A Hillingdon-based charity supporting frontline NHS workers, a paint recycling company in Halesowen, a Bedford customer who conducts empty homes inspections, a national mental health charity and a Stratford-upon-Avon mother who turned her life around following a bereavement, are this year’s community hero winners in Orbit’s annual Thriving Communities Awards.
The Thriving Communities Awards celebrate Orbit customers and partners who go the extra mile to make a positive contribution to their local area or who have overcome barriers to transform their lives.
There were five categories which the public voted on, and this year there were also two new awards: the ‘Your Voice’ award and the ‘Orbit Earth’ award.
With over 100,000 customers, Orbit is one of the largest housing groups in the country and manages a portfolio of over 45,000 homes in the Midlands, East and South. It works with charities and social enterprises to improve local communities. Orbit invests over £5 million each year into local communities to make a positive difference to people’s lives and supports over 5,000 customers each year through its Better Days programme.
Mark Hoyland, Group Chief Executive at Orbit, said: “Our Thriving Communities Awards shine a spotlight on the amazing people, charities, social enterprises and businesses that make our communities a better place. With the current circumstances, it has never been more important to recognise our community champions, whose inspirational stories are often extraordinary and untold.
“Orbit is always looking at ways to increase our impact on communities and these awards are the perfect way to say well done and thank you to the local heroes within the community who share our values and commitment.”
The Thriving Communities Awards 2021 have been sponsored by four of Orbit’s supply chain partners: Fortem, Wates Residential, Hankinson and Robert Heath Heating Ltd.
Brian Griffiths’ Award: The Brian Griffiths’ Award is awarded to an Orbit customer who has overcome significant social barriers and transformed their life. Named in memory of the late Brian Griffiths, a former Orbit Board member and Chartered Institute of Housing President, who dedicated his life to helping others.
Recently, Dawn suffered an incredibly tragic loss: her partner passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep. Prior to her partner passing, Dawn had never managed tenancy, which left her struggling to cope financially, and as a result she fell into arrears. Determined to keep herself afloat, she enrolled onto counselling with her 8-year-old daughter to try and come to terms with the loss of her partner and found help through the Widowed and Young (WAY) support group. After going through such tragedy Dawn has shown her strength and determination and is now out of arrears. She has completed a teacher assistance training course and is now working towards a qualification in children’s mental health. Dawn is motivated to succeed and will keep working with Orbit to meet her goals and provide the best life for her daughter.
Better Days Award: The Better Days Award is awarded to Orbit customers or groups who have made a positive contribution to their community.
Winner: Sarah, Serving our Superheroes
Sarah founded Serving our Superheroes (SOS) in Hillingdon at the start of the pandemic to support frontline care workers by providing them with laundry bags to dispose of their uniforms safely. As the project evolved, SOS began working with domestic violence charities, helping the homeless and supporting parents who are struggling financially by providing baby items and school uniforms. In total, SOS has donated over 47,000 items, worth over £600,000.
Stronger Together Award: This awards recognises Orbit supply chain partners who have made a positive contribution to the community.
MIND, the mental health charity, has partnered with Orbit to provide its Breathing Space programme, which supports customers who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health. The partnership has proved invaluable, providing free confidential mental health support and guidance to Orbit customers and communities during the pandemic, specifically supporting people who felt isolated and lonely. MIND provided telephone support, held peer support groups and workshops, as well as creating emotional first-aid workbooks, which were personalised for each customer. MIND supported 38 customers to get into employment, 51 into work-related training, 28 into volunteering and have helped 559 in total to improve their overall wellbeing.
Your Voice Award: The Your Voice Award recognises Orbit customers who have made positive contributions through customer engagement activities.
Tom from Bedford is an engaged Orbit customer who has been helping to drive service improvements over the past six years. Before the pandemic Tom was a member of the empty homes inspections team, who regularly complete assessments of void properties to ensure they are up to Orbit’s re-let standards. When the project was moved online during lockdown, Tom supported the development of a virtual home inspections programme, creating a new way of delivering inspections online. Tom helped to shape this new way of working and lead the way by developing the survey questions that follow each inspection.
Orbit Earth Award: New for 2021, this award recognises Orbit customers, contractors or employees who have developed a project to make a positive impact on the environment.
Paint360, based in Halesowen, recycles waste paint back into brand-new paint by collecting surpluses from waste management companies, councils and contractors. Each litre of paint contains a minimum 65% recycled content and is designed to compete on quality and price with premium brands, delivering environmental impact through social enterprise. Around one litre of repurposed paint saves enough embedded carbon to drive a transit van five miles – carbon free. Paint360 is partnered with Orbit and provides embedded carbon savings, supporting its net-zero carbon initiative – Orbit Earth. Paint360 also creates job opportunities for young people.