A neighbour who offered support to every house in her street, a business owner who provided thousands of meals for NHS workers, and the entire staff of the intensive care unit at Wexham Park Hospital are just some of those honoured in the Maidenhead Rotary Club Covid-19 Heroes Awards.
The club asked the public to nominate people in the Maidenhead area who had gone over and above the call of duty during the first stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, in five categories covering hospital workers to community volunteers.
Almost 200 people responded, nominating more than 30 people or groups they thought had gone the extra mile to help others. Last month a judging panel including Rotary president Mary Spinks and Maidenhead MP Theresa May had the tough job of selecting the winners.
The awards were the idea of President Mary, who had a 52-year career in nursing and is a former director of the Florence Nightingale Foundation which supports nurses. Originally the aim of the scheme was to give £100 to the five category winners but Mary decided to double the fund so others could be recognised with £50 runner-up awards.
She said: “The entries showed the incredible community spirit and selflessness of so many people willing to go out of their way to help not just neighbours but complete strangers. It was a very difficult judging experience but also a great privilege to be able to offer a small token of our appreciation for what they had done, and in many cases, continue to do.”
Among the category winners was community volunteer Alice Lewthwaite from Oaken Grove, who contacted every one of the 84 houses in her road to offer help and support to those in need. Most residents did not know her before the pandemic and judges said her actions summed up the very spirit of the awards.
The Open category was won by Shilpam Bidasaria, owner of Desi Flavorz, who supplied thousands of cooked vegetarian meals to NHS doctors and nurses at seven hospitals, as well as supporting GP surgeries and Maidenhead Foodbank.
The whole staff of Wexham Park Hospital’s intensive care unit will share a special award of £200 for their unfailing resilience and endurance during the pandemic.
President Mary said: “It is difficult to comprehend the pressure and emotions of ICU staff who had to cope with patients, isolated from loved ones, and aware that they could die from this terrible virus. Unfortunately, in spite of all their efforts, many died leaving staff to deal with the never ending and draining experience of loss and sadness.”
Ana Coelho, clinical matron at the Intensive Care Unit, said: “The Wexham Park ICU team is very grateful for receiving such acknowledgment. Despite the challenges we are still facing, it is comforting to see how fantastic goodwill and mutual support continues to encourage us to achieve what we now look back on as small miracles. Thank you Maidenhead Rotary Club, we are very proud and humbled to be regarded as heroes. We look forward to celebrating, in a safe future, by enjoying the privilege of this recognition.”
Miriam Blazey, manager of Elizabeth House in Cookham, won the Community Health Worker category for her support of the Cookham SOS community hub, based at the centre. And the Care Home Category award went to Craig Thorne at Thames Hospice who worked solidly throughout the pandemic, including extra shifts to ensure the new hospice opened on time.
Theresa May said of the awards: “I was really impressed by the nominations. Everyone who was nominated had gone over and above the call of duty in supporting their local community and judging them was very difficult.
“But what this shows is what a fantastic local community we have of people willing to help their neighbours in such difficult times. Thanks to Rotary for doing this because it’s really important that we recognise the contribution that everyone has made.”
Everyone nominated who did not win a prize receives a Rotary service recognition certificate from the club.
Results in full:
Winners (£100 prize):
Hospital Worker – Wexham Park ICU
(£200 special award)
Open Category – Shilpam Bidasaria
Community volunteer – Alice Lewthwaite
Care Home Worker – Craig Thorne
Community Health Worker – Miriam Blazey
Runners-up (£50 prize):
Andrew Sutherland, 1st Cookham Scouts
Kirsty Clark, Holyport Cares
Kirsty Buckland, Holyport Cares
Ian Davis, Cooham SOS
Jenny Wyeth, Wexham Park Hospital
Nette Pescador, Wexham Park Hospital
Service recognition certificate:
Bourne End & Wooburn SOS
People to Places