Lowestoft project takes countywide prize
AN innovative Lowestoft-based scheme has taken more plaudits after lifting the top prize in a Suffolk-wide contest this evening (Tuesday).Voluntary work and projects devised and actioned by young people throughout the county to help reduce crime and make Suffolk a safer and better place to live, were rewarded at a ceremony hosted by The High Sheriff of Suffolk, Diana Hunt JP DL, at St.
AN innovative Lowestoft-based scheme has taken more plaudits after lifting the top prize in a Suffolk-wide contest this evening (Tuesday).
Voluntary work and projects devised and actioned by young people throughout the county to help reduce crime and make Suffolk a safer and better place to live, were rewarded at a ceremony hosted by The High Sheriff of Suffolk, Diana Hunt JP DL, at St. Nicholas Centre, Ipswich.
Compered by Mark Murphy of BBC Radio Suffolk and organised by The Suffolk Foundation that manages the High Sheriff's Fund, the event was held to recognise and reward the work of many voluntary and community groups and organisations working to improve their communities.
And topping the list of award-winners was the Lowestoft-based Mow and Grow project who beat the Waterfront Community Centre Senior Anchor Club of Ipswich and JUMP, also from Lowestoft, for the Suffolk Crimebeat Award which was given by the High Sheriff for their innovative gardening service that had not only cut grass, but cut fear of crime too in the area.
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Established in 2006 by voluntary CEO Trevor Lynn, Mow and Grow provides a free gardening service for vulnerable people in the community while providing work experience, life skills and accredited training and employment to those at a disadvantage in the labour market.
During 2008, the 100 volunteers made more than 1500 garden visits, bringing the gardens up to the standard of the neighbour's homes, so they are not marked for petty burglary, resulting in a reduction in fear of crime by more than 85%.
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It established an Open College Network (OCN) assessment centre that has become the UK's first ever provider of horticultural machinery qualifications as well as delivered 100 OCN qualifications to those with little or no formal qualifications and generated more than 8000 hours of volunteering in the community.
One referral joined as a problem youth at risk, gained qualifications and has become an instructor. He now takes eight adults with learning difficulties to run a grounds maintenance and composting programme at a day care centre that won a county waste partnership last year. The project now employs six new staff and the leader is set to start a new arm of Mow and Grow entitled Sport and Grow.
They go forward to the National Crimebeat Award finals to be held in June.
The runners-up Waterfront were commended for their work through the multimedia centre to engage disadvantaged young people in music, encourage community cohesion and fight prejudice and achieve crime reduction through the annual Respect festival.
Jump, a mentoring service for the young by the young, received commendation for helping those aged 13-18 through issues such as homelessness, drug misuse, teenage pregnancy and providing support for many who may not have come to the attention of the statutory authorities for help.
The winner of the Youth Organisation Award, cheque for �1000 and trophy, sponsored for the first time by Suffolk New College and presented by Dave Muller, was the Red Rose Chain whose work with marginalised groups engaging them in drama, developing scripts and producing films with key messages impressed the judges.
Over the past 10 years, the Ipswich-based group has worked with those including HMP Hollesley Bay, Montgomery Road Education Project, Belstead Special School delivering more than 30 theatre and 12 short film projects including three on crime prevention, designed to help the individuals reflect on the impact of their behaviour within the community.
The two other finalists were the Waterfront Community Centre Senior Anchor Club for its work in the Respect Festival, music workshops and providing a neutral space in the Alexandra Ward where young people can meet and collaborate on music and media projects and Halesworth-based Suffolk Artlink that works with 120 disadvantaged 8-16 year olds to encourage personal and social development through creative activities including group music making.
The Volunteer of The Year Award was presented by Paul Winter CEO of The Ipswich Building Society to 77-year-old Geoffrey Brogden from Needham Market for his decades of work with many charities and individuals. The former teacher of social work at Suffolk College advocates for those who had difficulty accessing services, volunteers for the Quakers, sits on The Greenwood Trust that provides funding for young people in financial difficulties to help with their education. Geoffrey received a trophy and a cheque for �1000 to be divided equally between the Workers Education Association and Ipswich Umbrella Trust.
Runners-up included Harry Stewart from Felixstowe for his fundraising work, leaderships and involvement with the leveltwo project and Mrs Elizabeth Bloice for her work with the Lowestoft Signing Choir.
Speaking about the awards, Stephen Singleton, Chief Executive of The Suffolk Foundation said: 'These awards really bring the many unsung heroes who are doing such great work throughout the county to the fore. These are the people who are really making a real difference at the grassroots of our communities, building social cohesion and creating safer environments. As the leading independent, grant making organisation in the county we support each one of them, these people are the glue in our communities.'