Volunteers from across Caerphilly County Borough have been honoured at the Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations (GAVO) awards.
The ceremony, held on Thursday, October 10, took place at Blackwood Miners’ Institute.
In total, there were eight different winners for ten awards.
The Trustee Volunteer award, which was sponsored by Caerphilly Observer, was won by Cllr Jayne Garland, chair of the Gwern y Domen Conservation Group.
The runner-up of the award was Caerphilly Workmen’s Hall treasurer Malcolm Hunt, who has dedicated more than 40 years of service to the hall.
Cllr Garland, who also won the Adult Volunteer award, said: “I’m very shocked. I wasn’t expecting to win. It’s lovely to be recognised.”
Cllr Garland, who has been volunteering for 40 years, was nominated for her voluntary work, which included securing a grant to give bee hives and bee colonies to two primary schools, arranging litter picks, working to protect the local environment, and more.
The runners-up of the Adult Volunteer award were Helen Davies and Robert Redmond.
Meanwhile, Jess Thomas, 17, from Caerphilly, won the Mayor’s Civic Award, presented by Caerphilly County Borough Council mayor Cllr Julian Simmonds.
Miss Thomas won the award after diving into the moat at Caerphilly Castle to save a toddler who had fallen into the water.
Jamie Howell, who volunteers at three different groups for adults with learning difficulties, scooped two awards on the night, claiming the Inspirational Volunteer award, as well as the award for Personal Journey, which he won ahead of 17-year-old swimming instructor Lucy Chislett-Manning.
Mr Howell, who has autism, appeared at the annual awards for a second time and said: “I’m excited, overwhelmed and shocked. I’m so happy to be here again.
“I hope I have another opportunity to be here again.
“I’m so grateful for the people who nominated me – they’ve helped a lot and they’ve helped me achieve what I wanted to do.”
Imogen Reyez, vice chair of Caerphilly Youth Forum, won the Young Volunteer award.
Miss Reyez, whose role involves standing up for children’s rights and voicing young people’s concerns, said: “I’m pretty elated. I’m really grateful for the opportunity given to me and the skills I’ve been able to acquire. It’s unbelievable.
“I didn’t think I’d win.”
The runner-up of the Young Volunteer award was Caerphilly Tennis Club coach Daniel Bray, who was unable to attend the ceremony as he has just started university.
Mr Bray, who was nominated by the club’s head coach Jonathan Morgan, has been volunteering at the club for nearly five years and has dedicated an estimated 750 hours of his time.
The Group Award was won by Activ8, which aims to help young people develop skills, confidence and knowledge to find employment, education, training or voluntary roles.
Activ8’s Theresa Rolfe said: “It’s amazing. We’re very proud.
“It’s about empowering young people and getting them onto the path of what they want to do.”
The runner-up in the Group award was Steering Lansbury – a group set up by residents of Lansbury Park with the aim of empowering their community, which ranks as one of the most deprived areas in Wales.
The volunteer-led group also aims to change people’s perceptions of the area.
The group’s work includes setting up community activities, such as a talent show and carnival.
The Environmental award was won by Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni for their work at Morgan Jones Community Allotments in Caerphilly town.
The school was nominated by Elizabeth Thomas, secretary of the allotments group.
Speaking at the event, Ms Thomas said: “Many of the young people have additional learning needs, and a number have low self-esteem and confidence issues. Despite this, the pupils and their teachers have turned up on a regular basis on Mondays and Fridays.
“The pupils display real team spirit and just get stuck in with the activities we suggest, producing some praiseworthy results.”
The runner-up for the Environmental award was Mike Davies of the Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly Youth Offenders Service.
Mr Davies’ work includes taking young offenders out on community service, taking part in activities such as litter picking and grass cutting.
Meanwhile, Ruth Bull, who has volunteered at Machen Primary School for more than ten years, won the Parent Volunteer award.
Ms Bull’s voluntary work has seen her set up fundraising activities to raise money for the school, as well as setting up a craft club for the pupils.
During the craft clubs, Ms Bull has taught skill such as sewing, which many children wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to learn.
Finishing runner-up in the Parent Volunteer award was Sonya Foley, who has been with the Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly Young Offenders Service for three years.
Ms Foley was praised for her “straight talking personality” and for striving to “inspire, motivate and support children to lead crime free lives”.
Dame Claire Clancy, the High Sheriff of Gwent, gave an award to members of the Youth Offenders Service.
The awards ceremony also featured talks from GAVO chair Edward Watts MBE, GAVO chief executive Martin Featherstone, Caerphilly council’s interim leader, Cllr Barbara Jones, and the Lord Lieutenant of Gwent, Brigadier Robert Aitken CBE, DL.
There was also a performance from Islwyn High School pupils Dafydd Poole and Kieran Simpkins, who performed a variety of songs, including a rendition of Do I Wanna Know? by Arctic Monkeys.
The council’s interim leader, Cllr Jones said: “The awards are a celebration of the endless spirit, enthusiasm and dedication of our thriving voluntary sector and I am delighted and honoured to be a part of it.
“Volunteers are an inspiration to us all as they play such a vital role in our society. Award ceremonies like this allow us to do our little bit to recognise the positive contribution they make to so many people’s lives.”