In the North Riding Awards 2013

The closely-knit Harrogate Acorn Committee raises funds for research into Scleroderma, a little-known but devastating disease and also for dementia sufferers. This lively, vibrant and caring group of 15 people has plenty of ideas and ambition when it comes to fund-raising, with bridge events, fairs, balls, annual 100-mile bike rides, tennis days, golf days, etc. They typically raise £70K each year, some goes to the local group Dementia Forward, and the rest has so far funded seven research fellows at Leeds Teaching Hospitals. Next year, Acorn celebrates its 15th anniversary and they hope to reach their £1 million fund-raising target.

Disability Action Yorkshire believes disabled people should have the same life choices as non-disabled people. So they provide work skills training and employment, residential care for young adults, training so people can live independently in their own homes, home care for 200 people in Harrogate and Thirsk and purpose-built family holiday accommodation. A severely disabled young man summed up DA this way: “It encourages us to look forward to choosing what we want to do with our lives and the confidence to do it.”

Eston Residents Association has completely revived a place which only a few years ago was one of the country’s most deprived areas. Now, however, Eston residents have regained their self respect and their pride. Today, Eston is a constant Britain in Bloom winner, there’s a local newspaper and a Heritage Trail, the Association funds the Remembrance Day parade and the High Street Christmas tree and decorations, — and on and on. If you live in Eston then you’re a member and with so much going on you are bound to be involved. This is truly the “Big Society” writ large.

Jennyruth Workshops in Ripon is an imaginative project which brings dignity, purpose and new skills to adults with learning difficulties through the manufacture of a wide range of craft products. From small beginnings in 2002, the workshop now employs 24 adults with learning disabilities, whilst their new shop in Ripon helps with interpersonal and money skills. The workers and the 30 volunteers have mutual respect for each other and they share a common pride in the project.

North Duffield Conservation & Local History Society was formed to conserve the local environment and understand and celebrate the village’s history. Thirty years later, the Society is an outstanding example of a community education project which involves many local residents and their children. Together they have recreated old wooden farming implements and weaving looms and even built a wattle and daub house. Their ‘digs’ are sufficiently professional to have attracted the interest of the York Archaeological Trust and the Archaeological Department at the University of York.

You pay 50 pence a week to belong to the North Stainley 50 Club, hence its name. It is dedicated to improving the relationship between older and younger village people. The 80 members could just socialise amongst themselves, but instead they provide hands-on support to the school and village youth groups. They read with the children in school, and act as sports coaches, they fund kids’ cricket kit and the Brownies National Trust membership and much more. They consult with all the village groups asking where, when and how they can help. As one member put it: “The 50 Club oils the wheels of the community.”

The North Yorkshire Music Therapy Centre in Malton uses music to help young and older people who are disadvantaged by illness or disability. Music can reach children and adults considered by many as uneducable or unreachable. Last year 60 children and adults benefitted from weekly music therapy which allowed them to express themselves and helped them to develop communication skills.

North Yorkshire Youth (NYY) of Thirsk works with North Yorkshire’s young people at its Carlton Lodge outdoor centre and through its outreach programme. The core elements are challenging physical activities at the Lodge, youth development programmes for rural communities and NYY Training. Last year, 5,500 young people visited Carlton Lodge and the outreach programmes reached another 5,000. 70 years old, NYY continues to provide a much-needed and highly-valued service right across the county. “Our young people had a fabulous time and came away with an incredible sense of achievement” and “I would give Carlton Lodge 11 out of 10!”

Ripon Walled Garden brings people with learning and/or physical difficulties, troubled young people with behaviour problems, and ex-offenders together to work in a peaceful and productive horticultural environment. The Garden supply trees [the biggest Christmas tree supplier in the district], fruit and veg, and all manner of plants and gardening services to the people of Ripon. 45% of the project’s funding comes from sales, which suggests Ripon likes what is on offer. All in all, this project demonstrates the range of positive benefits which accrue when barriers are removed, misconceptions are challenged and diversity is celebrated.

The Scarborough & Ryedale Mountain Rescue Team stands ready to turn out at any time of day or night to rescue people who may have fallen down a crag on the moors, got lost, be attempting suicide on a bridge or be Alzheimer sufferers who have wandered out of hospital or home and gone missing. The Team operates over an area of 2,100 square miles and there have been over 40 callouts so far this year. This is too much for the police to handle so the 60 team members, all of them volunteers, provide this essential emergency service which saves lives.

Sight Support Ryedale started in 1994 when funding for the very limited Local Authority service was withdrawn. A network of 30 volunteers run social and activity groups and staff a resource and information centre for 90 blind and partially-sighted people. This independent, self-funding service covers a huge area and the friendship it offers helps to combat loneliness and depression in a rural and sparsely populated area of Yorkshire. One member summed it up by saying: “It’s lovely to have the opportunity to do things other people take for granted, and the company’s great.”

Tockwith Festivals (TF) is an annual one-day event which centres on a beer festival and which is run to raise money for the village school and other village groups. This year, 140 villagers, old and young volunteered to help; as one said: “It’s a great source of pride for the village”. The first event in 2011 attracted 800 visitors, this year 1,600 turned up. The school receives 50% of the profits and the village hall, the football team, Village Players and the Scouts have also received grants.

Welburn Hall School Riding for the Disabled in Kirbymoorside is run by an impressive group of 12 volunteers who provide free pony riding tuition to special needs children at Welburn Hall School. The difference in the children’s demeanour before and after the lessons is astonishing,— anxiety and reluctance magically replaced by smiles and confidence. There are many RDAs in Yorkshire, but this one goes a step further by encouraging the children to leave the comfort of their own arena to take part in national competitions.