A STALWART of the community was recognised for his tireless efforts at the Place to be Proud of Awards on Thursday last week.

Fred Gifford has been chairman of the area’s branch of the Sainsbury’s Veteran’s Club since 2002.

Fred was born in Bermondsey in 1937, and after completing his national service, he joined Sainsbury’s in London.

In 1964, he moved to Basingstoke with his family, working in the warehouse at Sainsbury’s new depot, where he set up the warehouse social club, becoming its first chairman.

When he retired, he joined the Veteran’s Club, becoming chairman in 2002.

From there, he dedicated much of his time and energy to making the club a success.

The committee meets monthly at Fred’s house, where they catch up together and check in with the welfare of those members who may be ill.

Speaking to the Gazette, Fred said: “I was very surprised to win the award, and even to find out that I’d been put in for it in the first place.

“I almost didn’t come to the evening tonight as I didn’t think that I’d win as others here have been doing more than me.

“I have such a marvellous group of people behind me here at the Veteran’s Club, and we get on very well.”

As well as the social activities organised for the members, excursions out are also commonplace.

The 82-year-old added: “We fairly recently went on a trip to Margate, and one of the people on the trip, who was 94, told me that he never thought he’d be able to go on holiday again, but he really enjoyed it.”

The popularity of both Fred and the group as a whole was visible as when he went up on stage to collect the award, the Haymarket stage was filled with members of the club and Fred’s family to celebrate.

Fred added: "I thought about nine or so people would turn up, but it feels like around 50 turned up.

“I was really pleased, I didn’t expect so many at all.

“I came to Basingstoke for a house and to keep working at Sainsbury’s and I’ve done well and it has been excellent here.

“I’ve had a good life both here in Basingstoke and at Sainsbury’s.”

Award sponsor Festival Place’s director, Neil Churchill, said: “We chose Fred as the winner of the Unsung Hero category as we felt he had real spirit and a passion for his community.

“Fred also seems truly selfless, thoughtful and kind – a very worthy winner.”

RUNNERS UP: Basingstoke Street Pastors and Shirley Keer