JUST some of the dedicated and brilliant residents of Woodley were celebrated on Friday night at the town council's annual Community Heroes Awards. 

Scores descended on Oakwood Centre, on Headley Road, on February 24, for a special ceremony hosted by BBC presenter Matt Allwright.

The 52-year-old TV host swapped The One Show to return to his home town of Woodley to present awards to some of the bravest and kindest in the community. 

The awards have been rebranded from the former Citizens’ Awards to introduce new categories for local residents to nominate their Woodley heroes.

Matt, who has presented shows such as Rogue Traders, Watchdog and Food Inspectors, started the evening with tales of his childhood days as a ‘Woodleyite’ before introducing the winners, celebrating the very best of Woodley’s community for the second year running.

Environmentalist of the Year

David Provins, founder of the Friends of Woodford Park, was the first winner of the night. David was nominated for his dedication, devotion and hard work he puts in to maintain certain areas and flower beds in Woodford Park.

Nominated by Morag Frost, she commented: “David sets such a wonderful example of leadership, always enthusiastic, reliable and hard-working. He is fully committed to anything he takes on board. A man of many parts, one in a million, David deserves a big pat on the back in terms of recognition as a community hero.” 

Also nominated by Bob King, he commented: “David always goes the extra mile and goes over and above. For example, saving money by buying smaller plugs and growing them at home before planting them in Woodford Park and showing true commitment when he is at the park early in the morning during dry spells to water the various beds.”

David thanked the volunteers who help him and also made a plea for more volunteers to join the team. 

L-R: Matt Allwright, David Provins, Woodley Town Mayor, Cllr Janet Sartorel

Voluntary Group of the Year

Woodley Volunteers scooped Voluntary Group of the Year. The award was accepted by the Chairman, Alistair Todd and the coordinator, Karen Todd.

Founded more than 40 years ago, the volunteers help to get Woodley residents to medical appointments, staying with them and taking them home. 

Reading Chronicle:

L-R: Matt Allwright, Karen Todd, Alistair Todd, Woodley Town Mayor, Cllr Janet Sartorel

Nominated by Pamela Webber for giving up their free time and using their own vehicles and providing such an essential service. She commented: “I am nominating them as a user of this service. They are always prompt, helpful and friendly. It has helped me attend my medical appointments as I don’t drive and do not have anyone else to ask. The service is priceless and they all deserve a medal.” 

Alistair said: “It’s an honour to be recognised and awarded and we accept this on behalf of the volunteers.”

Volunteer of the Year

The next category was Volunteer of the Year and the first of two winners for this award.

Carolyn Wildman won Volunteer of the Year for her commitment and tireless dedication to Share Woodley, a free food sharing project which began at the start of the Covid pandemic at Emmanuel Church, using up surplus food that catering companies found they were left with; many supermarkets now also provide surplus food. It continues to be a life saver for lots of families, especially during the current cost of living crisis, also helping Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers accommodated in local hotels.

Nominated by Juliet Sheratt, she commented: “Carolyn has worked tirelessly to build links with local food outlets who can donate food and to build a strong team of volunteers who help to collect food and host the Share session on a Monday afternoon. Carolyn gives all her time and effort freely and offers support as well as food to the clients at Share. She works closely with Wokingham Community Engagement to keep clients informed of grants and funds they can apply for as well as being a link into council services. She is always professional but friendly and will go the extra mile for people. She truly deserves recognition for her hard work, as with or without an award, she is a community hero.”

Also nominated by Julie Smith, she said: “Carolyn was already helping out with Share Wokingham, so when the chance came to introduce the scheme to Woodley, Carolyn wasted no time in getting interested parties together.  It is true to say that without Carolyn’s enthusiasm and hard work; this invaluable community resource would not be the success it is. But Carolyn does much more than organise the team and manage the sessions. 

She has worked hard to develop links with local stores and collects food from them several times a week, all in her own time and at her own expense.  She makes it her business to get to know the clients who visit Share and their circumstances, often checking up on them and helping out in other ways if they need it and pointing them in the right direction for help. She devotes so much of her time and energy, and also genuine care and concern for the local community and deserves this award as an appreciation of all that she does.

Carolyn is the unsung hero of Share and the people that visit on a Monday afternoon would give this nomination a resounding ‘yeah’.”

Carolyn said: “I’d like to say a big thanks to my husband Pete – I couldn’t do it without him.” She also thanked all of the volunteers and suppliers. 

Reading Chronicle:

L-R: Matt Allwright, Steve Shipton, Lynne Shipton, Woodley Town Mayor, Cllr Janet Sartorel

Young Person of the Year

Another new category to the awards, Dexter Rosier was the next award winner, winning Young Person of the Year.

Dexter was nominated by his mum Samantha for his dedication to help others and raise funds and support for those in need. During the first Covid lockdown, Dexter started running marathons to raise money for Royal Berkshire Hospital. He also camped out for a whole month to raise funds for another local charity, Camp Mohawk.

