High Sheriff of West Sussex Awards 2022: High Sheriff of West Sussex ‘is a different person’ after meeting more than 200 charities supporting people in the county

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The High Sheriff of West Sussex, retired solicitor Neil Hart, says he has ‘learned a lot’ during his year in office and his eyes have been opened to the amount of need in the county and the voluntary work that goes on to help people.

In presenting the High Sheriff of West Sussex Awards 2022 at Wisborough Green Village Hall yesterday, March 29, he spoke of the very varied work being done by a huge number of volunteers across the county.

Mr Hart said: “What I really enjoyed about being High Sheriff was the role supporting charities and organisations throughout the county and, frankly, just chatting. There is nothing better, as far as I am concerned, than having a good chat to find out what’s going on, what motivates people, what the issues are and where the problems are.”

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Winners of the High Sheriff Awards 2022 with Neil Hart, High Sheriff of West SussexWinners of the High Sheriff Awards 2022 with Neil Hart, High Sheriff of West Sussex
Winners of the High Sheriff Awards 2022 with Neil Hart, High Sheriff of West Sussex

Nine charities were recognised for their work in the community with the presentation of certificates and each will receive a £750 donation from the Sussex Community Foundation.

Mr Hart said: “You are an inspiration to us. I have learned a lot. My eyes have been opened.”

He talked about the journey he used to make to work, where he drove past two different housing estates every day but knew nothing about them and the support the people living there needed.

He adde: “West Sussex is such a great place to live but there are those areas which need support. During the year, I have met over 200 charities and I have become a different person as a result. It has been a real experience.”

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He said the work of each of the nine winners was very different but equally important and very valuable to the community.

He added: “Some of you have innovative models which are of interest to people in other parts of the county.”

The nine winners:

PACSO, a charity supporting children and young adults with disabilities and their families in Chichester and the Arun district.

Clare Elkington, chair of trustees, said she set up the charity, Parents and Carers Support Organisation, 20 years ago and it currently helps 500 families with various needs.

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She added: “We are set apart from other respite activities because we encourage brothers and sisters to come. Parents said to us that they would really like all their children to go and play together and that is really important.

Lifecentre, a Chichester-based charity providing support and therapy for people who have had an unwanted sexual experience.

Kathryn Slatter, chief executive, said the charity had been offering support services for 20 years.

She added: “We provide counselling and a helpline. When they come to us, their lives have been devastated. The clients have really struggled with their mental health and their day-to-day life. Counselling really gets their life back on track. One of the things our clients often say is that it is life-saving and life changing, and that is fantastic to be part of.”

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Selsey Community Forum, a partnership of local voluntary organisations which seeks to identify and meet local needs.

Mike Nicholls, chairman, said: “Selsey is quite an isolated community and therefore to come from the very southern most point of West Sussex to a gathering like this is very encouraging to us and we do appreciate it.”

He explained the forum works with a lot of partnerships, in a town with 36 charities and more than 100 community groups, to provide services in befriending, support, wellbeing and practical help.

East Grinstead Food Bank, which helps local people in crisis.

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Mike Barlow, project manager, took over in April 2020 and he said since then, there had been 200 different regulations that had changed.

He added: “Nothing has stayed the same in the food bank. We are starting to not become a food bank, it is not going to solve many problems because a lot of them are fundamental. People are struggling to make ends meet all the time and it is not getting any better. So we are now starting to form a programme where we go beyond being a food bank and giving out food.”

Service Dogs UK, a West Sussex charity changing lives two at a time for veterans and rescue dogs by pairing them up.

Garry Botterill, founder, said: “We are providing the dog for the need. We match people from the Armed Forces and we take dogs from rescue, so we are saving two lives at the same time. We currently have 30 matched pairings.”

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Spurgeons, a children’s charity that runs family support services at HMP Lewes and HMP Ford.

Volunteer Neal Allistone said: “We pioneeered working inside the prison, directly with fathers, supporting them having contact with their children. When Covid came about, contact was cut to a bare minimum. We have supported families meeting outside, trying to keep contact going as much as possible.”

He explained the aim was to work with the fathers to break the cycle and improve their children’s lives to reduce the need for prisons.

Shout WSK, which runs street homeless outreach and Worthing Soup Kitchen.

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Founder Khristina McCormack said she started with a street soup kitchen at Teville Gate and that ‘just escalated’.

She added: “We grew and grew and we are now part of Worthing Food Foundation and we have our own food bank. We are supporting about 100 families with food parcels.”

Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, which supports children with cerebral palsy and other motor learning impairments across Sussex and beyond.

Glenys Creese, head of service, explained that although the charity is based in Cuckfield, it helps children aged up to five right across the south coast, offering conductive education.

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She added: “All of our services are provided free of charge, so the famiilies don’t pay for anything. We have a fantastic team of fundraisers and the Sussex Community Foundation provides some grants.”

The Bridge Cafe, a social action Crawley charity supporting probation officers and their clients, as well as Armed Forces veterans.

Helen Seward explained the charity is part of St John’s Church, where it was launched about four years ago. It runs a breakfast club two mornings a week as a non-judgemental space for people on probation and has recently launched a similar club for veterans on a Monday.

She added: “It is like a one-stop shop where they come for their appointment and can also get help with housing or employment and things like that.”

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