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Orbit’s community hero winners

An ethical stationery company from south London, a care farm in Lowestoft, a self-start businesswoman from Bexhill-on-Sea and a wellbeing NHS worker from Wellesbourne 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 contribution to their local area or who have made a positive impact on their own lives.  There were three categories which the public voted on and this year there was also a special ‘Lockdown Hero’ award which was the judges’ decision and was open to all nominees.

Normally, the winners are announced at an annual ceremony in London. But this year, Orbit made socially distanced surprise visits to the winners, to hand over the awards.

Orbit is one of the largest housing groups in the country and manages more than 45,000 homes in the Midlands, East and South and works with charities and social enterprises to improve local communities. Last year, Orbit invested £5.7m into communities and supported over 3,000 customers through its Better Days programme.

Mark Hoyland, Group Chief Executive at Orbit, said: “While many award schemes were cancelled due to the pandemic, we felt it more important than ever to put our customers first and to recognise our community heroes. Orbit leads in building thriving communities and we are delighted to share these inspirational stories.

“We want to shine the spotlight on the amazing people, charities, social enterprises, and businesses that share our values and make the world a better place, especially in current circumstances. We are always looking at ways to increase our impact on communities and these awards are to say well done and thank you.”

The Thriving Communities Awards were born out of, and feature, The Brian Griffiths award. Established in his memory, Brian was a former Orbit member and Chartered Institute of Housing President, who dedicated his life to helping others. The Brian Griffiths Award is presented to an Orbit customer who has overcome significant social barriers and transformed their life.

As the awards have grown, there are now also categories for Orbit’s customers or groups who have made a positive contribution to their community (Better Days Award), for Orbit’s suppliers and supply chain partners (Stronger Together Award) and this year there was also a special Lockdown Hero Award.

To view our Thriving Communities Award 2020 video, click here: https://youtu.be/ucn0N-SwlL8

The awards

The Brian Griffiths Award - Orbit customers who have overcome significant social barriers and have transformed their lives.

Winner: Nina Starr, East Sussex

Nina is a single mum who has received support from an Orbit employment and skills coach, working on what her future could look like. She wants to be self-employed, so she has the freedom to be there for her child and to become a positive role model.

In addition to an idea about pre-labelled jars and home storage products, Nina has also turned her creativity and time in lockdown into making face masks, with three layers of material, a nose mould and extendable ear straps. She has made these and given them out for free to her local care home, GP surgery and her child’s nursery.

So, she now has two elements to her new business - the pre-labelled products and the face masks.

Better Days Award - Orbit customers or groups who have made a positive contribution to their community. The winner will receive funding to support the continuation of their positive work.

Winner: Pathways Care Farm, Lowestoft

Pathways Care Farm in Lowestoft provides therapeutic day care for people living with mental ill-health, learning difficulties and dementia. It has a variety of lovely animals, it grows beautiful flowers and amazing vegetables and the farm workers, the service users, help with all aspects of farm life from feeding and tending to the livestock to planting, nurturing and harvesting the flowers and vegetables.

The farm enables Orbit customers and members of Suffolk or the wider community to find their 'safe place'. Every person who attends the Pathways project is treated as an individual and encouraged to be the best person they can be.

Stronger Together Award - Orbit supply chain partners who have made a positive contribution to the community.

Winner: Ethstat, Croydon

The Ethical Stationery Company (Ethstat), which is based in Croydon, south London, puts all its profits into supporting society’s most vulnerable people.

As a social enterprise, Ethstat delivers social and environmental value across its business and all profits are used to provide food for rough sleepers and to help vulnerable people back into employment. Its environmental plaudits include deliveries with reduced transport emissions, refilling of containers to cut packaging waste, production of energy-efficient printers and remanufacturing cartridges with reduced energy consumption – all of which is gaining an incredible response from customers, including Orbit.

Ethstat is a key supplier of personal, protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene products to Orbit and has also provided printers and toner cartridges to allow Orbit employees to efficiently work from home. All of the products which Ethstat has supplied over recent months, including hand sanitizer and toner cartridges, have enabled Orbit to continue its job throughout the coronavirus pandemic of supporting the many vulnerable customers it cares for.  In return, through its work with Orbit, Ethstat has directly supported Nightwatch soup kitchens which provide much-need food to those in need in south London and Birmingham.

Lockdown Hero Award – the person who had made the greatest contribution to their community during lockdown.

Winner: Wendy Waters, Wellesbourne

Wendy, a Wellbeing Navigator at Hastings Medical Centre in Wellesbourne, works alongside the Practice Community Nurse, Heidi Williams, and has spent her time visiting customers in general needs homes, extra care schemes and Independent Living properties, to ensure that Orbit customers and members of the wider community were supported during lockdown. She worked tirelessly to ensure that the elderly and vulnerable had wellbeing as well as practical support throughout the lockdown period.