Chairman's Commendation Scheme

Individuals, businesses and community groups who have tirelessly supported those in need in Cambridgeshire since the start of the Coronavirus lockdown are being officially recognised by Cambridgeshire County Council.

Councillor Mac McGuire, Chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council, has introduced a monthly Commendation Scheme to highlight the sterling work of those who have helped communities across the county during the pandemic.

Each month, the scheme will highlight those whose specific activities are worthy of commendation.

Roll of Honour - August 2020

The first recipients of an official Chairman’s Commendation are as follows:

Godmanchester Covid-19 Group

"Around 500 volunteers are available to support any of our 6,500 residents in Godmanchester. The Godmanchester Covid-19 Group coordinating their work includes the Town Mayor and Town Clerk, the Godmanchester Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group, Godmanchester Community Timebank, Godmanchester Foodbank, a District Councillor and the County Councillor.

The Covid-19 Mutual Aid, a group set up by Arwen Gilbert and Karen Smith, organise around 110 street coordinators and work with many other volunteers. The street co-ordinators provide practical help and reassurance for everybody so that, if you are stuck, someone is there for you. To date, over 420 requests have been fulfilled, and in excess of 80 families have been assisted.

Susan Simpson of Godmanchester Community Timebank has logged over 1,600 requests, and many phone buddy calls that have been made. The Timebank is helping more than 300 people in Godmanchester.  They are receiving requests from new people every week, and we now have almost 400 volunteers willing to help.

The Godmanchester Foodbank, run by Daniel Beckett from the Baptist Church, serves not only Godmanchester, but a large area outside the town, covering much of Huntingdonshire. They have increased their assistance due to the pressures of Covid-19. During the summer school holidays they are serving 80 families on a regular basis. They have also undertaken to redirect unneeded government food parcels to those with greater need, and have started the ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ initiative which redistributes perishables, donated from local supermarkets, throughout the community.

A couple receiving ongoing support from Mutual Aid who wish to remain anonymous said: "Many words have been used and similarities drawn with regard to the pandemic and times gone by; if however as one enduring shielded lockdown it would [be] that of a silent army working with the threat of being exposed to the virus to help others and for no gain. The relief of those few words on an app on my mobile saying "no problem will drop your things off in a little while" brought a palpable belief in humankind. I hope we can maintain this sense of community spirit but whatever the future holds for now all I can say is 'thank you'.” 

As well as the wonderful work that our volunteers are doing, we’d like to thank the many family members and professional carers supporting people in their homes and in our nursing and residential homes for their continued hard work and commitment."

Nominated by Councillor Graham Wilson

Heather Du Quesnay

"Secretary of North Newnham Residents' Association (NNRA) who became Coordinator of the North Newnham Residents' Association Network, Heather organised a group of NNRA volunteers to help with shopping and collecting prescriptions, attended council briefings and issued regular newsletters to ensure all residents were kept informed of local arrangements and support mechanisms during lockdown."

Nominated by Councillor Lucy Nethsingha

Jean Glasberg

"Jean Glasberg has been the key contact for the Newnham Croft Resident’s Association. On behalf of the Resident’s Association (RA) she has done a huge amount supporting residents in the Newnham area. She has worked with the City Council, attending their briefings throughout lockdown, and ensuring information was distributed not only to her Resident’s Association, but also to other RAs across Newnham. Along with other RAs she helped set up a coordinated email chain, so all residents were kept informed of support mechanisms throughout the lockdown period.

She supported work to ensure that there were residents in streets across Newnham who could be contacted by those who were shielding for help with shopping or other concerns such as collecting prescriptions or dog walking."

Nominated by Councillor Lucy Nethsingha

Peter Menczer

"In 2016 a public meeting was called in Brampton to explain the pressures on the provision of services by the County Council. As a result, in 2017 we carried out a ‘Community-Led Plan’ survey and, in due course, a ‘Village Hub’ was created, chaired by Peter Menczer. This brought together and generated a number of voluntary groups – Befrienders, Dementia Group, Surgery driver’s scheme, ‘Good Neighbour Scheme’, Library, IT Mentoring and others. The Village Hub was supported financially by the parish council but is independent of it.

When the Covid crisis began earlier this year, the Village Hub was the vehicle through which we organised the ‘Brampton Community Support Network’. This has produced 70 volunteers who have visited the shielded elderly, provided food parcels, collected shopping, provided personal support, done household tasks, etc.

All this has been coordinated by Peter Menczer, a retired and long-standing member of the village with no public political affiliation, who has skilfully and modestly organised exactly the kind of action which fits in to the County Council’s ‘Think Communities’ approach."

Nominated by Councillor Peter Downes

Queen Edith’s Community Forum

"The Happy to Help project arose from the Queen Edith’s Community Forum (QECF), a long established neighbourhood group.

The QECF worked with two local churches, St John the Evangelist and St James’s to set up a neighbourhood help scheme. It started by distributing leaflets encouraging residents to reach out to neighbours and followed this up with the more formal mutual aid project, ‘Happy to Help’. About 250 people were recruited to help people who were isolating or shielding with everyday tasks such as shopping and dog walking, using a volunteer helpline. The project is telephone based, making it accessible to everybody. There has been frequent and regular communication with volunteers via email and online video meetings.

