Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams, has announced the winners of the Volunteer of the Year, Young Volunteer of the Year and Outstanding Contribution to In Bloom awards, which are part of the Mid and East Antrim 'In Bloom' Community Competitions.
The Mayor said: “These awards are for the individuals, groups or businesses who have shown long term commitment to improving their local community via clean ups, green ups, and in bloom activities, and who go above and beyond for the Borough.
“I am delighted to award Volunteer of the Year to Lynsey Poole from Larne for her work on Larne Community Garden. Lynsey has worked tirelessly throughout 2022, along with a number of volunteers, to change this space which had sadly become overgrown during the pandemic and realise its full potential - a sensory, beautiful experience that boosts mental health, continues to support those with dementia and provides a calming experience for everyone."
Herbs, strawberries, lettuce, beetroot, potato, cucumber, broccoli, fruit trees, peas, beans and more has been planted along with vibrant and sweet smelling flowers for pollinators and favourites like lilies and roses. It is well tended daily and is a bustling hub and hive of activity bringing joy to many and a connection through growing and food.
The Seed Library is also well used, along with the garden, which has become a permanent plant and share site for seedlings, surplus plants and seeds for the community to use, love and enjoy. Lynsey also looks after the new Community Fridge on site, which enables people to make use of free food as well as reducing food waste.
Alderman Williams continued: "Our Young Volunteers of the Year award 2022 goes to Cullybackey Scouts, Cullybackey Army Cadets and the Cullybackey Guides. The entire Cullybackey Scout troop, the Cullybackey Army Cadets and the Cullybackey Guides have been a tower of strength in keeping Cullybackey village as litter free as possibly. They have also been involved in tidying up flower beds and in planting up flower boxes. Their enthusiasm has been impressive and they, and their leaders, have been committed to helping out in whatever way they can to make Cullybackey a cleaner and more colourful place to live in. The scouts even came out of a weekend camp to do a litter pick! The guides and army cadets got involved in dressing the business centre window at Halloween and Christmas and the army cadets decorated the village’s horse sculpture at Remembrance Time."
Margaret Murphy, Cullybackey Community Partnership, who works a lot with the Scouts, Army Cadets and Guides, says: "These young people love getting involved and enjoy doing their various tasks very much. Cullybackey Community Partnership are very grateful for all that they do and could not be where they are without them. These organisations area a credit to the community."
The Outstanding Contribution to 'In Bloom’ award goes to a remarkable and long standing group this year.
The Ahoghill in Bloom environmental improvement initiative commenced almost 15 years ago and has had tremendous success over the years. The village won the Ulster in Bloom Small Towns category for nine consecutive years and in the most recent competition, the volunteers were delighted to be 'runners up' in a category with 20 entrants from across Northern Ireland.
Mayor said: "Success in Britain In Bloom culminated with the village being awarded the title of 'Champion of Champions', the most prestigious award for this competition. Not resting on their laurels, the enthusiastic team of volunteers has steered the village to achieve recognition in the 'Best Kept' awards in several years. The team was also delighted that the village reached the finals of this year's Tidy Towns Ireland competition with the group also receiving the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service(QAVS), the highest award available to volunteer groups in the UK a few years ago.
"Ahoghill in Bloom volunteers work tirelessly as part of the overall MEA In Bloom effort with amazing support from everyone in the local community to make the village a better place in which to live."
This category is kindly sponsored by Wilsons of Rathkenny this year. Marketing Manager Chloe Heaney says: ‘We are delighted to be supporting the Outstanding contribution to In bloom award this year. The Ahoghill in Bloom environmental improvement initiative is such an amazing group with so many incredible awards already under their belt. They are worthy winners! The group are passionate and dedicated to maintaining a beautiful town for everyone to live in. It’s great to see such an infectious community spirit within our local area. We would like to congratulate everyone involved."
Alderman Williams concluded: "Well done to all. This really shows what ‘In Bloom’ is all about - working to improve our Borough for residents and visitors via clean ups, green ups, biodiversity and community initiatives. All this helps boost tourism and the local economy and spreads some cheer and positivity which is especially needed after the last couple of years. I would like to extend my personal thanks for all that you do. It is recognised and it is appreciated. Please keep up the fantastic work.”
For more learn more about the MEA In Bloom competition visitwww.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/inbloom