Revealed! Winners of this year's Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards
- Credit: Simon Finlay Photography
A woman from Norwich who captured the hearts of the judges and helped thousands during lockdown has been crowned this year’s Overall Star of the Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards 2020.
Karen Fulcher, 57, of Newbegin Road, in Norwich, worked tirelessly during the pandemic to create 164 sets of scrubs and, with some help, over 500 washbags and masks - all of which were donated to various NHS organisations around the county and London.
The judges described her efforts as “going above and beyond” the call of duty.
“Karen was not only spending her day as a frontline worker,” they said. “But she would spend her evenings making scrubs and face masks by hand, for them to be used by local doctors and nurses and help the NHS.
“Karen’s friends and family rallied around to support her by providing old duvet covers for her to use to make the clothing and in total she created 164 sets of scrubs and 500 facemasks. Karen would send these out to hospitals by post, all at her own expense.
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“Her actions were over and above in a time of real crisis and made a tremendous difference for nurses and doctors, helping them to safely deliver patient care.”
Organised in-house by the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News for the very first time, the awards honour those from Norfolk and Waveney who go the extra mile and deserve recognition.
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Almost 300 nominations were received this year, with the Overall Star of Norfolk and Waveney category being sponsored by headline sponsor Hopkins Homes.
Joshua Hopkins, of Hopkins Homes and The Hopkins Charitable Fund, said: “This year has brought about some of the most significant challenges for our communities in a generation. Yet, what it has highlighted is that there are heroes without capes on every street and that we can be very proud of the incredible community spirit that exists in our region.
“There are so many people who deserve the recognition for going above and beyond for others, especially during this difficult time. Choosing just one winner this year was incredibly difficult.”
And despite all of the praise showered on Ms Fulcher, she said the attention had been “a surprise”.
“It’s amazing and I cant believe it - my mum is going to be amazed.
“I was just doing what I was doing, and I didn’t expect this. The awards will take pride of place in my home, and both certificates will be on display in the living room.”
The Theatre Royal Norwich and Norwich Playhouse have agreed to be the prize partner this year and, as well as providing each winner with tickets to a show of their choice, Ms Fulcher will receive an extra special VIP trip.
Ian Clarke, head of news of the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News, said: "It’s been one of the toughest and darkest years in our lifetimes, so it is fantastic that we can celebrate these shining stars in our communities.
"Through the tragedies, restrictions and problems of 2020, all the Stars of Norfolk and Waveney winners – and the runners up – have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make life better for others.
"We celebrate their achievements and hope and pray for a much more positive 2021.
"We were proud we could still have a safe Stars event, despite it being very different to previous years, which enabled us to give the winners the recognition they deserve.
"We know you will be touched by the amazing things they’ve done.
"Finally, I must give a big thank you to our main sponsor Hopkins Homes, our category sponsors and their representatives on the day, the Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk Lady Dannatt, her deputy Paris Back, Norwich Cathedral, Norwich Theatre Royal, and the EDP team who worked so hard on the event, for all their support.”
Read all about our other fabulous winners below.
Carer of the Year, sponsored by Castlemeadow Care
A carer from west Norfolk has dedicated her Carer of the Year award to anyone who is caring for a loved one with dementia.
Ragna Page, 61, of East Winch, cares for her friend Sue, who has dementia, and Sue’s husband to ensure that they can both continue to live in the home that they jointly created.
Her work allows him regular breaks from the otherwise constant pressures that come with caring for someone with dementia.
She said: “I’m pleased to give recognition for every person who is or has cared for a loved one with dementia. Not glamorous, but sad and frustrating as we search for the person we knew in the stranger who now shares our life, as well as searching for the saucepans that might be in the washing machine again.
“It’s been absolutely overwhelming to be named the winner as all the finalists had worthy stories.
“It's really humbling to be chosen and I’m very grateful. It’s also really humbling for Colin to have taken the trouble to nominate me. It means the world as I know it would have been difficult for him.
“There is little support out there for dementia, especially with Covid it has become harder than ever to keep loved ones safe.”
The judges were also impressed with her outlook on life and compassion to the cause.
They said: “Ragna is truly inspirational. Not only does she work two days as a nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, she has shown compassion and dedication to care for her long-term friend Sue, who has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
“When Sue told Ragna that she was terrified to go into care, Ragna sold her house, bought a mobile home, and moved into this on their land.
“Over the past three-and-a-half-years, she has cared for her. And when Sue’s husband, Colin, had a serious traffic accident, which left him with many broken bones, Ragna took annual leave to care for both.”
