Joint winners for Special Contribution to COVID-19 Response award

Given their extraordinary work during the pandemic, joint winners have been named for Special Contribution to COVID-19 Response as part of Volunteer Awards Month.

Mike Ritchie and Helen Anthony have both been recognised for their commitment to the local deaf community and Soul Kitchen respectively.

December is Volunteer Awards Month to round off the Year of Volunteering campaign, which is run jointly by Cheshire West Voluntary Action (CWVA) and Cheshire West and Chester Council to celebrate all the fantastic work volunteers do in their communities.

Mike, who is profoundly deaf himself, has been on call for the Deafness Support Network (DSN) during the pandemic and provided a great deal of support to the local deaf community.

After DSN secured funding to purchase tablets for deaf people, helping those isolated to communicate more easily, Mike delivered them across Cheshire and North Wales and demonstrated how to use them. He has also helped respond to welfare calls and even bought 30 jigsaws out of his own money for those living alone.

Alongside supporting DSN, Mike is the founder of Chester Deaf Football Club and volunteers there. He set up a WhatsApp group for younger members to keep in touch with one another and made football skill videos to help people keep active.

Carol Berry, who works for DSN and nominated Mike, said: “Deaf children have been at a greater risk of isolation during COVID-19 because of the limited communication they can have with family members. The work he’s done with Chester Deaf Football Club has made a huge difference.

“He’s also our volunteer superstar at DSN and an invaluable part of the team. We can’t thank him enough for all the work he does.”

Helen, meanwhile, has helped coordinate support at Soul Kitchen during the pandemic to add to all the great work she had already done before COVID-19.

She has personally coordinated more than 1,000 hot meals a week for those in temporary accommodation, drawing together a group of restaurants, churches and other volunteers to deliver for those in need.

Marcus Jeremy, who nominated Helen, said: “The challenge to consistently sustain this can’t be underestimated.

“It’s a feat worthy of great recognition, but it’s just one of many things she’s doing quietly behind-the-scenes without taking any personal credit.

“There’ll be many, many people who’ll testify to this, from the Council, to the groups involved, to the individuals whose lives have been impacted.”

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