Community champions recognised at Westminster volunteer awards

SONY DSCVolunteering champions were hailed as the lifeblood of the community at an award ceremony.

More than 150 volunteers attended the first Westminster Community Awards, which combined previous events held by Westminster Council and Volunteer Centre Westminster.

Judges pored over a record 300 nominations across eight categories.

Councillor Steve Summers, cabinet member for community, said: “2012 was the year communities and volunteering took centre stage at the Olympics and I want to see Westminster keep that spirit alive in 2013 and beyond.

“This was the biggest volunteer awards to date and as there are so many inspirational stories to tell it is only right we recognise these fantastic achievements from the last 12 months.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of our communities and every person who gives just one moment of their time to help someone else makes Westminster a better place.”

Winners included John MacDonald, described as ‘the soul of the Westminster community’, who picked up the Bringing People Together award for his work in the Church Street neighbourhood.

He helps foster relationships between charities, community centres and the public, including arranging a shared minibus to give community groups the chance to visit the Royal Albert Hall. The Portman Estate and St John’s Hospice won the Partnership award. Since 2003, the estate has raised more than £50,000 for the hospice, which has lent the support of its experienced fundraising team.

A group of 13 to 18-year-olds who formed the Youth Secure Streets scheme to help youngsters escape lives of crime won the group award. The inspirational teens organise events led by industry professionals to help prevent gang and serious crime in their neighbourhoods.

Other winners included Emma Sweeney, who won the Better City Better Lives category for her work establishing Queen’s Park Community Council; charity Westminster Befriend a Family, which was named the Outstanding Organisation; Nellie Khossousi was the Young Volunteer; Khairy Eteiwy picked up the Inspiration award; and girl guide leader Sandra Kitchen won the Dedication trophy.

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