GROUPS from across the county totted up top honours at this year’s Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action awards.
Nine organisations received awards in different categories at a ceremony at Oxford Town Hall on Tuesday.
Pegasus Theatre, which is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, won the lifetime achievement award.
Spokesman Euton Daley MBE said: “We’ve seen hundreds develop and flourish as they take part in performing arts projects, learn new skills and get involved in the management and policy of Pegasus.
“We are coming towards the end of our year-long anniversary celebrations in November and we couldn’t be prouder of this award, coming like a birthday present to our party. We’re honestly chuffed to bits.”
The management of volunteers award was presented to the Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre.
Volunteer co-ordinator Lisa Ward described the award as a “great honour”.
She said: “With just two staff members, our services would simply not exist without these incredible women who give their time, dedication and passion to support survivors of sexual violence.
“We work hard to support our volunteers and provide free of charge training, supervision and ongoing development.
“They are involved in every aspect of our work — supporting survivors, raising awareness, distributing publicity, helping with administration tasks, delivering training and helping fundraise.”
Aspire, which provides training and experience to vulnerable young people, scooped the partnership award. Head of fundraising Jane Harris said: “This award highlights Aspire’s business waste recycling project, an initiative that emerged from talks between local business Jennings, Aspire and Oxfordshire County Council’s waste and recycling department.
“The resulting project is a really popular programme that creates real world employment and training for some of Oxford’s most disadvantaged men and women, provides an efficient service for Jennings’ tenants, and meets the council’s targets on reducing waste going to landfill.”
And the environmental award was won by Hogacre Common Eco Park, off Whitehouse Road, South Oxford.
Manager Ben Haydon said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won the OCVA Environmental Award, which brings recognition to the great many volunteers from South and West Oxford who have done so much to develop their community eco park.
“Hogacre Common Eco Park is an inspirational resource for all those recognising the need to act locally to reduce our carbon footprint.
“It features young woodland, bee hives, meadow, community gardens, a forest school, a 6kw wind turbine and a beautiful pavilion.”
Green charity Sustainable Witney picked up the best new group award.
Secretary Brigitte Hickman said: “When Sustainable Witney heard we had been shortlisted it was a surprise as we have seen ourselves as quite a small group working away on our own.
“When our group was announced as the winner it was a fantastic shock and we were thrilled that the judges thought our group worthy of the title.”
The best fundraising work award was given to co-operative social enterprise Cultivate.
Director Emma Burnett said: “It was great to win the OCVA award for best fundraising work this year.
“Cultivate was founded and funded by investment from the local community, and this award recognises all the work that went into getting this project off the ground — the efforts of people who wanted to see Cultivate work and the amount of trust that the community put into creating a new enterprise.”
And the Banbury branch of Workers’ Educational Association won recognition in the best use of online tools award categories.
Chairman Peter Norris said: “The Banbury WEA are thrilled with winning the Online Award and being shortlisted for three awards at the OCVA award ceremony.”
The best community project gong went to Oxfordshire Playbus, and trustees chairman Roby Taylor said everyone was “absolutely delighted”. She said: “As only a small grassroots charity it is not only a tribute to the hard work of staff and volunteers over many years but also a chance to raise our profile in Oxfordshire.
“We hope the award will encourage more people to find out more about the charity and get involved with fundraising and volunteering.”
The prestigious charity of the year award went to Startup, a Thame-based charity which helps with transition into community life for former prisoners, but no one was available for comment.
‘What a fantastic celebration of the diverse range of charities and community projects going on in our county. The Lord Lieutenant read out citations for each volunteer which gave interesting insight into the work of the organisations that had nominated them. The event was a great success thanks to the sponsors from the local business sector whose support helped to make a truly memorable evening for all those honoured.’
In a video message screened at the event, Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron said: "This event showcases some outstanding examples of the diverse, energetic and passionate work going on around the county.
"Although only a handful of charitable organisations and community-led initiatives gathered at Oxford Town Hall, we know there are well over 3,000 charities and community groups in Oxfordshire and they all deserve recognition.
"In fact in our county, in Oxfordshire, almost a third of the adult population volunteers at least once a month - that is higher than the national average."