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Inspiring Aberdeenshire awards recognise unsung heroes

By Kirsty Brown

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Tonight saw the 2021 Inspiring Aberdeenshire Awards take place virtually once again.

The awards recognise a plethora of unsung heroes in Aberdeenshire in a variety of categories, and this year the winners were announced on a live stream which was shown on Facebook and Youtube.

This year's event was hosted by presenter Fiona Stalker with the help of provost Bill Howatson, who introduced some thoughts from the judging panel.

Chief executive of Aberdeenshire Council Jim Savege said: "Judging this year's Inspiring Aberdeenshire Awards was one of the hardest I have ever done so far.

"Every year I know we say that we've got some really impressive nominations and that shortlisting is a very difficult process.

"Maybe because Covid has been so impactful for us, or maybe because it's brought out the best in so many people, it has been a really, really tough gig this year.

"Our communities have come together and our people have really stepped up to look after each other.

"The volume of applications, the number of nominations, the diversity of different people who have been put forward, the strength of what has been done and achieved by people across Aberdeenshire is just phenomenal."

The first category to be announced on the night was Aberdeenshire's Future, which looks for young people who are making a difference.

The finalist were Blythe Primrose of Stonehaven, Aiden Clark and Rachel Green of Portlethen and Sasha Brydon of Kemnay.

Announcing the category was councillor Gillian Owen, who then revealed Aiden and Rachel as the winners.

Final year students at Portlethen Academy, the pair jumped at the chance to set up an LGBT alliance group with the aim of creating a culture of understanding, mutual respect and very visible inclusion throughout the school

Their nomination said: "In everything they do they demonstrate a desire to motivate other around them.

"They haven't shied away from the LGBTQI+ issues and have tackled them head on, with a mixed group of pupils as well as staff of all ages.

"Aiden and Rachel are genuinely inspiring young leaders who are helping take their whole community on this important journey."

The next category up for grabs was Inspirational Volunteer, announced by councillor Norman Smith, which looks for an individual or group who have gone the extra mile to make a difference.

The shortlisted finalists in this category were Mairi Eddie of Johnshaven, Heather Cook of Westhill and Paige Brodie of Kemnay.

It was Benholm and Johnshaven Community Council Member Mairi Eddie who was announced at the Inspirational Volunteer winner for 2021 in recognition of her part in setting up The Community Larder in Johnshaven Village Hall to help those impacted by Covid-19.

Her nomination said: "What sets Mairi apart is her tireless mission to ensure all those in the community are being helped, while reducing stigma around using the larder.

"The communities of Benholm and Johnshaven are more cohesive and cared for than ever before thanks to her voluntary work."

Next up was the Heart Of Aberdeenshire award, which recognises an individual or group who have made an impact on vulnerable people.

Presented by councillor Anne Stirling, the finalists were announced as Tina Rutlidge and Huntly Homecare Team.

Huntly Homecare Team were crowned the winners after their nomination said: "they always think of others before themselves and it is an absolute pleasure to work with such a dedicated, supportive, welcoming and genuinely amazing group of ladies".

The next award to be announced at the virtual ceremony was the Cultural Award, which recognises somebody who has excelled at promoting local culture.

This year's finalists were Paul Anderson, Garioch Heritage Society and Jill McWilliam of Doric Future.

It was the honour of councillor Ron MacKail to announce Paul Anderson as this year's winner.

He has dedicated his career to the promotion of Scottish fiddle music, particularly music and culture from the north east of Scotland, across the world.

His nomination said: "Paul works tirelessly to promote our local fiddle tradition and indeed the culture of the north east everywhere he goes."

The Beautiful Aberdeenshire award, which recognises an individual or group who is working to enhance Aberdeenshire's natural beauty.

Presented by councillor Peter Argyle, the finalists were Dee Catchment Partnership, Crawford Paris and Stonehaven Horizon Group.

Through his leadership of Turning The Plastic Tide, judges selected Crawford Paris as this year's winner.

He puts his heart and soul into raising awareness of coastal plastic pollution through beach cleans, educational events and campaigns.

His nomination said: "This one-man operation does everything from inspiring people, educating and getting funding for campaigns.

"His dedication is evident to everyone who meets him. His real skill is helping people see how we can all help in a small way to make a big difference."

The ceremony was presented by Fiona Stalker and provost Bill Howatson.
The ceremony was presented by Fiona Stalker and provost Bill Howatson.

Particularly poignant, the next award to be presented was the Local Hero award which recognises an individual who has shown courage in the face of adversity.

Presented by the Council's chief executive Jim Savege, the finalists were Alfie Fraser, Reverend Dr Kay Gauld of Insch and Amanda Jane Taylor (AJ McLovely) of Westhill.

It was young Alfie who took home the award after being nominated by paramedics he assisted after coming across a young child who had seriously injured themselves after falling down a hill on a wintery day

His nomination said:"In all my years of being in the service I have never come across such a helpful member of the public and one so young.

"Getting this critically-injured child to hospital was only made possible with Alfie’s help."

Next to be presented was the Covid-19 Response award, a new award added to the line-up in recognition of contributions over the past 18 months.

Presented by professor Jason Leitch, this awards shortlist was made up of The Larder Portlethen, Portsoy Area Action Team, and Strengthening Our Buchan Response and it was then revealed that all three groups would be receiving awards "on account of the extraordinary role they played in their communities."

The next award to be announced was Community Spirit, which was presented by councillor Andy Kille.

This category recognises somebody who has supported a project which fosters a vibrant community, and the shortlisted finalists were The Buchan Giving Tree, Raj Hamid and Young People’s Organising and Campaigning Group (YPOC).

It was YPOC, a group of care experienced young people who are driven to improve the experience of looked-after children and young people, who walked away with the award.

They were nominated for their latest campaign Coming Into Care and Moving Placements - Get It Right which launched during lockdown to educate people about what it's like to go into care and was written and illustrated by the group based on their own experiences.

Their nomination said: "They are a brave, courageous group of young people who really want to change attitudes so that other care experienced young people get the support they need."

The final award of the evening was the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by

This year's Lifetime Achievemnt finalists were Stonehaven artist Jim Malcolm, Fraserburgh volunteer John Anderson and Collieston Stalwart Sally Sheehan.

This award recognises a true inspiration, somebody who has made an outstanding contribution within their community.

While all remarkable members of their respective communities, the award was presented by provost Howatson to John Anderson.

He has had many roles in his life, from Boys Brigade Officer through to a member of International Rescue travelling the world to help in countries struck by natural disasters.

He was station officer at Fraserburgh Fire Station in which time he set up the Blue Light Festival which raises fund for various charities around the area, and he set up the Fraserburgh Resilience group through his involvement with the Community Council and has raised funds for and installed defibrillators throughout the town.

When there is heavy snow he organises volunteers to clear paths for pensioners, get shopping and help where it is needed.

His nomination said: "If there is a project needing volunteers John will be there, planting trees being the latest one.

"John and his lifetime of work are woven into the fabric of the Fraserburgh community, and he has enriched many lives over the years."

The evening was intermingled with entertainment from South Aberdeenshire Music Centre Big Band, Paul Anderson and Bundy Fae The Broch.

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