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Rhona Patterson named Moray and Banffshire’s Community Champion of the Year

By Alistair Whitfield

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The sudden death of her partner in January made being named Community Champion of the Year an especially poignant moment for Rhona Patterson.

Community Champion of the Year Award was Rhona Patterson. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Community Champion of the Year Award was Rhona Patterson. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Rhona was presented with the award at the Moray and Banffshire Heroes ceremony which was held at the Banff Springs Hotel on Thursday night.

It was given in recognition of all the voluntary work she has done for so long in and around the Keith area.

What made it extra-emotional was that her partner Dod had been with her at the same ceremony last year when it was held at Brodie Country Fare near Forres.

Speaking immediately after being handed the award, Rhona said: “It was hard being here without him tonight. We were together for 32 years.

“But I know he would have been proud.”

Dod suddenly collapsed from a heart attack on January 19 shortly after returning home from walking the dog.

Rhona, her son David and future daughter-in-law Sally, called 999 and performed CPR.

The ambulance was at Rhona’s home in Newmill in just ten minutes.

Sadly, though, Dod passed away in hospital six days later on January 25.

The list of ways that Rhona tries to make Keith a better place to live for everyone is extensive.

She is the chair of Longmore Community Hall which was taken over by locals in 2018 after Moray Council stated, as a cost-cutting measure, it was going to close the venue.

Rhona also chairs InKeith which was originally set up as the Keith and Strathisla Regeneration Partnership in 1994.

The InKeith websites highlights local news as well as events going on in the area.

Along with Dod she’s also been involved in organising the Christmas lights at Newmill for the past 15 years.

Rhona said: “I’m absolutely gobsmacked to have received this award – but it isn’t certainly not just about me. There are a team of folk who really try to make things as good as they can be.

“People like Munish and Diane Tandon who run the Premier Convenience Store and have taken over the running of the public toilets on Reidhaven Square.

“Cleaning toilets obviously isn’t glamourous work, but it’s necessary and someone has to do it.”

Other tasks Rhona takes on include caring for the war memorial in Newmill.

In addition, she’s a member of the Strathisla Community Council and chairs the Newmill Community Association.

She said: “Ideally there wouldn’t be the need for volunteers to do so much. But that’s the way it’s become now – and it’s not likely to return to how it once was.

“So the problem now is getting people to come forward and lend a hand.

“If everyone could do just a little bit, it would make the town and surrounding area so much better.”

The Community Champion Award, which was sponsored by Walkers Shortbread, was won against stiff opposition.

Also in the mix was Debbie Kelly who, since it started in 2017, has worked with the Moray School Bank to provide uniforms and warm clothing for youngsters.

Added to that was Dr Tara French who runs the Sing for Life Speyside community choir.

Starting as a PhD project with nine members, it has now grown to have more than 40.

Anyone wishing to get involved with community work in or around Keith can message the InKeith website or phone Rhona on 07974 778491.

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