A very merry Christmas to everyone in Central Devon.
I recently had a meeting with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Bradninch, Emily Ottery and Simon Crawford, ahead of a visit to the local primary school. They have inspired my Christmas message for 2022 which is to say a huge thank you to everyone in Central Devon who has volunteered time this year to serve their community, help the less fortunate or support a worthy local cause. Volunteer work has many forms – it might be serving as a town or parish councillor, school governor or trustee of a local charity. It might be volunteering at a local sports club, Guide group or repair café. Or it might be giving up time to do unpaid conservation work, marshal at a Covid-19 vaccination centre or help provide a warm space this winter to those struggling with energy bills. To every local volunteer who has made a difference in Central Devon this year I am truly grateful.
During my conversation with Emily and Simon they told me about the amazing work of Catch 77, a local Community Interest Company which provides free family food boxes, and BradAid, a local hardship fund that the town council has established to help support those on low incomes. More information about the fund, including how to make a donation, can be found at www.bradninchtogether.org.uk/bradaid.
I have had the pleasure of spending time with some wonderful volunteers this year across our vast constituency. There are too many to name in a short column, but they include the leader of North Tawton Squirrels (a new age group within the Scout movement that caters for 4-5 year olds) and members of the Cheriton Bishop Village Hall Committee who saw their fundraising efforts literally go up in smoke when the hall roof caught fire in September, destroying recent renovations to the hall. They also include members of the Ashburton branch of the Royal British Legion, who do so much to support our veterans, and volunteers at community-run shops and post offices such as those at Kennerleigh and Ilsington.
Volunteers are not alone of course in deserving our thanks. The local heroes of 2022 include the dedicated members of our emergency services, who will not benefit from the rest that many of us are looking forward to over Christmas and the brave men and women of our armed forces, some of whom will be abroad and separated from their loved ones on Christmas Day. Thank you to the extraordinary efforts of our doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who were at the front line of the biggest public health crisis in the history of the NHS and are now working so hard to reduce waiting lists. Thank you to our teachers, childcare providers, social care workers, refuse and recycling teams, and to our farmers and other food producers – we owe them so much.
More from Mel at www.melstridemp.com or following him on twitter @MelJStride.