and bracelets. At first he made them for people who were feeling low but then decided he would like to sell them to raise money for the NHS.

Inspirational Person, sponsored by Embassy Leisure – Paula Woolven

Paula formed her own community support hub to create projects where she felt there was an ‘unmet need’. When the pandemic hit the resources of the charity were stretched to their limits. In a lifetime of giving back to the local community, Paula has also raised more than £1 million for local causes close to her heart.

Family of the year, sponsored by Hastings Aquarium – The Ansell Family

Award organisers said, “As a family they stood by each other and asked for help from other family members to support them during a very challenging, unsettling and upsetting time. 

“When your life takes a dramatic change, life is tough enough - but coupled with challenges of Covid, this family would have felt isolated had they not been so wholly supportive of one-another.”

Volunteer of the year, sponsored by Hastings Direct – Beverly Owen

Beverly provided ongoing support and help throughout the lockdowns for people shielding due to chronic lung diseases. She offered people daily phone calls, shopping trips and made sure that everyone had the things they needed. Beverly also raised money for the local lung disease charity BreatheEasy.

Emergency services – David Keeley

Recently retired from the South East Coast Ambulance Service. David started his ambulance career in 1986 in Crowborough before moving to Hailsham to complete a two-year secondment as a paramedic with the Police Helicopter Hotel 900 team based in Shoreham. During his years of service David has worked within a number of other teams including the offshore rescue, the cliff rescue and public order units.

NHS hero, sponsored by Marshall Tufflex – Baird Ward

Operating as a covid ward since March 2020, Baird Ward’s staff stuck together as a team through the unprecedented times.

Education hero, sponsored by East Sussex College Group – Christa Chandler

Christa returned to teaching to cover long-term sick leave for a fellow teacher. Shortly afterwards school life was thrown into a lockdown and teaching moved online which she continued to work through.