LOCAL volunteers were in the spotlight as they were honoured for their vital work for the community

Created by local charity Forest Voluntary Action Forum (FVAF), the Forest Volunteer Awards celebrate the amazing efforts of local volunteers in the Forest of Dean.

The awards were presented on Tuesday (October 3) at the AccXel construction training school in Cinderford in a ceremony hosted by BBC Points West journalist Steve Knibbs.

Earlier this Summer, FVAF asked local people to nominate volunteers who demonstrated outstanding support to the local community over the past 12 months.

They received hundreds of nominations and a panel had the difficult task of short-listing for seven of the eight categories and picking the winners.

The final category – Volunteer of the Year: People’s Champion – was decided by a public vote with almost 1,400 votes cast.

Taking the top spot was Jando Greco, a volunteer at St Stephens Church in Cinderford, who was crowned Volunteer of the Year

A volunteer for more than 12 years, his nominator said: “We so appreciate him, he is such a thoughtful, caring person and will do anything for anyone – Jando is so worthy of receiving this award.”

Young volunteers were celebrated with Ebony Powell, volunteer and fundraiser at Forest of Dean Dog Rescue named under 16 years old Young Volunteer of the Year for her caring and dedicated commitment caring for the rescue dogs.

In the 17 – 25 years old category, Daisy Hoole was rewarded for her tireless hard work volunteering at C.A.N.D.I (Cinderford Area Neighbourhood Development Initiative) youth space.

In the groups section, The George in Newnham was recognised as the New Voluntary Group of the Year following the re-opening of the former cafe for the community

Sedbury Space picked up the Grassroots Voluntary Group award, in recognition of the community facility that has been created.

Fire safety education organisation SkillZONE was awarded the Community Organisation award for their responsive work with young people in the Forest, and a team of volunteers from EDF Energy picked up the Business in the Community Award for helping out at Camphill Village Trust at Taurus Crafts in Lydney.

Forest of Dean Dementia Action Alliance (FDDAA) sponsored the launch of a new Inclusion Award, with Cinderford Bowls Club scooping the top spot for making changes to the game and their grounds to make bowls accessible for everyone to enjoy.

Deb Cook, Volunteering Manager at FVAF said “So much of what happens within our community is because of people who give their time and energy for free.

“We think that recognising the amazing efforts of volunteers and organisations is incredibly important which is why we have been so pleased by the reaction of the local people who have supported these awards by nominating and voting.

“It has been an incredible evening and we are so lucky and proud of the strength of the amazing voluntary sector we have in the Forest.”

Master of Ceremony for the Forest Volunteer Awards was Steve Knibbs, BBC Points West reporter who kept the guests entertained with his expert hosting skills.

Award winners were announced by guest presenters; Mark Topping (Leader of the Forest Council), Emma Snell (Go Volunteer Gloucesershire), Penny Hulbert (FVAF Chair of Trustees), Jonathan Lane (Cabinet Member for Economy at the Forest Council), Kirsty Downie (Waitrose, Monmouth), and Andrea Harman (Ecophon).

The celebration evening was made possible thanks to generous support of main sponsors - KW Bell Group and AccXel Training Centre, Ecophon, Simplicity in Business, Steve Gooch Estate Agents and Waitrose, Monmouth.