Reading Chronicle:  Matt Allwright, Dexter Rosier, Woodley Town Mayor, Cllr Janet Sartorel Matt Allwright, Dexter Rosier, Woodley Town Mayor, Cllr Janet Sartorel (Image: Francesca Reed)

"Dexter also uses his own initiative to donate to local food banks inspired by Marcus Rashford and set up Dexter’s library based out of Whitley CDA, to help as many children as possible to have access to books during the summer holidays. 

Mum, Samantha, commented: “Dexter cares for everyone; indeed, he is a huge advocate of human rights for equality. Dexter is a young anomaly – he is gentle, mature, emotionally intelligent, empathetic and sympathetic in his approach to his everyday living. In this respect, I hereby nominate this outstanding nine-year-old boy for recognition of his services to others. Dexter Rosier makes the world a better place.” 

She added: “We are beyond proud of him – keep being you Dexter.”

Dexter, who already has more ideas for fundraising, said: “I do it to help people.”

Volunteer of the Year

The next award recipient was the second winner of the Volunteer of the Year category.

Lynne Shipton won Volunteer of the Year for creating a charity to support those newly diagnosed with breast cancer, following her own diagnosis. Chemogiftbags provides a bag filled with thoughtful and helpful items to help someone undergoing chemotherapy following a breast cancer diagnosis. 

Nominated by Tracy Linden, she commented: “I wanted to nominate Lynne for this award as she has worked tirelessly since the charity Chemogiftbags was born in 2015, to support the local people not only in Woodley but within the Thames Valley area. Lynne relentlessly fundraises to enable more women to benefit and she never gives up. The many reviews she has received from recipients of the Chemogiftbags is testament to the light she brings to others at what can be a daunting time.  If she can bring a smile to someone’s face, then she says her mission is achieved. It would be great for Lynne to be recognised for all she does to support others.”

Also nominated by Sandra Leary, a former recipient of a Chemogiftbag and now Ambassador for the charity, she said: “Lynne is the Kingpin of this wonderful Woodley based charity. She works so hard and puts in so many hours. The bags are so well thought out and put together with such care with things you wouldn’t even think about.”

Lynne said: “It’s a team award. Not just about me. We wouldn’t be here without the generous help from the team, volunteers, ambassadors. It’s about giving love for the people going through the treatment so they know we’re there to support them.”

Reading Chronicle:

L-R: Matt Allwright, Rosemary Edgington, Woodley Town Mayor, Cllr Janet Sartorel


Mayor’s Outstanding Contribution Award

The final award of the evening was the Mayor’s Outstanding Contribution Award, which is chosen by the Mayor and awarded to a person or organisation for their contribution to Woodley. This year, Woodley Town Mayor, Cllr Janet Sartorel chose to award Rosemary Edgington from Winnersh District Royal British Legion the Mayor’s Outstanding Contribution Award for her dedication, persistence and continuing support of the Poppy Appeal in Woodley. 

In her speech, Janet told the audience that Rosemary has been involved in the poppy appeal across various committees since 1978, and took over from her father as the Poppy Appeal organiser for Woodley in 2017, inspired to support the Poppy Appeal by her grandmother who was part of a test case for war widows’ pensions as it was her way of giving back because the pension made such a difference to her grandmother’s life.

“In 1998, poppy selling migrated to Woodley precinct, where it still remains today. In fact, my husband Lou was out with Rosemary selling poppies last November. Luckily, they now have a few more comforts when selling, including a table and chairs and not just a ‘poppy box around the neck’.”

Rosemary is also responsible for distributing wreaths across Woodley, along with the poppies for schools and shops to sell, taking her over four hours to deliver each time, covering over 10 miles!

She also started working with Woodley Town Council and its Armistice Day event in 2021, following in the footsteps of her father. 

“She is a valuable and vital member of the team who put the Armistice event together and they have asked me to convey their very heartfelt thanks for her support and guidance, adding that they look forward to continuing this relationship and benefitting from Rosemary’s knowledge, dedication, kindness and support for many years to come,” said Janet.

Reading Chronicle: Matt Allwright, Carolyn Wildman, Woodley Town Mayor, Cllr Janet Sartorel (Credit: Francesca Reed) Matt Allwright, Carolyn Wildman, Woodley Town Mayor, Cllr Janet Sartorel (Credit: Francesca Reed) (Image: Woodley Town Council)

“To quote Rosemary: ‘People always find their way to you; it’s deep-rooted in our society to buy a poppy’. Each year I wear my poppy with pride as a symbol of remembrance and hope for a positive future and peaceful world. Long may people continue to buy poppies to help remember the brave who have served and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace and to raise vital funds to support them and their loved ones.”

Reading Chronicle: Matt Allwright & Francesca ReedMatt Allwright & Francesca Reed (Image: Francesca Reed)

The awards ceremony was followed by a reception in the Carnival and Maxwell rooms, catered for by Brown Bag. 

A spokesman for Woodley Town Council said: "We would like to once again congratulate all of the winners and thank them and their nominees and guests for attending the event. 

"We would also like to thank Matt Allwright for hosting the awards ceremony and providing great entertainment and camaraderie. 

"Finally, we’d like to thank Francesca Reed, an A Level student at Waingels College, for taking photos of the award winners."