IN PICTURES: unsung heroes and heroines in Southend win award

Alison Halton, member of the Southend Mencap advocacy team for more than 20 years. All photos by Luka Lacey
Alison Halton, member of the Southend Mencap advocacy team for more than 20 years. All photos by Luka Lacey

SEVENTY well deserving people were awarded with the Southend City Unsung Heroes and Heroines Awards in memory of Queen Elizabeth II, who died in her Diamond Jubilee year.

Organisations from across Southend, including schools, guides and scouts, and community groups, had the chance to nominate and vote for their own unsung heroes.

The winners were greeted by Southend City’s Mayor Kevin Robinson at the ceremony at Mayor’s Parlour, Porters Lodge, Southend on Saturday January, 14.

Presenting the event were Irene and Steve Volke from Starlight Productions Among the winners of the awards, spearheaded by not-for-profit company Blade Education, were Gemma Cartwright who has worked for Southend Association for the Voluntary Sector (SAVS) for seven years and in that time has supported so many community groups.

Gemma also is fundraising chair for Southend Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and volunteers as a business development officer for the Cranfield Trust who offer free management support for charities.

Mathew Garfirth is a longstanding member of the Royal British Legion and has acted to represent this organisation with grace and dignity as their official standard bearer at many events, such as the annual Leigh Remembrance Service, but perhaps most memorably at the funeral of Sir David Amess.

Alison Halton has, for more than 20 years, been a member of the Southend Mencap advocacy team. She is one of the first people that adults with learning difficulties and their carers turn to navigate the adult social care system. Her persistence, intelligence and refusal to accept that the system can’t do better has made a positive difference to so many of vulnerable families.

In Southend, where Amber Sturgeon is scout lead, she is a role model for young people, never saying no to helping out and showing them how much fun, they can have when working to support others.

Bob O’Leary is the heart of the Leigh Branch of the Royal British Legion. For many years, alongside Jill, he has been a large reason why the Leigh Branch of the Royal British Legion is flourishing while others, sadly are fading away.

Ed and Jenifer Simpson work tirelessly to protect Southend’s history. Expert researchers and archivists, the Leigh Society has relied on Ed and Jenifer to make sense of the historical gifts that can be found in the Heritage Centre in Old Leigh.