Dedicated community champions have been honoured by North Devon’s MP with her Coronavirus Heroes Points of Light Awards.

North Devon's first Coronavirus Hero and Points of Light Award winner, Julie Whitton (right) with the Swimbridge Coronavirus Support Group.North Devon's first Coronavirus Hero and Points of Light Award winner, Julie Whitton (right) with the Swimbridge Coronavirus Support Group.

So far Selaine Saxby has awarded three of the accolades locally, in partnership with The Voice FM.

They have gone to Swimbridge champion Julie Whitton, Combe Martin’s Clair Rice and the Barnstaple Coronavirus Support Network (BCSN).

The weekly awards have celebrated individuals and groups from across North Devon who have stood out as points of light in their community, giving up their time to support the vulnerable and those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

The BCSN is the most recent award and was founded by Sophie Brookes, based around a Facebook group which has acted as a hub for those both needing support during the pandemic.

Clair Rice, pictured centre with members of Free Help Combe Martin at Combe Martin Football Club, has been awarded a Coronavirus Heroes Points of Light Award by North Devon MP Selaine Saxby.Clair Rice, pictured centre with members of Free Help Combe Martin at Combe Martin Football Club, has been awarded a Coronavirus Heroes Points of Light Award by North Devon MP Selaine Saxby.

Sophie will be receiving the award on behalf of the group, but the nomination was for the whole group.

The network has produced an army of volunteers who have worked as one, getting shopping, collecting prescriptions and many other acts of kindness to get Barnstaple through a difficult period.

The resident who nominated the group, said: “The BCSN is comprised of over 100 amazing volunteers, who should all be recognised for their action in supporting our local community at this time.

“Without every one of them, the support network would not have grown too what it is. Thank you to all those who have contributed to the page, which now has over 3,000 followers.”

Julie Whitton is one of the lead organisers of the Swimbridge Coronavirus Support Group, whose work has been recognised by Devon Communities Together as an example of best practice in community volunteering and shared with other communities as a model to follow.

She was nominated for the first ever award by a fellow resident, who said: “Julie is passionate about helping others and a passionate fundraiser, travelling around the county fundraising at various events for charities locally.

“Julie is an exceptional person, vibrant, cheerful and always smiling and positive. Julie is one of those people truly deserved of a heroes title.”

Clair Rice was recognised for her founding of the Free Help Combe Martin (FHCM) community group and Facebook page, as well as her dedication in setting up the Combe Martin Foodbank and playing a central role to community efforts during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The resident who nominated her, said: “Clair has been an outstanding figure. She helps run the Free Help group here. When this crisis started, she was instrumental in setting up a group of volunteers to do shopping and collect prescriptions for vulnerable people who were shielding. She also helped set up a food bank scheme in the village for families and individuals in need.

“She has been a constant source of good advice and common sense. Many people in Combe Martin have been absolutely brilliant and helpful in our community but Clair easily tops them all.”

Nominations are still open for other Points of Light. Ms Saxby would like to hear from anyone who thinks they know of someone who deserves recognition for their dedication to their community. Email selaine.saxby.mp@parliament.uk, with the details of your nomination and a picture.