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Covid-19 Community Response Awards

The Covid-19 Community Response Awards scheme aims to recognise the outstanding community activities that members, volunteers and supporters have delivered in the name of the Royal British Legion and Poppy Scotland in response to the pandemic, achieving a significant contribution to a local community or individual.

Awards Finalists and Runner-Ups

Activities are awarded in the following categories:

Community Collaboration

E.g. partnering with local aid groups or action groups, working with other organisations and businesses to provide support in the community.

Finalist: Fivemiletown Branch

Led by the Fivemiletown British Legion branch Chairman in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, a team of over 30 volunteers tasked themselves with supporting everyone in their community affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. 

Initially, a food bank was established for those financially impacted by job losses and hardship. Volunteers also arranged with local shops and chemists to make daily deliveries to those in isolation. Over 1500 flyers were distributed around the community outlining the volunteer services, who would soon also find themselves sourcing PPE for over 100 community nurses and carers working through the pandemic. The branch made a further four deliveries of PPE to the local South West Acute Hospital, all donated by local business and community members.

Going further beyond the call of duty, the Fivemiletown branch volunteers identified those in their community over 70-years-old and delivered nutritious weekly meals and food boxes to them, a service which – at its peak – delivered 300 meals per week to those in need. Many of these were accompanied by letters and drawings from local school children.

The volunteer team continues to support their community with PPE supplies and reaching out to those in need who are adapting to the eased lockdown restrictions.

Runner-Up: Duston Branch

The notoriously proactive branch of Duston, Northampton, has been taking care of the young and the old throughout the Coronavirus pandemic in a series of volunteer-led initiatives.

Having utilised key contacts at other charities and organisations for community support, the Duston branch delivered 80 Easter eggs to veterans, assisted the Parish Council in providing meals for 45 children once a week, supplied veterans with 100 cream teas to celebrate VE Day, and joined forces with a local brewery to produce and deliver 100 bottles of specially brewed beer to 100 veterans to mark VJ Day in August.

The volunteers of the branch also bought some birthday cheer to adults and children alike. A local veteran was given a socially distanced serenade for his 100th birthday, and a six-year-old local boy, who’d never had a “proper” birthday party due to family circumstances, received cards and gifts from the community and even a surprised socially distanced visit from Spiderman!

Special Recognition: Elstead Branch

When the pandemic hit, and the realities of lockdown started to become apparent, branch members of the Elstead British Legion branch in Surrey and a group of local residents recognised there were many people in the village facing immediate hardship as redundancies rose and jobs shrank. And so they created the Elstead Food Bank. 

The food bank went from strength to strength; going from a good idea, that people were unsure was even needed, to a facility that helps dozens of individuals and families every week. 

Since lockdown measures have eased, the food bank remains a busy, ongoing operation. It’s an essential service that looks like it will be needed for many months to come.

Individual Impact

An activity undertaken by an individual to provide help and support to those in need, OR an activity that had a significant positive impact on an individual in need.

Finalist: Mark Brennan

British Legion branch member, Mark Brennan, plays a very large part in the Hadleigh community, making the Legion the Heart of it. He gets the whole town involved with all Remembrance activities.  

Mark, with fellow members of the branch and local volunteers, were forced to change their VE Day plans when Covid-19 struck. Working on his own for the most part in lockdown, he managed to complete the work that had been started on the memorial garden in the local school grounds. He also painted a large mural commemorating the landings at Juno Beach for VE day, which was then mounted in the town centre and bring some cheer to the Care homes in the area. 

Mark, his Vice-Chair and their wives created a short ‘Gang Show’ to entertain residents on VE Day, making it transportable using a flatbed truck mounted with speakers and decorated with bunting and flags. All four were dressed in 1940s costumes and travelled around the town with 1940s music and songs filling the neighbourhood. They arranged stops at each of the five Care Homes in the area, as many older veterans were residents. Keeping socially distant, the four participants did songs and dances for 30 mins at each location, with the residents able to see them from their windows. 

This made a huge positive impact on all the residents of the Care homes and the local town - many of whom had not been able to see even their family at this time.

Since this time, Mark has put his painting skills to good use again and made a further mural for VJ day which is now on show in the town centre.

Joint Runner-Up: Trudy Davies

Trudy Davies of the Royal British Legion’s Llanidloes branch in Wales has been nominated for the Community Response Award for embodying the very motto sported by the British Army – “Service not self”.

A Standard Bearer for 39 years, Trudy owns the local newsagents and convenience store in this small town in Mid Wales, is the point of contact for all local British Legion enquiries, and a champion fundraiser. During the pandemic, she continued to serve as the heart of her community by turning her shop into a safe hub for Llanidloes residents to buy and collect much-needed supplies and medicines. Trudy also put a delivery service in place to ensure everyone could still get newspapers and other items delivered whilst self-isolating.

