Three people who, with their teams, have made a huge difference to the lives of others during the pandemic have received civic champion awards from The Ramsgate Society.
Opening the awards ceremony this month John Walker, Chair of The Ramsgate Society, said the champion awards are for local people who, in the opinion of the Society’s Executive Committee, have made an exceptional contribution to the quality of life in the town.
He added: “The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it not only the fear of severe infection but acute economic hardship to local residents. In response to the pandemic there were some extraordinary examples of people, who by their unselfish efforts, made a huge difference to many peoples’ lives. For this reason in 2020, the award is given to three exceptional and inspirational leaders of dedicated volunteer teams who each in their own way brought food security to Ramsgate residents.”
Ceremony host Sue Gyde, The Ramsgate Society Executive Committee member, introduced the three recipients of the Civic Champion Awards 2020 as: Cara Thorpe – Manager of Newington Community Centre; Sharon Goodyer – volunteer CEO of Our Kitchen, Ramsgate and Captain Carl Whitewood – Salvation Army, Ramsgate.
Sue said: “The first day of the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 had an immediate impact on all three Ramsgate organisations who were already providing food parcels and low cost food to residents in need.
“Under Captain Carl Whitewood, his Ramsgate Salvation Army team had to create a volunteer rota overnight. The food bank had zero stock and they were unable to bulk-buy due to restrictions imposed by the supermarkets. So, volunteers went on multiple shopping trips purchasing two or three items at a time in order to keep the food bank going.
“ Cara Thorpe set up the ‘Newington Community Food Club’ from day one of the lockdown using FareShare Kent to source food and then to collect donated food that was nearing or past its ‘best before’ date.
“Sharon Goodyer established an ‘Our Kitchen’ food shop in the unused church hall of St George the Martyr in Ramsgate using the same model established in ‘Our Kitchen’ in Margate where healthy food, such as £1 bags of vegetables and fruit and a range of tasty ready meals are sold at affordable prices.
“Cara and her Newington team were collecting food donations weekly from 19 local supermarkets and delivering to many, many homes.. The ‘Our Kitchen’ membership expanded rapidly during this time and now has nearly 1,500 registered members, many of them families with children.
“The number of people that benefited from the Salvation Army Food Bank rocketed from 1,974 in 2019 to 6,600 in 2020. Deliveries to homes went from zero in 2019 to 844 in 2020 as vulnerable individuals and households were urged to stay indoors.
“Throughout the pandemic all three award winners had to receive visitors, collect and deliver food under the strictest of COVID-19 restrictions.
“The three organisations are also engaged in supporting and networking with a range of local institutions; school Family Liaison Officers, mental health teams, GP surgeries, QEQM’s patient discharge team, probation services, DWP at Queens House, KCC Out of Hours support, Early Help, Porchlight and the RISE Centre.
“In addition, they also contribute to the national debate about solving hunger and preventing food waste. In particular, Our Kitchen has worked with the House of Lords, The Food Foundation, Sustain, Henry Dimbleby and the National Food Strategy.”
Sue also shared some touching comments from residents who have benefited from the award winners’ services during the pandemic:
“I am on a zero hours contract and have had no money for weeks”
“I have just started work and I have no money until the end of the month”
“I am self employed and I’ve had no work during Covid and nor support from DWP”
“I’ve just been discharged from hospital, can’t go out and have no food at home”
“No one was there to help me – you have given me hope”.
The presentation of the certificates and flowers were made by Ramsgate Mayor Raushan Ara.
After the awards were given out Cara, Sharon and Carl paid tribute to their respective teams of volunteers so vital to their effectiveness. The volunteers undertake a wide variety of activities including driving, buying, delivering, sorting food parcels stocking the shop, greeting and supporting vulnerable members of the community. They are generous with their time, kindness and spirit. And still the need remains and still the work continues.
The Ramsgate Society Civic Champion Awards ceremony was delayed due to the pandemic lockdown restrictions and finally took place at Custom House on Saturday, October 16.
Each Civic Champion was accompanied by three members of their team. Four members of The Ramsgate Society executive committee, six councillors from Ramsgate Town Council, Thanet District Council and Kent County Council also attended, as well as Ramsgate’s Town Promoter and a Church Warden of St George the Martyr Church.