Charity Hero of the Year, sponsored by East Anglian Air Ambulance
An advocate for end-of-life care has scooped the Charity Hero of the Year award for his dedication to helping others.
Clive Evans, 61, of Surlingham, is a full-time carer and is passionate about the provision of end-of-life care.
Since retiring has enjoyed being able to volunteer more.
He shops for neighbours, edits the village newsletter and supports its website, is a lay reader and coordinates delivery of the church magazines. And this year, he has co-ordinated volunteers to assist during the lockdown.
He is also an ambassador for the Priscilla Bacon Hospice charity.
He said: “To be quite honest I’m a bit stunned.
“My parents bought me up to do my best, so I feel honoured and proud, certainly for the charity too.
“It’s nice to be recognised. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for anyone. I know there are lots of people like that, but I have had the opportunity and taken it to do all I can.
“I feel blown away, and secretly a bit chuffed.
“I’m currently fundraising for Priscilla Bacon, prior to that lots of fundraising for end-of-life care, attending and organising events, open gardens.
“I do anything for anyone to raise money including speaking at events, organising collectors. Before Covid we had over 100 people willing to stand on the streets and raise money. But it’s not just about the money, but also to raise the profile of the charity.”
The judges said this was the type of support that it vital within Norfolk’s communities.
They added: “The work of the third sector is built upon the support of the public, and we rely on people like this charity hero to donate their time with flexibility and skill.
“It was clear from the nomination that Clive is a phenomenal volunteer. He has connected with a cause through his own intrinsic motivation to help, ultimately, end-of-life care in our region.
“The fact that he then goes onto lead community initiatives in his local area too makes him an exceptional individual.
“Clive is a volunteer any charity would be proud to have and Pricilla Bacon Hospice must be thrilled to have him as one of their team.”
Community Hero of the Year, sponsored by Hopestead
The parent of a young child has been praised for her dedication to make her community a more inclusive place to live in.
Melanie Lord, 31, of Lowestoft, has a son on the spectrum and she strives to show others how to be more inclusive of others.
She has achieved this by raising money to help support local charities and organisations, and - during the pandemic - she created free printable social stories to help individuals with additional needs to understand the changes surrounding the impact of Covid-19.
She also donates gifts each year at Christmas to local charities and organisations.
On being crowned a community hero, she said: “It feels amazing.
“It’s not just a win for me but for the special needs community too, to have their voice heard and know what is needed in our society to make it feel inclusion.
“I said that I don’t want my son to change for the world, but I want him to change it, and I think together we are doing that.”
The judges were impressed with her vision to implement changes.
They said: “Melanie recognised the limited resources available for those with additional needs at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Seeing the impact that the pandemic was having on her son, who is on the autism spectrum, Melanie developed visual aids and social stories to explain changes to everyday life, such as visiting a GP surgery or having a coronavirus test.
“The content of these was so valuable that they are now being used by GP surgeries, schools and hospitals and Melanie has continued to provide free resources for anyone that needs them.
“Melanie’s passion for fundraising, campaigning and raising awareness for those with additional needs really demonstrates the value of a hero.
“She has shown immense passion for the importance of inclusion in our communities, continued dedication to help those with additional needs and was described as the ‘true testament of community spirit’.
“Melanie’s commitment to campaign for others and the lifeline she has provided to other parents of children with additional needs during the pandemic demonstrates a true community hero.”
Education Hero of the Year, sponsored by City College Norwich
A sixth form teacher who has gone above and beyond to instil confidence in his students, has been named the Education Hero of the Year winner at the Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards.
George King, 25, from East Norfolk Sixth Form College, in Gorleston, has developed ambition and confidence in his students and is determined to ensure their learning goes beyond the classroom - whether it is a trip to Parliament, empowering them to speak in front of hundreds of people, or participating in elections and meeting councillors and MPs.
His goal is to create a learning environment where students feel safe, happy and free to express their opinions.
He said: “Teaching is hard work, it’s tiring, and, in all honesty, there are thousands of teachers that deserve this award.
“It feels amazing to have won, especially when you have students that feel valued by all the time you put in, getting that recognition and seeing that they realise those efforts and feel that they are listened to is great.
“It means everything to me. The other two finalists were amazing, so it means a lot to me as a person, when having put the time in makes it all feel worthwhile and makes me want to keep making the students feel on top of the world.”
The judges were impressed with Mr King’s continued input and support for his students, helping them develop as individuals and showing incredible enthusiasm, encouraging students to further pursue their political aspirations.
