It has been a tough couple of years and the team at the Forest Review newspaper in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire thought now was a great time to give readers the chance to say thank you to the people and organisations which make their communities great places to live.
“Our neighbours and communities matter now more than ever so we’d thought it was time to recognise some of those special people who make them so great,” said regional editor Liz Davies.
The paper’s first ever Community Hero Thank You Awards, which coincided with National Thank You Day on July 2 were launched in June and invited readers to nominate their unsung heroes for recognition.
The paper invited its readers to tell their stories of people who really made a difference in their lives from the neighbour who did their shopping, the coach who trained the local football team, the young person who cut off their hair for charity, the business which went above and beyond to provide outstanding service or the nurse who called by every week to check they’re ok.
The awards were presented in conjunction with Lydney Town Council with individual awards sponsored by more than a dozen local businesses.
“We were overwhelmed by the support we got from local businesses who not only sponsored the awards but also provided raffle prizes and an incredible buffet on the presentation night,” said sales manager Heather Wood, the driving force behind the scheme.
“The event was backed up with a charity feature in our print edition with a percentage of the profit donated to local charities. Thanks to the support of local businesses and individuals we look set to be able to hand over almost £800,” she added.
More than 150 people attended the packed presentation evening, which was held at Lydney Town Hall with some 15 awards handed out by sponsors and members of the Review team.
Those attending were greeted by Lydney’s official Town Crier and Forest Brass which played a selection of music to celebrate nominees. During the interval the audience were treated to music from local X-Factor contestant Russell Jones.
“With the whole Review team on hand we were able to apply a multi media approach to our coverage with a live blog on our website revealing the winners in real time and video clips of the action keeping our readers up to date,” said Liz.
The Review team now hopes the awards will become an annual event, touring to the main towns in the area.
“The mayors of all the main Forest of Dean towns were at the presentation evening and all said they’d like to host future events,” says Liz.
“The whole campaign has been a great success with our website activity complimented by print feature packed with people, places and faces firmly at the centre, in line with our hyper local roots,” said Wales sales director Paul Higman who was on hand to present some of the awards.
“This was an amazing team effort and it was wonderful to see the town hall packed to the rafters with our really deserving winners and the people who nominated them.
“Chatting to one one winner – an incredibly brave 17 year old lad with a terminal brain tumour who spends his time fundraising to create a retreat for young people with similar conditions, was truly inspiring and brought into focus how important the awards had been,” he said.
“As someone said to me on the night, ‘we all need a little thank you sometimes’,” added Liz.