The QECF has used its email list to communicate local services and shopping as well as local and national guidance on coronavirus.

They also launched a community Food Hub, operating from St James’s Church, supporting families in need."

Nominated by Councillor Amanda Taylor

Red Cross Area Residents Association

"The Red Cross Area Residents Association is an informal grouping of individuals who work to support their neighbours. It operates in Red Cross Lane, Stansgate Avenue and Greenlands, off Hills Road near Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.

The group has stepped up during the pandemic, passing on information about COVID-19 from local and central government, to ensure everybody is in the know. They have done this via leaflets through doors and also with posters and innovative ‘information lines’, where flyers have been pegged to a ‘washing line’ in the street, enabling people to read information without having to handle it.

They have also sourced craft packs for families, and made sure any isolating or shielding residents have had help with shopping and other needs. They have also worked with our local Co-op, who have been extremely helpful not only with product but also with printing materials."

Nominated by Councillor Amanda Taylor

Spirotech Group

"The Sawtry engineering firm helped to install safety screens in numerous shops in the area, protecting staff and customers and helping stores stay open for business."

Nominated by Councillor Simon Bywater

St Neots Community Support (SNCS)

"Back in March 2020 two local residents Andy Shaw and James Goodman (the first trustees), decided to setup a Facebook Group and distribute leaflets to the residents of St.Neots experiencing “lockdown”, in an effort to provide help to those shielding. Before long Karen Burrett joined to help them. Originally the three of them setup the group to serve as a notice board, asking for and offering help until it was formalised in the form of a helpline which James set up. When Lynette Knott came onboard, between them they worked on how the support group would operate with safeguarding and training policies.

Kitty Sismey Williamson, Barry Chapman and Charlotte Cooper then joined the team just as the 03333 355 344 central telephone number was created. Between them, they set up a rota of volunteer couriers, friendly callers and then formally stood up a new constitution. A new bank account was started and funds provided by St Mary’s Rotary and Top Hat Property Services to help support the creation of St.Neots Community Support.

Clair Slade and Ben Pitt then joined the group to help liaise with other volunteer groups and the formal recognition of SNCS through Hunts Forum. Richard, Clair’s husband helped set up the website www.sncs.org.uk. Scott Manning was the last of the trustees to join to help with data collection, coordination tools and task allocation.

Throughout all the setup, the main constant and idea has been and always will be to support the people of St Neots. SNCS has an army of over 70 Courier Volunteers which have done 500 tasks of shopping, prescriptions, taking samples to doctors and taking rubbish out. 10 Friendly Callers of which 34 people have received calls, 20 Coordinators and 8 Trustees. The group aim to continue well past COVID-19. In their own words, they are not going anywhere!"

Nominated by Councillor Simone Taylor

Sutton Timebank

"Sutton Parish Council had agreed to start a local Timebank in the village, and had appointed a part-time Timebank coordinator, Lucy Amos-John, who took up her post very shortly before lockdown. The Timebank was in the planning stages when COVID-19 hit, and the parish council quickly repurposed Lucy’s role and the emerging Timebank to provide a firm foundation for a COVID-19 volunteer network.

The first request for help arrived on 23 March, and by the end of May over 600 hours had been given by over 40 volunteers helping 65 local households. This included delivering shopping and newspapers, collecting prescriptions, and developing a phone buddy system to help reduce social isolation. Leaflets were distributed across the village to let people know about the help available, and the parish council was awarded two grants for COVID-19 support, one from Cambridgeshire Communities Foundation and the other from Sutton Poors Land Charity.

The village’s specific COVID-19 support will be ending on Thursday 27 August, as the requests received have reduced since shielding restrictions were lifted, though of course the Timebank will continue in its originally intended form. (Updated figures 1,300 hours were volunteered in all, with 42 active volunteers helping 72 households."

Nominated by Councillor Lorna Dupre

Tony Watts

"Tony Watts has been the key contact for the Resident’s Association (RA) for Old Newnham. Along with other RAs he helped set up a coordinated email chain, so all residents were kept informed of support mechanisms throughout the lockdown period. Tony has been particularly helpful in gathering information from other groups and sites, and sharing it across the RA network in Newnham. The leaders in the RAs across Newnham were keen that Tony should be recognised for the help and support he has given to them during the pandemic in gathering information together in a format which they all used and shared.

He also supported work to ensure that there were residents in streets across Newnham who could be contacted by those who were shielding for help with shopping or other concerns such as collecting prescriptions or dog walking."

Nominated by Councillor Lucy Nethsingha

Volunteers of the Ely Community Covid 19 Group

"The team of Ely Community Covid 19 Mutual Aid Volunteers, championed and organised by Jules Hillier, has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to set up, run, and take part in the Ely Community Covid 19 Mutual Aid Group, supporting hundreds of people in Ely throughout the pandemic with hundreds of tasks. Their response to the pandemic was swift and comprehensive. It also inspired others to set up similar schemes in other communities and to use similar materials."

Nominated by Councillor Anna Bailey