THE worst of times brought out the very best in Ayrshire.

The first Ayrshire Weekly Press Health and Key Worker awards were held last week, with some truly astonishing achievements hailed during the virtual ceremony, hosted by comedian Billy Kirkwood.

Nominations flooded in from across the county, leaving the judging panel with some very difficult decisions to make.

But the biggest award of the night – Outstanding Achievement – was won by Kilwinning’s Nairn McDonald, who had earlier won the Volunteer of the Year award.

Ayrshire Weekly Press Editor-in-chief Paul Fisher said: “We were proud to host this ceremony and honour some of Ayrshire’s biggest heroes as we begin to move out of lockdown.

“Congratulations to all the winners – and the many nominees, all of whom deserve to be honoured themselves for their incredible work in our communities during the pandemic.”

The results were:

Delivery Driver/Retail Worker sponsored by Billy Bowie Special Projects.

Won by Andrew McLeish aka ‘Wingnut’.

Lorry driver Andy drove all over the UK and Europe to keep the food coming in and out the country during lockdown. Often away for two weeks at a time, with just two days off between trips, he sacrificed time with his wife and children to help the community

Health Care Team sponsored by Northern Carpets and Beds

Won by District Nurses, Largs.

Throughout the pandemic, the team cared for and visited the most vulnerable in the community. They put their own lives at risk in order to protect their clients and it is thanks to them that many people were protected from COVID-19

Care Home Worker of the Year sponsored by Arti-Farti.

Won by Louise Lauder

Louise is an outstanding member of staff at Springhill Care Home, Kilmarnock. She and her colleagues did all they could top ensure families could maintain quality contact with their loved ones during the pandemic, arranging WhatsApp calls and outdoor meeting areas.

Nurse of the Year sponsored by Inspired Vision Bathrooms and Wetrooms

Won by Natalie McLeod.

Dedicated Dalry Health Centre nurse Natalie was seconded to work tirelessly at the COVID Hub at Crosshouse Hospital before helping to manage all the mass units for the COVID vaccinations. She was hailed an an inspiration.

Mental Health sponsored by Sovereign Credit Union

Won by Michelle Trainer.

Michelle is a community link worker covering Largs and Millport, supporting many people and ensuring they have the best possible support. She also helped to establish the wellbeing group Opening the Shutters.

Champion Charity sponsored by Cunninghame Housing Association

Won by Julia Gray & Volunteers, Whitlees Centre.

Julie and her team in Ardrossan worked tirelessly for the community providing cooked meals and even opening a food larder. She even provided children in the community with gifts at Christmas and carried out an Easter Egg drop off. Their excellent proactive work helped her community get through the toughest of times.

Key Worker of the Year sponsored by GasSure

Won by Donna Fitzpatrick, Fullarton Hub

Donna and the Fullarton team provided meals and prescription pick-ups during the pandemic, as well as shopping for the elderly. Truly going above and beyond during the crisis, their excellent work was hailed by the community. Donna was also instrumental in setting up a food co-op.

Volunteer sponsored by The Bathroom Company Glasgow

Won by Nairn McDonald.

Nairn put his own mental health and disability struggles to one side during lockdown. He was determined to help others, despite grieving for a family member lost just before COVID and then another one lost to the pandemic. He volunteered at the Kilwinning Locality Hub and delivered hundreds of vital food parcels and prescriptions to people who were isolating, shielding or ill.

Young Carer sponsored by Cunninghame Housing Association

Won by Riley O’Hara.

Ten-year-old Riley has helped look after his dad, who has been diagnosed with incurable cancer. Riley has emptied his sick bowl, dried his sweating brow and been his dad’s support during lockdown. He is even doing an 80-mile cycle with relatives to fund adaptations to the family home .