Community Champion Awards celebrate winners’ success with conga

Community Champion Awards celebrate winners’ success with conga in the City Chambers.

It is not often Gordon Sloan, the outgoing Glasgow Housing Association chairman and respected community event stalwart, is lost for words.

But as he joined the 400-strong crowd to celebrate this year’s Community Champions winners, he was speechless to discover he was also to be the recipient of an award.

Gordon, who has tirelessly supported Community Champions throughout his six-year tenure, received the Special Recognition accolade in honour of his hard work for GHA and for Glasgow.

He has played a significant role in the creation of the Wheatley Group and since taking over as leader of the GHA Board, customer satisfaction has improved to 90 per cent and hundreds of new-build homes have taken shape as part of the regeneration of the city.   He said: “I have always said I get much, much more out of Community Champions than I ever put in.  “It’s a lovely event, and I have been honoured to be part of it.

“I am very proud to get this award but it should really go to the people of Glasgow who, in my opinion, are fantastic.”
Lord Provost Councillor Sadie Docherty, who stands down in May, also said a fond farewell to the event.

She told the packed banqueting hall: “This is my last Community Champions grand final and I can honestly say that this event, which gives me the chance to meet so many amazing people of Glasgow, has been one of the highlights of my term of office.

“People Make Glasgow – I am in no doubt about that. The proof is in this room.”

There was a carnival atmosphere with a hint of panto at last night’s final, with drumrolls, Mexican waves and even a giant conga to complete proceedings thrown into the mix.

Even those who missed out on the prizes said they were delighted to be at the party.

“We are really proud just to be here,” beamed Sophie Wylie, 15, one of the Pavilion Youth Café Young Volunteers who narrowly missed out on the Young Award.

“There are lots of negative things said about young people today.

“Hopefully projects like ours will change people’s minds and show everyone we are a force for good.”
The Health and Wellbeing Award winners, bike recycling project The Glasgow Bike Station, were over the moon to have triumphed in a hotly contested category.

Volunteer co-ordinator Janie Smith said: “Winning tonight speaks to our growth and all the effort put in to make it work.”

Operations manager Colin Freeman said: “We are overwhelmed – this is a great award to win.  “Without our volunteers, we could not do what we do.”

The noisy North Kelvin Sports Development Group raised the roof when they were announced as winners of the Sport Award.

As well as running 12 football teams, the group organises several outstanding community projects, tackling issues as diverse as social exclusion and sectarianism.

Maxine Dempsey and Kay Coombe, whose 12-year-old sons Xander and Sean are part of the group, said: “Our club is at the heart of our community because we believe every child, regardless of age or race or background, should have the opportunity to play sport.  “That’s our starting point and from there we have branched out, and we reach so many people. It’s a real privilege to be part of it.”

The senior members of the audience were equally vocal when it came to accepting their awards.
“I don’t do this to win awards or have fancy nights out,” said Margaret Simpson, winner of the Senior Award for her tireless work on behalf of the Baillieston community.

“I do it because Baillieston has been the forgotten end of the city when it comes to seniors and now we are on the map. If speaking up about the lack of services for older people and doing my bit has helped people, then I’m happy.”
Robert Alston, the one-man community whirlwind who is a volunteer lock-keeper, community council stalwart and music group organiser agreed.

He said: “When I retired, I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing.

“I wanted to help people. It’s very nice to be recognised but that’s not what I do it for.”

Frank Gilroy, aka Harvey the hospice mascot, who just missed out on the Individual Award, has been raising money for the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice since the death of his wife. “I’m thrilled to be here tonight,” he said.  “It has been a fantastic year but Harvey is now bowing out and hanging up his running shoes – the costume is on its last legs and he’s getting very fragile and needs a lot of TLC – but I will continue to support the hospice.”

Council Leader Councillor Frank McAveety said: “As a proud Glaswegian, there is no bigger honour than being Council Leader – and I’m honoured to be here tonight.”

Chief Superintendent Brian McInulty of Police Scotland agreed: “It makes me proud to come from this city to hear the stories of good people making a difference all over Glasgow.”

George McGrandles, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Area Manager, said: “It’s humbling to hear how hard everyone in this room works, on top of their day jobs and busy lives, to help their communities flourish, expecting little reward in return.”

Gehan Macleod, who won the Public Service Award for her drive and vision steering Galgael, the project which helps people rebuild their lives following difficult circumstances, summed it up.

“The world feels very fractured at the moment, with growing uncertainty everywhere – none of us knows what’s going to happen or where we will be a year from now,” she said.

“Everyone here tonight, as part of these great awards, is doing their bit to keep communities and families and our city together.”

An outstanding performance from 13-year-old schoolgirl singer Chiara Smith got the party started and it was incomparable event host Michelle McManus who brought the proceedings to a fabulously festive end.

As groups and individuals from all over the city joined the Lord Provost for a conga round the City Chambers, Carole Shields of Team Award winners 3D Drumchapel Volunteers summed up what everyone was feeling.