We have now reached the end of our countdown to the Examiner Pride of Huddersfield Awards by taking a look at our final category, Friend of the Year.
The winner will be announced tomorrow night at the awards staged at The John Smith’s Stadium and hosted by ITN newsreader Nina Hossain.
Here are the nominees for Friend of the Year:
Christmas can be one of the loneliest times of the year.
While others are partying people on their own can feel terribly isolated and unloved.
But that doesn’t happen in the Paddock area thanks to the wonderful efforts of Charlene Novak who is determined that everyone is included in a special Christmas Day celebration she arranges.
Charlene, her family and her team of volunteers organise and host a Christmas lunch at the Jubilee Centre in Paddock for around 120 people who live in the surrounding community who would otherwise be on their own. Many are classed as vulnerable.
She is helped by husband Gavin and four daughters Elisha, 14, Lauren, 12, Chloe 10 and nine-year-old Amber.
Charlene said: “The whole family loves to help out and we have made some great friends through doing this.”
Charlene, 34, of Lockwood, organises volunteers to transport the guests to and from the centre, people to cook lunch and volunteers to serve the meal and then host a party afterwards which includes Christmas carols, party games and finally a visit from Father Christmas with a gift for each guest.
And when they do go home every guest is given a food parcel to take with them courtesy of the Ahymadiyya Muslims in Huddersfield.
The Salvation Army used to run Christmas Day events but when this ended around six years ago Charlene and her friend Wendy Thorpe from Lockwood Baptist Church set the first one up there for around 40 people. It rapidly grew so the venue was moved to the Community Church in Paddock where Charlene is a member.
Sadly Wendy died earlier this year.
The meal is provided by the goodwill of many people who simply donate money and over the years groups such as Pendragon and Rotary have been generous. The Community Church provides anything else that is needed.
Charlene was nominated by Joanne Clegg from Royds Hall Community School, who said: “Charlene and her young family organise all this and it all runs very smoothly.”
Nearly Neighbours began as a pilot project and was so successful it is now expanding into more areas of Huddersfield.
The scheme was set up by Age UK Kirklees and Calderdale at first in Almondbury and Skelmanthorpe with one simple aim ... to encourage friendship and, in doing so, combat loneliness. They helped around 300 people.
Judith Churley from Age UK Kirklees and Calderdale said: “It is a simple idea and we have received fantastically positive feedback from local people. The aim is simply to make people feel more part of the community where they live and to encourage them to be more neighbourly. The focus of the project was supporting older people who might be lonely or isolated but the pilot demonstrated that it was a real benefit to the wider community.
“We want to create small, informal but sustainable networks of people living in the same area who can become friends and a support network for each other. That might involve just a chat over the fence, helping with shopping, sharing meals, popping next door for a cuppa or being a friendly face in an emergency.
“We do this by building relationships with people who have local knowledge such as GPs, PCSOs, local shops, churches, libraries, pubs, pharmacists etc and developing a means of feedback to identify older people who may be isolated but who may not like being labelled as ‘vulnerable’. They just want someone to talk to rather than a support worker.”
Staff and volunteers from Age UK Calderdale and Kirklees have informal conversations with local people about what they could do for these people who are their neighbours.
For example, project worker Carly Munro talked to one lady who was aware that her neighbour’s husband had recently died. They spoke about loneliness and the times it might strike the most. From this, the lady went on to visit her neighbour at times she thought might be difficult for her. This neighbour later went on to say: “I don’t think I would have managed if she had not popped in.”
The project has expanded to now cover Almondbury, Newsome, Lowerhouses, Moldgreen, Dalton, Waterloo, Kirkburton, Shelley, Skelmanthorpe and Shepley. The hope is to reach and help a further 600 people up to 2017.
Judith added: “Volunteers are an important part of the project. We had to develop, maintain and enhance relationships within local communities and recruit volunteers to help people to support one another and to promote the project and its benefits. The Nearly Neighbours project helps in overcoming low confidence and reluctance to get involved in their community due to lack of trust and fear of the unknown. It is a fantastic example of how a ‘light touch’ approach can help bring people closer together and make local communities more caring and sharing places to live.”
Huddersfield Royal Infirmary's Theatres Team
Friends show their true colours during the toughest times and the operating theatres department at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary proved the absolute meaning of the word to help someone that meant so much to them.
It all started when their 35-year-old colleague Obe Morake, who lived in Holmfirth, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last August.
The former British Army soldier was recognised for his smiley attitude to work, professionalism and was much revered among colleagues in the operating theatres at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust’s PR department said: “As a team they were devastated when he received his diagnosis and his condition started to deteriorate and time was running out.
“Obe wanted to go home to South Africa to see his family and friends before he became too poorly to do the journey. A collection was made and enough funds were raised to allow Obe to go.”
Later, with Christmas looming, the team went into overdrive with the aim of bringing Obe’s little son from South Africa. During Obe’s treatment, Refentse was staying with his grandparents so their mission was to fly them back for Christmas. Mission accomplished and Obe’s mum Catherine, dad Isaac and Refentse flew back on December 23.
To make it all possible a cake stall was organised that turned out to be no ordinary cake stall. Some of the members of the team made huge cash donations, helping the fund to reach thousands of pounds. Another colleague had his head shaved and was sponsored for doing so, news spread and in the end the entire Trust was behind the effort. In no time at all, enough was raised.
On Christmas Eve the theatres team turned out and sang carols outside Obe’s home to make it extra special for the family. Christmas was truly a special one for Obe, wife Maggie and their family.
Obe died on January 11. The team organised a memorial service for him in Holmfirth on Saturday, January 23 and his body was flown home two days later accompanied by his family and a burial, as promised to him, was in Carletonville, South Africa.
His friend in theatres Martyn Gothard said: “Obe made a great impact on so many people. He will be an inspiration to many people. He was one of us. He was a big character in more ways than one. He was an athlete, a mentor, a professional, a true gentleman, a father, a husband, a son. To me, he was a friend. Due to Obe`s illness I have met many different people from many different back grounds. I am proud to say I now have a new family.”
The theatres team includes doctors, nurses, theatre practitioners, surgeons, anaesthetists, orderlies and radiographers.
Award sponsor: Pennine Retail Windows
Pennine Retail Windows has once again supported the Pride of Huddersfield Awards’ Friend of the Year Award.
Pennine is based in Aspley and proprietor Craig Hanson said: “It is people like this who give light on these dark times and are an inspiration to those around.
“At Pennine we are proud to be a part of the community, proud to offer our services with high standards and integrity.
“Without those in our community, Pennine wouldn’t be the thriving business it is today.”