SOME of the best organisations and people of Basingstoke were celebrated at the Place to be Proud of Awards at Haymarket last week.

Among the winners were The Camrose Centre, Basingstoke Foodbank, Basingstoke Academy of Dance and Absolutely Offices and plenty of individuals who have dedicated their lives to volunteering and charities.

Here are all you need to know about the winners and the reason they were honoured at the event organised by Destination Basingstoke.

Also check out our gallery above to see more pictures from the colourful award evening.

Community Project Award, sponsored by Face TV

Winner: The Camrose Centre

Basingstoke Gazette: The Camrose Centre team with the Mayor and Mayoress of Basingstoke and Deane, Paul Miller and Sandra, at the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photographyThe Camrose Centre team with the Mayor and Mayoress of Basingstoke and Deane, Paul Miller and Sandra, at the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photography

The staff and volunteers from the Camrose Centre for Homeless and Vulnerably Housed People welcome over 300 people every year, a total of over 2000 visits. It is open four days a week offering a safe, sheltered place to be with a hot meal, a shower, clean clothing, and a takeaway food pack. Vounteers wil spend time with clients, listening to their stories while Support workers help the to find solutions to their issues and where necessary act as advocates when dealing with outside agencies.

Health and Wellbeing Award sponsored by Lilly UK

Winner: The Blue Spot Campaign

Basingstoke Gazette: Faye Wheeler and her son after winning the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photographyFaye Wheeler and her son after winning the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photography

Mongolian Blue Spot is a birthmark that often affects babies and children of mixed race, and can appear like bruising. Ignorance of the condition has led to parents being treated with suspicion. This successful campaign, led by Faye Wheeler using her personal experience has helped to raise awareness among health professional and the wider community giving reassurance to parents.

After winning the award, Faye told the Gazette the award would spread more word about their campaign.

She added: “I’m happy that more people will hear about it now. It’s break my heart every time a family tells me about their struggles with their kids’ Mongolian Blue Spot. So it keeps me going on with the campaign and make more awareness in the society.”

Unsung Hero award sponsored by The Festival Place Basingstoke

Winner: Margaret Macklin

Basingstoke Gazette: Margaret Macklin receives the Place to be Proud of Awards from Destination Basingstoke managing director Felicity Edwards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photographyMargaret Macklin receives the Place to be Proud of Awards from Destination Basingstoke managing director Felicity Edwards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photography

Since 2020, Margaret has been a volunteer food hub co-ordinator helping to support over 450 older people and vulnerable families per week that needed help in the pandemic. Margaret took on this role voluntarily helping to manage the complex needs of the people the charity supports. Margaret is very reliable, trustworthy and good fun to work with, she gets involved with the team and works for everyone’s benefit. In addition she is involved with the Rotary and is a regular volunteer at the vaccination centres and even helps out with dog walking and the coffee club in Kempshott.

Community Leader Award, sponsored by DisasterCare South Central

Winner: Effie Blankson

Basingstoke Gazette: Effie Blankson (right) with her Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photographyEffie Blankson (right) with her Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photography

Effie is a local businesswoman and has been and avid volunteer since her teenage years, passionate about seeing people and communities flourish. She uses her business skills and experience to support people and their economic empowerment. She’s been a mentor especially to women who want to start small businesses and have gone on to do so successfully and she is a champion of youth education through her work as a school governor.

After receiving the award, Effie told the Gazette that communities is everything for her.

“My grandma taught me at a very young age about sharing. I couldn’t understand it back then, but she would do tiny little things – like buy a sack of sugar and send me around to give it to neighbours. I have just carried on from then. It’s great to hear people’s stories and keep going.”

Arts and Entertainment Award, sponsored by Basingstoke Radio

Winner: Basingstoke Academy of Dance (BAD)

Basingstoke Gazette: A Basingstoke Academy of Dance with the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photographyA Basingstoke Academy of Dance with the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photography

Throughout lockdown BAD worked hard to keep everyone in their community dancing, using Zoom. It proved a welcome distraction at a difficult time. Many parents expressed their gratitude for providing the classes. Despite the lockdown BAD has worked extremely hard for the Dance World Cup finals with 39 team members, and being part of the winning Team England first place in the World Champions.

