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Moray & Banffshire Heroes 2024: Volunteer shortlist revealed!

By Leah Williamson

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

VOTE for your Heroes NOW below

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Janet McDonald and Elaine Penny

Janet McDonald and Elaine Penny.
Janet McDonald and Elaine Penny.

Girlguiding stalwarts, Janet McDonald and Elaine Penny, have been jointly nominated for a Heroes award for their incredible service to the organisation. The pair have amassed over 70 years in Girlguiding, with most of those in Moray!

Janet has been a member of Girlguiding for more than 40 years, 30 of them in Moray. She runs six units and two districts in Buckie, where she is responsible for over 300 leaders and girls. She is also the Guiding development adviser for the county arranging training events, fun days and outings for members. A nomination said: “Girlguiding Moray are incredibly lucky to have such a warm and passionate volunteer.”

Elaine has been a member of Girlguiding for 35 years. She runs a Guide and Ranger unit

in Elgin and is responsible for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme and Queen’s Guide Awards in Moray. She has inspired dozens of young women to gain gold, silver and bronze awards and guided them to some incredible adventures. A nomination said: Elaine is a great inspiration to all of the young women undertaking both awards. She readily shares her knowledge and passion.”

Both were delighted and surprised by their nomination: “I’m very pleased, humbled and we’re both honoured,” said Janet. Elaine added: “I’m surprised! It’s just what I do!”

Karen Wood

Karen Wood.
Karen Wood.

Buckie coastguard volunteer, Karen Wood, has been praised for her long service to the team and dedication to saving lives.

A nomination said: “Karen’s 30 years of service shows great courage, dedication and commitment to helping others and saving lives in her local community. It has been challenging for Karen juggling parenting, work and coastguard duties but her family are very supportive, proud and understanding, and the routine when the pager goes off has always been part of their lives.”

Karen joined Buckie coastguard in 1993 aged 19, joining a long family tradition ‒ three generations and over 80 years of service.

Grandfather Wood joined in 1943, first at Portsoy until it closed, and then at Buckie. Her dad joined in 1961. For a time, she was the only female coastguard along the Moray Coast.

Karen received the Chief Coastguard’s Commendation for assisting during the Elgin floods in

2002 alongside her father and other colleagues where 150 people were taken to safety.

“To be able to help someone in their time of need from cliff rescues, searches for missing people, to educating our youths on sea safety and being able to give back to my community is an amazing feeling, I just love it.”

Karen added: “I was really shocked, it's lovely and really means a lot that I have been nominated, really special.”

Merlys King

Merlys King.
Merlys King.

The desire and dedication to help others has led to a Heroes nomination for long standing volunteer Merlys King.

Merlys has been generously giving her free time and support to a number of groups and organisations over the years in Moray.

For the past 12 years she has volunteered with Riding for the Disabled Forres, Nairn and District which provides therapeutic riding sessions for 32 children on Monday mornings.

“When you put children and ponies together, that’s when the magic happens,” said Merlys.

She also volunteers with Girlguiding Moray. She has been a Brownie leader for over 40 years and runs Brownie and Rainbow units, and is also a district commissioner for Girlguiding Moray. She has recently been appointed county chair of the combined Trefoil Guilds in Moray, part of the Girlguiding family.

A nomination said: “Merlys is an astonishing woman. She turns up every Monday and

helps with all four rides ‒ no mean feat. She is also heavily involved in Girlguiding. She is at every fundraiser, she bakes, she sews. She gives everything to the children in all the organisations. She does all these things with a cheery smile and great humour.”

Merlys was surprised but flattered to be recognised: “I’m very surprised! When you volunteer, you do it because you want to make things better. It’s unexpected but lovely to be nominated.”

Robertson is sponsoring the volunteer award.

Frank Reid, managing director, Robertson Northern, said: “Robertson Northern is delighted to support Moray & Banffshire Heroes 2024 and once again sponsor the award for volunteer of the year. Volunteers make such a vital contribution to our communities and a huge difference to the lives of so many people that really depend on their support.

“Volunteers are often the unsung heroes in communities as they work behind the scenes helping to run and organise events and activities, or support individuals and families who would really struggle without them.

“Please vote for the volunteers in your community and help shine a light on these dedicated and hardworking individuals who generously give up their time to help others.”

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