Thanet Community Forest School has received this year’s Dane Valley Citizen Award.
The honour, which recognises the achievements of those living or working in the ward, is now in its third year.
The forest school, which has charitable status, was created by St Anthony’s teacher Luke Evans and is based on a former landfill area which has been turned into a young woodland with nearly 6000 trees planted in the last decade.
The aim is to teach under-privileged youngsters about sustainability, ecology, conservation and the environment.
The school also offers family events in the holidays and recently received a grant of £15,000, over three years, for multi-year core costs, via Kent Community Foundation, from the Albert Burns Children’s Trust Fund.
Dane Valley councillors Gary Hillman, Gary Taylor and Ros Dixon as well as Margate mayor Julie Dellar paid an unexpected visit to the site to hand over the award.
Luke said: “After a long and successful Easter family event at the Forest School we had a surprise visit from the Dane Valley councillors and The Mayor of Margate to give me and the TCFS team the 2019 Dane Valley Citizens Awards. I wish I had known they were coming so I could have had a shave the night before!
“However, me and the team were absolutely amazed with the award because it gives us recognition for all the blood, sweat and tears we have put into the charity over the past 24 months.
“I would also like to thank all of our sponsors who have helped make this dream come true such as Colyer Fergusson Charitable Trust, The Albert Burns Children’s Foundation, Kent Community Foundation and Tesco’s Cliftonville to mention but a few.
“Without the continued support of these organisations we wouldn’t have been able to offer the services we do to our community. I also think the whole of our team deserve special recognition too! Mick, our project manager, has helped to develop the most amazing site and has big plans for the future. Sally, our outreach lead, has reached out to local schools, families and businesses which has enhanced everything we do and helped make us sustainable in to the future. Fran, our care lead, has excellent skills working with adults whom have special needs, which has seen this area of the charity grow. Gemma, our Forest School leader, is exceptional and has developed our Forest School sessions for home educated children and local schools which means our reputation is growing stronger by the day.
“Finally, I would like to thank our community because without their continued support our charity simply would not exist. This achievement really does emphasise that normal people can make a difference in our community.”
Project manager Mick Sturman added: “ I’m extremely proud that we received the award. I believe it’s a recognition of what local people can achieve when they work together. Many groups and individuals have been involved in the site’s development, making a difference in hundreds of lives. Without them we would not be here.”
Cllr Hillman said: “I spoke with Luke Evans five years ago when this was just a pipe dream and I am delighted how far it has come so far.
“Now that the award has been set up I hope future councillors will continue it.”