IT WAS the first year of the Gazette-backed Volunteer of the Year award, which celebrates the best of the individuals and organisations who give up their time for good causes.

The first-ever winner is Tasharna Stapleton, a student at Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT), who has been using her time, talents and skills in cooking and other activities to help with local charity Inspero.

Gazette publisher Bill Browne said: “After benefitting herself from cookery classes with Inspero, Tasharna has been volunteering for the last 4 years to help others enjoy the same experience.

“She is 19 and fits this role around college work and two part time jobs which is even more inspiring.”

Tasharna gives her time to helping children and young adults to learn more about cooking and help them prepare their own meals and learn about the process of cooking.

Tasharna said: “I’m really happy to get the award, I didn’t expect it at all. I was really nervous, but I was happy to see everyone cheering for me.

“Even though I’m so busy with all that I have been doing, I will be making some changes soon. Along with my work at Inspero, I’ve been working at Iceland, and as a nursery chef as well as completing my course at BCoT. Although I have since dropped the job at Iceland, I will keep helping at Inspero.”

What initially started as something to hone her cooking skills, Tasharna really started to enjoy the experience. After a chance meeting with Inspero founder Catherine Waters-Clark at a youth club in Buckskin, it kicked off her fire for cooking.

Tasharna added: “Even with everything I had going on, I’ll always have time for Inspero and the people there.

“I’ve loved cooking from a young age, since I was about six, and I’ve found that I really love teaching as well. It’s become a passion for me and I love to see the four-year-olds getting stuck in and learning about cooking and then apparently going home and teaching their parents a few tricks.”

RUNNERS UP: Paul Hyde, Angela Carpenter and Jackie Keep