The judges noted that he actively goes out of his way to help individuals with their progression within the subject; without neglecting the rest of the class and as of a group collective, he has ensured that no voice has gone unheard.
Students comment that Mr King is a pleasure to be taught by, he goes above and beyond in what he does outside the curriculum also, and has worked with many of his students to build valuable connections in their desired fields, find work experience with experts and professionals, and secure opportunities they would not have been able to do without his help.
And more recently, he has given up much of his time to help students with university applications.
NHS Person of the Year, sponsored by ProStyle Tile & Bathroom Specialist
An advanced nurse practitioner has received some much-deserved praised for her work during this year’s pandemic.
Jessica Brunet, 33, from the Community Paediatrics ADHD Nursing Team at Norwich Community Hospital, is an advanced nurse practitioner in clinic at the Norwich Community Hospital.
She leads the ADHD nursing team and works with children and young people with neurodevelopmental differences.
She is also a children’s mental health nurse and during the pandemic has supported families well-being. While some families would normally be seen six-monthly, she has checked in weekly.
She said: “It feels overwhelming, and I’m honoured to have won. It’s not quite sunk in.
“I’m very grateful to the family that nominated me and so pleased that we were able to offer support over this difficult year.
“This feels huge, it’s not something I can put into words, it’s a real high point of my career and I’m very proud of my team.
“Throughout Covid we have done a lot to adapt ADHD assessment and treatment pathways. A lot of young people have struggled with anxiety and mental health, and we have been on phone listening, supporting, and helping families to manage mental wellbeing.
“We are a paediatric service but have been able to support the whole needs of the families. This truly means so much.”
The judges were blown away with the dedication, commitment and empathy, which she had shown in weekly phone calls, making a real difference to a struggling family during a very difficult time.
They added: “The help and support that Jessica gave a number of families during lockdown was incredible.
“Working to help families with additional needs to make their way through what has been an incredibly different year, offering support and ways to adapt to ensure a support structure was in place.
“It is clear that Jess puts in a lot of time to listen to families difficulties in the hope to work out how to support them best as possible.”
Outstanding Bravery Act of the Year, sponsored by Norfolk’s cancer charity Big C
Colin Plummer is no stranger to helping others, but it was his role, alongside other emergency service personnel, which saw him crowned as the winner of Outstanding Bravery Act of the Year category.
Mr Plummer, 49, of Bacton, is a partner in family-run garage in his village and has also served on Mundesley lifeboat for 28 years.
On September 26, he helped police officers, villagers, and an off-duty nurse, rescue Elsie Wild and her daughter, Jean, from their house when it caught on fire. Sadly, Jean passed away two days later.
On being nominated, Mr Plummer said: “I feel humbled by the nomination and extremely grateful to the lifeboat service for giving me the training to be able to be part of the team which assisted Elsie and Jean. I am also devastated that Jean sadly passed away.”
The judges described his bravery within the community as “selfless”.
They added: “When Colin noticed smoke coming from a neighbours’ house, which was on fire, he flagged down a police car that was luckily passing by.
“He then proceeded to break a window of the burning house and climbed through it, along with a police officer, to rescue two elderly ladies from the property.
“One of the ladies has since sadly died after the fire, but one survived.
“Colin has also been a member of the Mundesley volunteer inshore lifeboat crew for almost 30 years, helping people in danger and in distress, putting people before his own life.
“His bravery has made him a local hero and his selfless actions continue to drive community spirit around the Norfolk coast and for this we salute you in awarding you this year's Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards, Outstanding Bravery Act of the Year.”
Police/Fire Person of the Year, sponsored by Breckland Council
A detective involved in an investigation into a prolific paedophile has gained recognition for her efforts helping survivors.
Detective Constable Verity Holmes, 44, of the Joint Major Investigation Team at Norfolk Constabulary, was involved in Operation Congo.
Initially, two victims came forward to police, but after further investigation she established the extent to which the defendant had committed his offending across the UK, spanning as far back as the 1980s.
All of these victims had one thing in common – afraid of not being believed, some even told so by their parents, and targeted because of their vulnerability.
The strength of evidence she put together, with the support of colleagues, proved their case, so much so the defendant entered a guilty plea to all indictments.
She said: “It’s really lovely to be nominated and recognised. Having spent 20 years in the police, for somebody to have put me forward is lovely.
“It’s not just me though, so many others working so hard too. It’s just really nice to be recognised for a job that was incredibly tough for three years and it’s lovely to be recognised in this way.
“I was nominated because of operation Congo, it’s a historic case dating back 30 years and these cases are notoriously difficult as so historic.
