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As part of the Merton Best Business Awards 2021, we are delighted to be awarding a Kindness in the Community Award.

The Kindness in the Community Award is designed to recognise the outstanding work of an individual in our borough, whose compassion and humanity compelled them into making a significant impact within the community during Covid-19.

To be eligible for the Award, during the pandemic , the nominee must have exhibited any of the following:

  • Gone above and beyond to demonstrate generosity and kindness to others within their local and / or wider community  

  • Devoted their free time to address a social concern, i.e. cohesion, accessibility, isolation, health and wellbeing etc.  

  • Made a lasting impact on the life of another individual/s 

  • Generated or contributed a significant amount of money for a community initiative or community based organisation. 

The winner was announced at the Merton Best Business Awards Ceremony, which took place Wednesday 1 December at the prestigious All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon.

See the full list of nominees and the Kindness in the Community Award recipient, below

Winners: Craig Wellstead, Cormac van der Hoeven, Xavier Wiggins

Co-founders of the Dons Local Action Group (DLAG)

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Dons Local Action Group

What started as a small number of AFC Wimbledon fans responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, quickly gathered pace as the community corralled behind the cause. With over 20,000 registered volunteers, the organisation has become a permanent presence across Merton, Kingston and Wandsworth. Activities are centred around food, furniture and digital poverty.

Nominees: 

Dom Kelly

Dom Kelly helped to establish a network of volunteers in Merton Park Ward on behalf of Mutual Aid in all but 5 roads, Delivering blood test kits to potential Covid19 infected cases and, also, arranged prescriptions.  Dom was instrumental in getting Keep Kids Connected set up, a charity to distribute iPads to children enabling them to continue education from home during lockdown. 

Erwan Le Bohec and Shoim Choimet

For many months, Erwan and Shoim from Deli Boutique donated 15 dozen eggs, 16 kilos of flour and large amounts of fruit - at first to the Commonside Trust Foodbank in Pollard Hill and latterly to the Fresh Foodbank also in Pollards Hill.

Fatima Hyatt

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Fatima Hyatt

Fatima Hyatt is a dance teacher at Wimbledon and Morden leisure centres. 

As soon as the gyms closed, she created a Facebook group and provided daily live dance sessions for free; the classes became a moment to look forward to for the participants - many of whom lived alone and struggled with mental health issues / isolation during lockdown. 

Fatima continued the online classes once the gyms reopened to make sure the people still shielding could maintain some social contact – fitting classes around her day job, gym work and life as a single mother.

“I started with 11 people when I did my live class, 26th March 2020. My contribution was received with such pleasure that I had 126 people following my page towards the end of lockdown.” 

Nicola Laffey

Nicola Laffey volunteers at the Acacia Adventure Playground, Mitcham where, prior to the pandemic had been working with vulnerable families and helping them in various ways. 

When the pandemic hit, to support the various vulnerable groups that staff identified, Nicola;

  • Coordinated and collected food provisions from the Playground suppliers / donations from supermarkets etc
  • Batched and delivered food parcels to families and vulnerable individuals
  • Printed and delivered, or, accommodated a safe socially distanced collection point for homework packs
  • Delivered arts and craft packs, colouring pencils and books and also puzzles to help keep the children entertained at home
  • Delivered an Easter egg to every child in the households we delivered to at Easter

Nicola  is a single mum of 6 children and suffers with multiple health problems, however, providing help to the vulnerable families was not only rewarding for her but, also, her children - to be able to feel helpful by carrying the parcels to the door and giving a socially distanced wave

 

Liz Sherwood  

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Liz Sherwood

Liz Sherwood drives around a lot, delivering food to Sustainable Merton, Commonside and many others like and also takes food to the homeless house in Mitcham. She has also done a lot for Abundance Wimbledon.

“For a number of years I have been volunteering with Abundance Wimbledon where I lead a team of volunteers picking fruit in Mitcham and Morden and we save and redistribute fruit which would otherwise go to waste.

In 2020, through DLAG I started to collect food from the supermarkets who operate a charity giving scheme. I then distribute it to the voluntary groups in Merton who can use it - a temporary accommodation unit in Mitcham and  the Community Fridge run by Sustainable Merton on Wednesdays and Thursdays - alongside fruit we have through Abundance.

Sometimes the food also goes to individual families who can use it. This involves a fair bit of driving to three different locations on Saturdays and two on Sundays and liaising with the groups especially on Mondays and distributing it. On other occasions I drive to collect spare food from DLAG and, again, find homes for it so people who need it benefit and usable food is not wasted.

