The very finest Bedfordshire folk were awarded for their fantastic works at the Pride In Bedfordshire awards on Thursday.
On the night nominees in the ten categories enjoyed a three course meal and entertainment at Bedford Corn Exchange, before the awards ceremony began.
The evening started with an address from Times & Citizen and Biggleswade Chronicle editor Jim Stewart, who introduced David Russell, chief executive of the Harpur Trust who spoke about the good causes the trust supports.
Sponsors Costa were also represented with corporate responsibility manager Sandy Gourlay giving a speech to guests about how Costa helps community groups, and the wider world.
And then it was the turn of Eastenders star Nitin Ganatra who warmed up the crowd with jokes before kicking off the awards.
The night’s first winner, in the friendly neighbour of the year category, was Muriel Stanbridge (aka Pidge). She was being recognised for helping her neighbour Lillian Circuit, who has a severely disabled son, even giving the family use of her home while their house was being adapted.
Muriel said: “It feels wonderful but I am a little overwhelmed. I just saw what they were going through and anyone would have done the same.”
Next up was the care in the community category and winner, Julia Butterworth was being recognised for setting up support services for young mums involved with domestic violence or other social need.
She said: “I just can’t believe it, to get this for just helping people help each other help themselves is just wonderful.”
The award for young achiever was presented next, to Paralympian Julie Rodgers, who competed at the 2012 Paralympic Games in the Great Britain sitting volleyball team.
Julie said: “This year has been amazing and to get this award is very special. It’s great to know that people in Bedford recognise something like this.”
Bravery was the name of the next award with hero PC Thomas Dobinson saluted for saving an autistic man who jumped off Bedford Town Bridge earlier this year.
PC Dobinson was unable to collect his award as he was on duty, but Vincent Carrozzino, whose son he saved, accepted the award on his behalf.
He said: “He saved my son’s life and that’s the most important thing. If he didn’t do what he did our lives would be over. We’ve been to hell and back for a long time, it could have been such a different outcome, and that’s why I knew we had to do something to recognise PC Dobinson.”
Some of the best teachers in Bedfordshire were among the nominees in the excellence in education category, but winner Mary Arthur impressed judges with her 36 years of dedication to teaching.
Mary, who retired from her role at Challney High School For Girls this year, said: “It’s absolutely amazing, I was supported by brilliant people throughout my career and it’s brilliant to receive this award.”
After a short interval, where children from Harpur Trust schools entertained the crowd with musical performances Nitin came back to the stage for the second round of awards.
Service with a smile winner was family butcher Eric Clulow, who has been in the business for over 40 years.
He said: “I’m quite humbled by it all, never in my wildest dreams would I think someone would give me something for doing something I love doing.”
Fundraiser of the year David Coard could not be at the ceremony to collect his award, but Nitin told guests how the ‘super fundraising hero’ had raised thousands of pounds for local charities by taking on a series of challenges.
Olympic fever returned to the hall as the Bedford pre games training camps won the raising the profile of the town award.
the award was in recognition of the team of professional volunteers who put Bedford on the map by hosting Olympic and Paralympic teams from across the world in the run up to the summer games.
Physiotherapist Kate Barnard, said: “It has been a really fantastic experience and this is just the icing on the cake.”
Ian Pettit, tireless pensioners’ rights campaigner, won the unsung hero award.
Mr Pettit used the opportunity to get on the microphone and educate guests about his causes to wild applause from the room.
Later on he said: “I think it was a marvellous occasion and it brings to light the things that go on in Bedford which make Bedford a very proud place to be.”
And then as the night drew to a close it was time for the peoples’ choice award winner to be announced, the result of a public vote.
This year’s winner was Mohammed Nadeem, who has worked to transform the fortunes of Luton High Street as well as raising thousands of pounds for charities together with his team.
Mr Nadeem was abroad on business and unable to collect his award, but colleague Kate Bukhrashvili accepted it on his behalf.
She said: “This is the public’s choice so it means so much, he will be so happy.”