“He entered a guilty plea, knowing I would keep digging. The victims stuck with case for three years, and I’d like to say the ladies really are amazing and strong women.”
The judges were impressed with DC Holmes as she helped bring justice for the survivors of a historic predatory paedophile case, who snatched childhood away from five victims. They added: “Without her expertise and dedication the individual would not be behind bars.”
The judges found that DC Holmes never gave up in her belief of the victims and the hunt for overwhelming evidence that would see the defendant admit his awful crimes rather than risk standing trial.
It is clear that DC Holmes showed a determination to be there for the victims and she was commended by the court judge for her handling of the investigation and must take enormous pride from the conviction.
Team/Community Group of the Year, sponsored by Norfolk Community Foundation
Sometimes it takes a village, which is exactly what happened when a community of volunteers got together to help produce PPE for frontline NHS staff.
Norfolk Scrub Volunteers united hundreds across the county in a quest to ensure frontline NHS staff and care workers had sufficient PPE to support them in their duties.
More than 4,000 sets of scrubs, thousands of scrub hats, laundry bags and masks were made by the army of sewers.
Donations from individuals were also received enabling the purchase of fabric.
The team collectively donated hundreds of hours of their time and resource and continue to remain available if required.
A spokesperson for the group said: “It is extraordinary and a tribute to all those lovely people in Norfolk who simply came and said they can help, whether they would like to sew, drive, cut, offer facilities as well as people who donated.
“We can’t forget that our effort was only possible due to them – and this is a tribute to all of those people. About 1,500 people. This recognises the hard work not only the volunteers, but all who had contributed and the efforts everyone put in, not just the five of us.
“This has been happening since end of March and not everyone knows what we have been doing but there is a whole army of people out there who have all stepped up, and are all a credit to the people of Norfolk.
“We didn’t set out to be winners, we set out to do a job, producing over 5,000 sets of scrubs, scrub hats, laundry bags, have all been donated across Norfolk to lots of different health providers – anyone that has approached we have provided to.”
The judges described the group as “worthy winners”.
“Norfolk Scrub Volunteers are a worthy winner of this award,” they said. “They are a great example of a team coming together in an hour of need and working effectively with a shared goal.
“The dedication and generosity of all those involved with this project should be celebrated and the individuals should feel incredibly proud of themselves for what they have been able to achieve together.”
Unsung Hero/Heroine of the Year award, sponsored by Norwich Research Park
Sewing together scrubs, facemasks and washbags have dominated Karen Fulcher’s life since lockdown began in March this year – and it was this determination which saw her awarded winner of the awards’ Unsung Hero/Heroine of the Year category.
Karen Fulcher, 57, of Newbegin Road, Norwich, was also crowned this year’s Overall Star of Norfolk and Waveney.
She worked tirelessly during the pandemic to create 164 sets of scrubs and, with some help, over 500 washbags and masks – all of which were donated to various NHS organisations around the county and London.
On winning the category, she said: “It’s amazing and I’m totally shocked.
“It means everything to me, all of the hours spent making scrubs, and all of the stories I’ve heard, it means the world.
“My son works for charitable trust at NHS, he told me they were short of scrubs and asked if I could make any – I thought the best thing to use was quilt covers, however quickly run out of fabric so put a please on Facebook for spare quilts and materials.
“We had over 200 quilts on the floor.
“With the help from my husband and brother sorting and cutting we made 170 sets of scrubs.”
The judges were so impressed with Ms Fulcher’s hard work, and believed she encompassed everything the Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards stands for – this year more than ever.
They said: “The selfless actions of Karen Fulcher really epitomised the kindheartedness we have seen across the UK, and indeed the world, in this year like no other.
“Karen’s response to this unprecedented situation is an inspiration to us all – she is a truly deserving winner of the Unsung Heroine of the Year award.”
Village/Town of the Year award, sponsored by Lovewell Blake
Halesworth has won the Stars of Norfolk and Waveney 2020 awards Village/Town of the Year category.
On behalf of the town, in south Norfolk, its town council said: “Halesworth Town Council is honoured.
“The response of our community to the pandemic has been amazing. Many different organisations in the town have come together to ensure that help is there for those who need it. The people of this caring town have watched out for, and helped their neighbours, friends, and family during this period of crisis.
“It is reassuring that through adversity we have found that positive action within our community has reaffirmed our belief that Halesworth is a wonderful place to live.”
Collecting the award on behalf of Halesworth, Nick Lees said: “We are very honoured. Honoured to be here on behalf of the town, and proud of the supreme effort made by everyone.