Lohendran Chelliah

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 Lohendran

As Chair of Merton's Seniors Forum, Lohendran has been very helpful to the seniors of Merton and during the pandemic busy carrying out the following duties;

  • Every Monday, along with a neighbour, collects food items form the local Tesco and delivers them to the foodbank distribution centre, a church in South Wimbledon
  • Formed a WhatsaApp group which consists of 40 residents from his street to communicate and help each other whenever issues arise. This enables him to keep an eye on some of the older people in his street /  check on health conditions
  • Prior to Covid, he started running a monthly Sunday club ‘Unique Talent’ for children with learning difficulties/autism/challenging behaviour, which has continued
  • Printing bimonthly newsletters re covid related information and police scam alerts
  • Liaising with the Council re various issues

 

Lynsey Coleman

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Lynsey Coleman

Lynsey Coleman is the Senior Marketing Manager at Centre Court Shopping Centre and spearheaded "The Little Community that Could" initiative, delivering small fresh produce parcels  Working with local volunteer groups, parcels were packaged up by Lynsey daily and issued to those who registered as vulnerable or self-isolating.

Within the first two weeks, over 120 parcels were delivered to local residents. The campaign built momentum towards the end of March with other local businesses and institutions partnering, allowing the initiative to develop to include pharmacy deliveries and, also, goods for NHS staff at St Thomas’ and St George’s Hospitals.

More than 250 Tesco £15 vouchers to cover free school meals for students who was entitled in during half term.

With the success of the project and the links established within the Wimbledon area, the campaign developed to include ‘The Little Community that Creates’ to support arts within the area that weren’t being enjoyed in the same way and offering local artists a platform on which to share their work.

During Lynsey’s daily walks, she devoted time to finding #PocketsofPositivity to share on social media, as well as issuing ‘Something to Brighten your Week’ email newsletters to Centre Court customers, sharing ideas of activities and entertainment throughout lockdown. 

Mick and Sarah Dore

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Mick and Sarah Dore

Mick and Sarah are landlords of the Alexandra Pub and provided many meals during the lockdown for the local hospital staff and, also, organised virtual online quizzes to keep the community entertained.

“We run a regular pub quiz Monday nights and this is hugely popular, almost always completely fully booked. When lockdown was announced we decided to transfer the quiz online and sent it out live.

The response was amazing, people from around the world played as our kids filmed it on their i-phones and sent it out on {social media}.  We had messages literally from all corners as people in Australia, the USA and Barbados to name a few played along.  Many were far away from loved ones and were able to connect online via the quiz. There were teams playing that had members in 3 or 4 different locations. It really brought people together and was multi-generational too, truly heart-warming.

Also during lockdown we prepared meals for the local hospitals. Each day we (along with our live-in staff) prepared and packaged meals that could be microwaved so frontline NHS staff had a hot meal at the end of their shifts, by the end we’d cooked and sent 6122 meal boxes.  It was a pleasure to get stuck in and help a little where we could.  To be honest we were very grateful to have the opportunity to be

able to do something useful and keep busy. It helped us too.”

Olive Grey

Olive Grey  ensures that vulnerable people who attend Friends in St Helier (FISH) are visited and helps them with shopping and mobility by taking them out to garden centres - Olive is a sprightly {85} year old herself !

Throughout the pandemic and to date, Olive calls daily - and also makes weekly visits - to check on the wellbeing of a network of friends;  two of whom have cancer and a number who have the onset of Alzheimer’s – Rose describes herself as having a “warped sense of humour” and getting people to laugh helps to ease the tension.

Olive also provided a lot of support to a friend, aged 95; at a point, the friend had lost her confidence to walk outside, so Olive assisted by taking her on walks along her road.  Eventually, the friend regained her confidence and Olive would accompany her on shopping trips regularly – sadly, the friend passed away October 2021.

 

Patrick Hutchinson

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Patrick Hutchinson

Patrick Hutchinson is a father and grandfather of three who – together with a group of friends with years of martial arts training – attended the Black Lives Matter (BLM) rallies to protect young black protesters from getting caught up in violence at demonstrations, with the counter-protestors who saw the demonstrations as an attack on all white people. 

An altercation broke out between the two groups of protestors; the counter-protesters had run off leaving one by himself who, outnumbered, quickly became under attack.  The celebrated image of Patrick carrying the counter protestor over his shoulder to safety – a moment of unity amid violence – was seen around the world.

