High Sheriff ends year with awards for charities

THE volunteers who make life a little brighter for people attending court are among groups to have been honoured by outgoing Wiltshire High Sheriff Lady Penny Marland.

She presented the team who run the Salisbury Court Café with a High Sheriff Award at Salisbury Law Courts on Thursday to mark the end of her year in office. The volunteer chaplaincy service at the court was also given an award.

Lady Marland presented the café’s award to volunteer leader Joanna Woodd. The café, which is run by the Mothers’ Union has been running at the court for two years. It is staffed by a team of 20 volunteers and is open every day the court is in session.

Mrs Woodd said the award is a testament to the hard work of the volunteer team: “It’s the team we depend on,” she said, “they are very dedicated. We also get a lot of support from everyone here at the court. Sometimes we get a lot of very stressed barristers and magistrates but they are always here to support us.”

Lady Marland said of the café workers: “They provide a wonderful service. And when they see someone in distress they can alert the chaplaincy team to help them.”

Mothers’ Union Diocesan President for Dorset and Wiltshire Rosie Stiven said: “The men and ladies provide a wonderful service. They give everyone a Christian welcome and provide them with a cup of love.”

Other awards were presented to Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue’s Salamander Project, chaplaincy teams in the courts and at Erlestoke Prison and the Friends of Erlestoke Prison.

Court lay chaplain Andrew Wells paid tribute to the team of nine volunteers. “They are here to support everyone in the courts, including families and staff. It is an important job they do.”

The Salamander Project is aimed at youngsters between 11 and 14 with troubled home lives or behavioural issues. An eight-week course in basic firefighting skills teaches them a sense of responsibility and personal pride, said co-ordinator Rob Guy.

“It really boosts the confidence of the young people and for some of them it is the first time they have achieved anything in their young lives,” he said.

Receiving the award on behalf of the Friends of Erlestoke Prison, chairman Belinda Southwell said: “This is marvellous. The Friends are there to support not only the prisoners but also their families because they also serve a sentence too.”

The Friends, which has been operating since 2011, provides transport links and facilities for visiting families and supports education and rehabilitation programmes for offenders.

“The aim of the charity is to rehabilitate the men so that when they leave prison there is going to be far less chance of them offending again,” said Mrs Southwell.

Fellow Erlestoke worker Rev Sue Ascough of the prison’s chaplaincy team said the multi-faith team of 25, which covers 13 faiths, is there to provide a listening ear to prisoners and staff. “There is a real sense of pulling together in our team under difficult circumstances. If anyone wants to see a real community in action, then ask to come and see us,” she said.

The presentations took place in Court Two of the courthouse in the presence of His Honour Judge Andrew Barnett and His Honour Judge Robert Pawson. He paid tribute to Lady Marland’s year in office, saying she had been dedicated in visiting so many groups and supporting the judiciary.

He added: “I am delighted to see all the award recipients here today. I am full of admiration for the work they do. People will wonder how they can work among bad people but the truth is that they see the good in the people they help.”

Lady Marland also visited the Amber Foundation in Trowbridge on Tuesday to present an award to the staff there. Amber provides a temporary safe place to live for homeless and unemployed young people in three residential centres in Trowbridge, Surrey, and Devon. It provide a mix of support, structure, new experiences and training that builds their motivation, self-discipline and skills. It helps them address any specific issues that may be holding them back and helps them find the self-belief and determination to move forward.

Chief executive Paul Rosem said of the award: "It really is testament to the dedication of the team, who work around the clock to support the young people that stay with us. We are not a large charity and we wouldn’t be here without the support of the community so the endorsement and of course the donation mean a great deal to us.” 

Lady Marland added: "Amber helps young people turn around their lives in a different way to hostels. Amberteers learn skills that will help them find employment, understand teamwork and become responsible and confident members of society."

Lady Marland will also present awards to Lisa Lewis of homeless charity Doorway in Chippenham; Charlotte Macdonald and Ciaran Robinson of the Sea Cadets in Wiltshire; Jaki Farrell of Seeds 4 Success youth support service in Mere and Phyllida Richards of the Olive Tree Café in Swindon. They will be presented before her term of office ends on April 6.

In addition to the awards Lady Marland has given financial grants to many of the groups she has visited from fundraising during her shrieval year via the Wiltshire Community Foundation. The recipients are: The Amber Foundation in Trowbridge; SWADS in Swindon; Seeds for Success in Mere; Doorway; The Olive Tree Café in Swindon; The Rose Gale Trust in South Wiltshire; Alabare Wiltshire in Trowbridge; Friends of Erlestoke Prison and Wiltshire Mind.