“It is a testimony to how the community had worked this year, and it feels truly special to have won this year.
“The amount of people involved, the effort by the whole town is what makes it remarkable – there are towns and villages out there doing similar things, but Halesworth have tied together as one massive effort during this time and worked collectively.”
The judges were looking for entries which demonstrated how a broad range of community members had come together, in a way which was demonstrably sustainable beyond a particular individual project or initiative.
They were impressed with the way people in Halesworth came together during the Covid crisis to provide comprehensive support for vulnerable people in the town, bringing together individual volunteers, community groups, the church, local businesses and the town council.
They added: “It is clear that the close co-ordination of the response and the effective working together is a result of a long-standing community spirit in the town – this was a real community response, working together to support each other.”
Young Person of the Year award, sponsored by Ashtons Legal
When 10-year-old Liam Kelly decided to raise money by cycling 181 miles around Norfolk, he never thought his fundraising efforts would be such a success.
The young Happisburgh resident wanted to raise £50 for the NHS after it helped him and his dad, a veteran with PTSD.
He biked 181 miles locally around the perimeter of Norfolk in 45 days.
He said: “It’s amazing as I wasn’t expecting to win, there were a lot of other people with good ideas that they had been nominated for so I didn’t think it was very likely to win.
“I do feel quite proud, and I’m sure mummy and daddy do feel proud as well.
“I didn’t know I was going to get nominated, my mummy told me I had made it to the finals and I was pleased.”
A little into his challenge, his granddad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and although his family said he could stop, he did not and instead kept it a secret until he finished his challenge.
The judges described Liam as “selfless, courageous, and generous”.
They added: “These are three words that sum up Liam Kelly. An exceptional young man who chose to make a difference during difficult times.
“From past experience with his family, and the current Covid crisis, Liam recognised the importance of the NHS and chose to make a difference.
“When most young boys would have been turning to their PlayStation during lockdown, Liam decided to give something back and took it upon himself to cycle 181 miles around his village over 45 days - that’s the equivalent of cycling around the Norfolk county boundary.
“His efforts captured the attention of his neighbours and soon as word grew they were all out cheering Liam on to encourage him on his way.
“His achievement has made a difference. Liam joins the ranks of the Colonel Tom movement, those special people who deserve all the praise and recognition from the NHS, who are eternally grateful.
“Well done, Liam.”
Category sponsors Ashtons Legal have given the winner and finalists of this category a £50 voucher each.
Judges’ Special Award, sponsored by Hopestead
The judges were so impressed with this year’s finalists that they decided to award not one, but two winners of the Judges’ Special Award, sponsored by Hopestead.
The finalists are taken from the runners-up of other categories, but whom the judges felt deserved special recognition.
Bob and Angie Cossey, were named finalists in the Charity Hero of the Year award category for their work as co-founders of the charity Stepping Stones, which helps adults with learning disabilities.
The judges said: “After 30 years, it’s clear they’ve made a huge difference to so many people’s lives in Norfolk and Waveney.
“Stepping Stones is obviously close to their heart and they’ve been praised for their energy, enthusiasm and experience in helping those with learning disabilities.
“Earlier this year they announced they would be stepping down from the charity and enjoying their retirement – we’re sure they will be missed greatly, but this feels like the perfect time for some special recognition. Well done Bob and Angie.”
The couple added: “We feel surprised and quietly pleased, and are very grateful for all that nominated us.
“A lot of people have been involved and helped to get it to where it is now. Stepping Stones began in 1989 – Angie managed it for 25 years until 2013 - and we have really worked to set charity on path it is now.
“Once we have retired, we know it will continue to develop.”
Jacob Gravestock, was listed as a Young Person of the Year finalist for his efforts raising money for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital’s Cancer Care Centre, after staff there helped to look after his granddad.
The judges said: “It was such a joy to read Jacob’s nomination. What a determined, dedicated and thoughtful member of our community.
“At only seven years old, Jacob walked, scooted and cycled 188 miles in 70 days to raise over £2,000 for the N&N Cancer Care Centre – an incredible achievement, especially when he’d only learned to ride his bike on two wheels a couple of weeks beforehand.
“Jacob has a big heart and is always thinking of others. He bought gifts and raised spirits during Covid-19 and sacrificed his Christmas presents to help those in need.”
Well done to all of our finalists:
Alex and Lizzie Brake
PC Amelia Moreland
The Charles Burrell Centre
Thank you to everyone who was part of the Stars of Norfolk and Waveney Awards 2020.