Raja Suleman Raza

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SULEMAN RAZA

Raja Suleman Raza is the founder and CEO of British restaurant group Spice Village and the President of the Grand Sapphire Hotel. At the point that the pandemic caused his businesses to cease operating, Raza offered the vast space in Grand Sapphire Hotel & Banqueting to the NHS to set up an emergency hospital.

Raza then founded the One Million Meals campaign to feed hot nutritious meals to frontline NHS staff & vulnerable communities during lockdown. Raza donated 10,000 meals to kickstart the campaign; he assembled a team of volunteers and volunteered his hotel rooms for them to stay. The volunteers were also provided computers, laptops and phones to facilitate communication. The team reached out to NHS trusts, hospitals, and units with the food demand and then the demand was passed onto a local restaurant with good hygiene rating in the proximity.

The campaign was funded by crowdfunding and various donations. His campaign was awarded the Points of Light Award by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in May 2021. 

Raza is committed to carry The One Million Meals project even after the pandemic ends. The project will continue to serve the people facing food crisis in the United Kingdom. “My vision for the future is to entail the restaurants from all over the country in the next campaign for eradicating homelessness and food deprivation in the UK”.

 

Stephanie Terry

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Stephanie Terry

Stephanie Terry is a St Georges nurse and was the first to volunteer at St Georges for the frontline Covid19 ICU. 

Not only did Stephanie work tirelessly in difficult conditions in the hospital - keeping people safe, calling loved ones so that they could say their goodbyes - she also took care of friends, family and neighbours- going shopping for those isolating, or, simply doing a "drive-by" greeting to keep spirits high.

 

The Taylor Family Foundation

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Taylor Family

The Taylor Family Foundation donated funds to Mitcham Town Community Trust / Cricket Green School, enabling the extension of the art and play therapy offer for children experiencing trauma, bereavement and social-emotional difficulties.  Also, a VW transporter vehicle with wheelchair access was received, which helped with inclusion and school access for some of the most vulnerable students at Cricket Green School.
In addition, Taylor Family Foundation provided support for digitalising projects to keep them visible and participant friendly was key to:

  • The Young Actors Company at Wimbledon Civic Theatre Trust – virtual performances
  • Merton Music Foundation – Zoom recordings
  • Wimbledon Bookfest – digital delivery of education programmes
  • Wimbledon International Music Festival 2020 – virtual performances.


The Taylor Family Foundation also continued to support Jigsaw4u – delivery of their essential services, and the final stages of the work on Polka Theatre to enable its reopening.

 

Usaama Kaweesa 

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aUsaama

Usaama Kaweesa used his 30th birthday to raise £1000 for Merton Giving.  Usaama has also been voluntering with the DLAG every weekend, collecting food donations outside supermarkets across the borough for families in need.

"To raise money for Merton Giving's Coronavirus Fund, I completed a 30k three-day run fundraiser in line with my 30th birthday. I started this fundraiser because I believed that even in the most difficult circumstances, there’s always something we can do to help each other. There's always something we can do to make a difference.

I was so pleased that this belief was not only reaffirmed but that the fundraiser went so far as to surpass my expectations. I initially thought it would be a challenge reaching the £1,000 target. So I was over the moon when I found out we had actually smashed it. It's this kindness and generosity towards the most vulnerable residents in our borough which I think makes Merton great."

 

Vedia Maharaj 

Vedia Maharaj is part of the Graveny Mutual Aid Team.  She established the Foodbank Donations, co established the London Furniture Collective and linked the Sutton Champions fresh farm food scheme to New Horizon's foodbank.  She supports local refugees, provides counselling probono and does shopping for vulnerable residents.                                                                                                                                                                   
“Following reading that footfall at my local foodbank had increased by 60% but funding had not, I decided to use my home as a drop point for residents in Graveney Ward to donate food items in short supply at New Horizons Foodbank. Other residents in Graveney asked if they could help in anyway which led to having 4 drop points in different parts of the ward.

I connected Sutton Community Champions, who regularly had large quantities of farm foods with New Horizons Foodbank.

Through providing support to local refugees who contacted me for food I am, consequently developing a refugee project in Graveney ward offering probono counselling, subject to funds for interpreters.

I also supported in the establishment of and I’m Head of the London Furniture Collective; we source unwanted good quality furniture to pass onto those who live in furniture poverty.