Trudy also owns a small bakery nearby. Its size meant it couldn’t be made safe for staff or customers, so Trudy moved bakery sales into the newsagents to carry on supplying bread, pies, cakes, and more to the community, even supplying free baked treats to elderly residents to keep spirits up. She organised a Certificate of Appreciation and Gratitude for the butchers, greengrocers, and other local people who have kept the town going – all whilst working twelve-hour days, as once the shop closed each day she’d then start delivering orders to outlying villages.

Joint Runner-Up: Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp is the Chairman of the Royal British Legion’s Alicante Branch, Spain. He is supported by his wife, Mary, who is an RBL Standard Bearer and a Telephone Buddy within the same branch. 

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and in particular, during Spain’s very rigid enforceable lockdown period, Jack has been extremely proactive in support of his local community and further afield. He received a huge number of nominations for the Community Response Awards, invariably described by his community as a local hero for expats in the area.

On countless occasions, he has voluntarily, usually single-handedly, gone to the assistance of vulnerable individuals. His help has included numerous shopping trips (often 3 a day), conveying individuals to hospitals, arranging funeral services, movement of special needs equipment for terminally ill individuals, assistance with individual documentation for those struggling alone with Spanish bureaucracy. 

Jack Kemp’s volunteering aid also went far beyond his immediate community as he provided amazing support for Spanish communities via the branch Facebook page, informing and assisting followers on messages from the Spanish Government, UK Embassy, and other groups. This helped everyone stay updated on law changes, including translations for non-Spanish speakers and those unable to fly back home.

Digital Response

E.g. virtual events, facilitation of online meetings, development and provision of online training and resources, use of social media, establishment of online support groups.

Finalist: Steve Bishop

Steve Bishop is a British Legion Ride Captain who supports our Mass Events team on a voluntary basis with cycling events – more recently virtual cycling events that can be safely carried out during the pandemic.

Steve was nominated for a Community Response Award after supporting the Legion’s virtual event back in May and will be supporting further virtual cycling events in Autumn. He is incredibly active on the Legion’s Facebook Cycling Group; answering questions and queries from other cyclists, showing support for those struggling with training during lockdown, and using his own time to organise and host virtual rides for the RBL Cycling Community every Sunday morning. 

Additionally, Steve assisted the Mass Events team in creating a “Cycling Training During Lockdown” PDF guide. This has been emailed to hundreds of RBL cycling supporters, allowing the team to stay connected with our fundraisers. Although there are no “real-life” events planned for this year due to Coronavirus, the work Steve did has hugely helped the Legion keep fundraisers engaged and excited to continue supporting the Legion in 2021 and raise much-needed funds for the Armed Forces Community. 

Runner-Up: Steven Carr

Soon after the Coronavirus lockdown was announced, Huntingdon Branch Membership Secretary, Steven Carr, from Cambridge, proposed the idea of Legion branches virtually sharing a two-minute silence on VE Day 75. This quickly morphed into a virtual parade to mark the occasion instead.

Initially, Steven was hoping for a few other Branches to become involved, but as this initiative became known among members it was so well received that more than 350 Legion Branches and several other associations took part worldwide. The virtual parade attracted positive media coverage from the likes of the BBC and ITV and was included in the Legion’s VE Day livestream. As well as securing support from local vicar Revd. Jon Randall to do a blessing, Steven received a message from Emma Brown - a Soprano based in Holland – who offered to record a special version of Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again for the special day. 

Special Recognition: Jessica Sands

When the March 2020 lockdown was announced, Jessica Sands was in the final stages of transforming her highly successful InDependent Spouse podcast into the MilSPO Network. This resource was designed to offer virtual networking opportunities on a monthly basis to all military spouses, partners, and other halves, helping them build confidence in their business activities. However, she quickly realised that the unprecedented situation demanded a different response. 

Recognising that all over the country military spouses and partners (already no strangers to isolation) were finding themselves locked down, and intuitively understanding the risks this posed to mental health, Jess transformed her business network into a support network. With funding assistance from the Royal British Legion, she was able to provide a weekly online forum for spouses and partners to vent their frustrations, cry out for help and crucially talk to and hear from a sympathetic audience who understood their problems. As a digital platform, it was accessible to members regardless of their home situation, location, or childcare requirements. 

From the start of March, Jessica was a focal point for a struggling community week after week. When she tried to wind down the meetups, her community revolted, protesting that they relied on these regular events, and so they continue. 