Young Role Model, sponsored by Queen Mary’s College

Winner: Anna Palmer

Basingstoke Gazette: Anna Palmer receives the Place to be Proud of Awards from Queen May's College principal Mark Henderson. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photographyAnna Palmer receives the Place to be Proud of Awards from Queen May's College principal Mark Henderson. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photography

Anna has shown great determination and resilience since studying music at QMC. Given that music performances stopped during the pandemic and Anna’s final year at school, she hadn’t had much experience when she joined QMC. Anna taught herself to play the guitar during lockdown and could play to a basic level when she started at college. She has worked incredibly hard at College so that she is now able to accompany herself at concerts as a solo artist. On top of this, Anna learned how to play the piano and developed the ability to record and produce her songs herself, using industry standard software. Anna gave up her time on an Inset Day to come to college and perform a concert for a group of young refugee guests.

Anna said: “I really don’t know what to say, I am shocked. I don’t really believe it. I want to say thank you very much, I am really glad that my music is getting recognised as that is all I want. I am glad that it is doing some good.”

Volunteer of the Year, sponsored by Beaufort Financial

Winner: Nsima Udoh

Basingstoke Gazette: Nsima Udoh after winning the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photographyNsima Udoh after winning the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photography

Nsima is an IT consultant, but outside of his day job he dedicates a significant amount of his time to voluntary community service. He recently initiated and spearheaded ac ollection centre for humanitarian support of those affected by the war in Ukraine. Over a period of three weeks, Nsima led a team of local volunteers who collected and sorted thousands of items including medicines, first aid kits, blankets, nappies, sanitary products, toiletries, and other necessities. The humanitarian products were delivered to the Polish border for victims of the war.

Nsima said: “It is a very proud moment for me. I want to say thank you for all the support. I don’t do this alone. My wife I want to thank especially. Today is her birthday and it is also our wedding anniversary. Thank you also to the organisers of these awards and thank you to everyone who has come here to support us, it means a lot to me.”

Good Neighbour of the Year, sponsored by Manydown Basingstoke

Winner: Charlotte Nightingale

Charlotte has touched many people’ hearts over the past year. As a retired nurse who served in the NHS for over 30 years as well as being a midwife at Basingstoke and Deane Borough hospital, Charlotte’s caring nature never ceases. She has been supporting the community at a time when the NHS has never been so stretched. Mental Health services have also been under immense pressure. As a Relate trained councillor and practitioner in a range of psychotherapies, Charlotte has offered her support over the phone and through doorstep visits.

Business and Community Award, sponsored by Farleigh Wallop Estate

Winner: Absolutely Offices

Basingstoke Gazette: Absolutely Offices team after winning the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photographyAbsolutely Offices team after winning the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photography

Absolutely Offices has contributed to the community whether it is through working with the Basingstoke Chamber of Commerce or contributing to their client’s initiatives and supporting charities such as HCUK. When the Ukraine war began, Absolutely Offices, using their organisation abilities, set up a collection point and then sort and label, store goods and organise volunteers to et them loaded ready for transportation. What started as a small collection around the Absolutely Offices for donations to Ukraine turned into a full-scale logistical operation.

Beryl Huntingdon, from Absolutely Offices, said: “This would not have been possible without the staff. They have gone above and beyond. It is unbelievable what they have done. We have shipped two and a half lorries, equating to 5,500 boxes, to the Ukraine. It took over the staff’s lives as well as running a very busy business centre, I can’t thank them enough. We are really pleased to be able to help the Ukraine.”

Above and Beyond Award, sponsored by Castle Trust Bank

Winner: Luan Squire

Basingstoke Gazette: Luan Squire after winning the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photographyLuan Squire after winning the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photography

Luan manages the Viables Community Centre and although it is a paid role, her commitment and enthusiasm are more than a job and seem more of life’s work. Through the pandemic, she organised volunteers and food deliveries, maintained a range of community activities using online tools. Now a full programme of activities, classes are back in the centre. In recent months she has also taken on the management of the Roger Morris Centre in Eastrop. Luan is the driving force and will no doubt make this a success too. Luan is especially good at recognising and thanking all the volunteers that are involved with the centre and its activities.

After receiving the award, Luan told the Gazette: “I had absolutely no idea I was even nominated and I don’t know who nominated me. But I feel very very lucky to win the award. It’s all down to my lovely volunteers and staff who support me.”

Judges’ Special Award

Winner: Basingstoke Foodbank

Basingstoke Gazette: Basingstoke Foodbank's team after winning the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photographyBasingstoke Foodbank's team after winning the Place to be Proud of Awards. Credit: Sarah Gaunt photography

Basingstoke Foodbank has been a lifeline for so many people. It helps individuals, couples and families all of who have fallen on hard times and are struggling to afford food, sometimes having to choose between feeding themselves or heating their homes – if they still have one and are not homeless. With the predicted rise in energy costs and food and fuel they are likely to see even more clients who need their help.

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