Win Christmas for your Community Hero!

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We asked you to nominate your Community Hero to win Christmas on behalf of the East of England Co-op. We received a fantastic number of nominations which highlighted the community spirit of our region.

The 4 winners were selected for their uniqueness, selfless acts and making a difference in their local community. All were presented with a Christmas goody hamper and £200 store vouchers to spend in their local East of England Co-op. Read their inspirational stories below!

Hannah Harrison - Hethersett, Norfolk

Nominated by Sarah Lawrence

Hannah is forever putting herself out there to make people’s lives better. She is one of those people who don’t realise how truly amazing they are. She has a genuinely selfless desire to really help where she can, not for any kind of ulterior motive or thanks, but to make a difference to people who might be suffering, and to let them know they’re not alone. 
  • Hannah cooks for the Homeless once a month, as part of a team of people helping to feed people in Norwich that don’t have roofs over their heads. 
  • She helps to organise litter picks throughout Hethersett, promoting them and taking part. 
  • She helps to organise Playgroup sessions as part of First Steps Playgroup in Hethersett, often baking for special occasions and helping with the setting up and putting away of toys each week. 
  • Hannah set up Refill Hethersett, a nationwide initiative to try to get people to reuse their own drinks bottles instead of buying single-use bottles of water, she contacted businesses throughout Hethersett to encourage them to take part in the scheme. 
  • She fosters hedgehogs which have been found injured in Hethersett which would have otherwise have died without her help.
  • She set up Sandwich Superheroes, distributing food parcels to families suffering from the loss of school holiday food vouchers in the area, or just going through tough times. She has big plans to help out families over the Christmas period with hampers put together with donations received from kind supporters in the Hethersett area.
And above all else, she is an amazing friend! As you can see, she does so much for so many, and she thoroughly deserves the Community Hero accolade. Thank you, Hannah Harrison, for making the world a better place.

Ben Whiting - Ipswich

Nominated by Alison Archbold

“I’m looking for employment, so when the COVID Pandemic struck us, and when I first heard the news of the lockdown, I remember looking at myself and in the mirror, and feeling my heart sink. It felt like there were black clouds gathering around my head. To be sure I kept well on the inside, I looked outside of myself, and focused on helping my community!” - Ben
Ben was determined not to let the current situation overwhelm him and used his.
Volunteering his time at his local Food Bank, at Castle Hill Community Centre, he worked with the team ensuring that all referrals were followed up and food delivered. It was also through his new friends at the Food Bank that Ben became involved with the newly formed Suffolk Baby Bank.
Ben mentions that the challenges can be very hard, physically and mentally, but knowing what a difference it makes is so rewarding. One occasion was then a girl came to visit the Baby Bank with her gran, keen to donate some chocolate advent calendars to children less fortunate.
Ben has also recently joined forces with Joe Louis of Urban Growth Enterprise, a local non-profit organisation. Purpose built from the start, the garden will be at Bramford Road, Ipswich, will be a wheelchair accessible, integrated and safe space. Ben is hoping it can expand in the future with a Men’s Shed to promote positive mental health.
When he’s not helping there, Ben likes to spend his time with the Castle Hill Community Allotment, and last month produced a video to highlight the need for volunteers.
Ben is enthused to be continuing to support local charities, and believes that his late mother would be very proud of him, too.

Gemma Saxton - Felixstowe

Gemma is a really hard worker for our Felixstowe Community. She volunteers weekly for The Salvation Army in the town and always goes above and beyond for the community. Gemma sees her work as part of her ministry to God and her service. She has worked hard in building relationships up and building connections between many organisation charities and agencies in Felixstowe.  
She has arranged food parcels, adapted quickly to support isolated families during lockdown to ensure no child goes without, sometimes families just needed pencils and paper for home schooling. She has spent hours on the phone talking to people, building links and networks around people isolating, shielding and then more recently with those who have lost jobs and much more.
Gemma has a lovely personality and always spreads joy wherever she goes.  She really is a hero for anyone to look up to.

Alison Bradford - Colchester

Nominated by Tracey Hoffman

Ali has always been very community minded and extremely supportive of the food bank!
Every year she gets everyone involved in collecting selection boxes for the children registered but this year has been amazing because due to her hard work and getting all the community involved she managed to collected enough to cover every child at the foodbank and then Homestart & Tots to Teens!
Ali has been extremely supportive of our school Lexden Springs, Colchester in helping us raise funds for the Mini bus appeal. She has regularly had a mask tree out during lock down and we have been a lucky recipient of her fundraising along with RBL and the foodbank.
Ali is one of a kind who never does anything for recognition but gets so much joy out of helping others always!
Ali has decided to donate her store voucher amount to 4 households who are in need of vital support this Christmas. What an incredible gesture!