Jess took no earnings from her efforts despite the considerable time and effort spent supporting her community. Her reward was in the difference she made to people’s lives during this difficult time. A member of her network said: “While the rest of us came to terms with the impact of social isolation you had already gone ahead and built a "coronavirus proof" model to support military spouses, partners, and others. Connecting with others is so important in the day to day magnolia walled life of the military and now even more so. Thanks, Jess, for your inspiring vision and support."

Internal Team Collaboration

Working with other members, branches, Area Teams, or volunteers to provide help and support to those in need.

Finalist: Paul and Mo Wallace

Pre-lockdown Paul and his wife Mo, led a very active branch in Oakengates, Shropshire, supporting socially isolated members of the community, hosting monthly Beer & Banter sessions, and running an advice stall every Saturday in the local town centre. They also set up an everlasting Poppy Cross Memorial in the local park in collaboration with local businesses and conducted a ceremony for each of the 22 Commonwealth war graves in the local cemetery.   

Throughout the crisis, Paul and his team of eight volunteers have been telephoning socially isolated people in their locality, arranging support where necessary, and keeping everyone connected on a regular basis – even extending this to the strong network of nearby Legion branches so that they can support each other’s efforts. The branch has had a huge impact on their local community. 

Runner-Up: Ford Branch

The Ford branch of the Royal British Legion has had staggering feedback from the community regarding the goodwill and success of the Telephone Buddy system branch volunteers operated during lockdown – feedback very much welcomed since the regeneration of the branch 18 months ago.

While working from home, they implemented a Covid-19 friendly system to contact residents they knew would need help during lockdown. The team not only made sure to call other branch members but local veterans to check they were being looked after and getting medication to them if required. Over 300 calls have been made to-date and are ongoing. 

The new and youngest member of the Ford branch, Mai Jones, specifically has been commended not only for the running of the Telephone Buddy system but for her exceptional care for widows living in Ford both during and after lockdown. 

Special Recognition: Bert Elson

Over at our Thailand branch of the Royal British Legion, Bert Elson and fellow members worked hard throughout the pandemic to raise funds that enabled them to purchase food and other necessary items for living. The Thai government does not have a welfare system, no furlough scheme, or anything in place to assist the many millions of homeless, jobless, and starving population, so help of this kind was desperately needed throughout the country.  

Many expat-owned businesses saw to it through donations that the needy were provided for. Bert worked tirelessly along with the staff of his own business since March and has improved the lives of many hundreds of locals.  

Creative Fundraising

Taking up an innovative challenge to raise funds for the Legion or Poppy Scotland during the pandemic. 

Finalist: Stafford Seward

Stafford Seward is a very proactive Chairman of the Kilmington Branch of the Royal British Legion, East Devon, and a member of the Parish Council. His award nominator has said that he is “always looking for ways to involve the RBL in the community and to raise funds for the Poppy Appeal”.

In April, East Devon District Council suspended the fortnightly green waste collection service, which was at a crucial time for local gardeners. Stafford decided to replicate the service with a tractor and trailer, advertising the collection days and asking for donations to the Poppy Appeal. With two volunteers, Stafford visited every household in the village, requiring the service calling three times during a six-week period until the public collection was resumed. 

This was a very physically demanding operation carried out in unusually hot weather. It was much needed and much appreciated, raising over £2,000!  

This exercise kept the favourable profile of the Legion in the community, especially as the tractor and trailer were decorated with RBL logos and bunting and accompanied by suitable music. The final collection was on VE Day with the team joining the ceremony at the war memorial for 11am. It provided much-needed money for the Poppy Appeal and boosted the morale of the town.

Runner-Up: Sophia Preston & Archie Hughes

Award nominees Sophia Preston (9) and Archie Hughes (10) undertook some very creative fundraising for the Royal British Legion on a single day in May 2020 by undertaking the Galanos House Back Garden Challenge. Staff member, carer Jonathan Russell, had fancied doing a sponsored marathon using the path at the back of Galanos House, the Legion’s care home in Southam, Warwickshire. His endeavours to raise funds for Galanos House spurred Sophia and Archie into action, and they decided to join him.  

Whilst Jonathan completed a marathon in 08:01:29 on the back path of the home itself, Sophia did 100 laps of her rather large back garden. Her cousin, Archie, completed 500 circuits of his garden. Inspired by the huge achievement of Captain Sir Tom Moore, Sophia and Archie were keen to do their share for the ex-servicemen and women of Galanos House.  

Approximately £600 was raised in total, with all funds going to the Galanos House Amenity Fund. Every penny will be used for the benefit of the residents and daycare users at Galanos House and spent on activities and resources. 

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