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Moray & Banffshire Heroes 2024: Community champion shortlist revealed!

By Leah Williamson

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Here is your shortlist for the community champion award. Voting closes on Sunday, March 24.

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Rhona Patterson

Rhona Patterson.
Rhona Patterson.

Lifestyle Moray editor, Rhona Patterson, has been praised for her dedication and commitment to her community of Keith and Newmill.

She is the chair of Longmore Community Hall; chair of InKeith (Keith and Strathisla Regeneration Partnership); a member of the Keith Show committee and its health and safety convener; a member of Strathisla Community Council and chair of Newmill Community Association where she has been actively involved in organising Newmill’s Christmas lights along with her recently deceased partner Dod, for over 15 years. Rhona is responsible for the care and renovation of the village’s war memorial which commemorated its 100th year anniversary in July 2023 along with volunteer, Les Coull, who winds the clock weekly and regularly maintains it. Rhona stressed that all these positions are supported by other wonderful volunteers that she couldn’t function without.

A nomination said: “Rhona really works hard for her community in Keith and Newmill. I don’t know where Rhona finds the time but I am so grateful to her for doing them as many of these committees would struggle without her. It would be a massive loss to Keith to lose even one of these projects. So a massive thank you to her for all the time she puts into the local community.”

Rhona was delighted to be nominated again: “It’s overwhelming. Thanks so much to whoever took the time to put in a nomination. I’m thrilled to be recognised.”

Rhona encourages others to get involved too. “I’ve been involved with InKeith for about 30 years! I’ve always wanted to help my community but we’d love to have more volunteers get involved!”

Debbie Kelly

Debbie Kelly.
Debbie Kelly.

Debbie Kelly has been described as “a true community champion” for her efforts to support struggling families across Moray.

Debbie has worked and volunteered with charity Moray School Bank since it started in 2017 to provide new school uniforms and warm winter clothing to children living in poverty across Moray.

In addition, she runs the Rothes Blessings Box, a free community larder filled with donated food essentials, and during Covid she supported local families ensuring they had food, fuel and supermarket vouchers. Debbie is also a member of the Lossiemouth Military Wives Choir.

A nomination said: “She is a gentle and kind human being who gives a listening ear to hundreds of parents struggling to make ends meet. She is a true community champion and dedicates her

time to helping others. Debbie does everything quietly and without thanks. She is one of

life’s altruistic people, doing anything to make sure the community is looked after, she is truly a

hero in the eyes of all the families she supports across Moray.”

“I thought it was an amazing idea and something that was so hidden but needed to be brought out. I realised what a big problem there was for people having to make decisions whether they fed their kids or bought clothes, or fuel. It’s horrible to think people are living like that in the 21st century and in this country ‒ but they are ‒ and it needs to be provided for.”

On hearing of her nomination Debbie said: “I’m struggling with a severe case of imposter syndrome! I’m chuffed but a bit embarrassed.”

Dr Tara French

Dr Tara French. Photo: Louise Mather
Dr Tara French. Photo: Louise Mather

What started out as a small PhD research project has developed into a much-loved community choir earning Dr Tara French a Heroes nomination!

Established in 2010, Sing for Life Speyside, is open to all adults, regardless of musical ability. The choir is all about community spirit, sharing the love of music and song, building confidence and ‒ most importantly ‒ feeling good! There are no auditions or musical requirements to take part. Starting with nine members on the first night, the choir has grown over the years and now has 40!

Community concerts are held twice a year and support from the local community and fundraising activities by members helps the choir remain free to attend. Successful applications to initiatives such as the Windfarm Community Benefit Fund have helped buy music equipment.

A nomination praised Tara for her dedication to the choir: “Local Rothes quine Tara deserves to be recognised for her dedication in consistently giving up her own time to direct this community choir, combining this with her own busy career.”

Tara said: “It was important to me to start the choir in Speyside, rather than in Glasgow where I was studying at the time. Social music activities were few and far between. I was fortunate to have been so well supported and encouraged to sing at school, so I decided I’m going to come back home and start the choir!”

On hearing of her nomination, Tara added: “I’m in complete shock to be honest! I’m very touched to be considered.”

Walkers is sponsoring the community champion award.

Jill Armitt, head of HR at Walkers, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Moray & Banffshire Heroes awards for a second year. The community champion award is a real chance to focus on and recognise so many people who go that extra mile to add value to their community.”

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