A CHAMPION for some of the most vulnerable people in society has been named Middlesbrough's Citizen of the Year.

Susan Gill, who runs the Homeless Café and Hub in Central Middlesbrough, was given the top honour in the annual Middlesbrough Council Civic Awards.

The 2020 awards - which celebrate the town's unsung heroes - took place remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions which ruled out the usual Town Hall event.

As a result this year has seen BBC Tees presenter Gary Philipson and Middlesbrough's Deputy Mayor Antony High and Cllr Mieka Smiles, Executive Member for Communities and Education recorded a special virtual video presentation and have been delivering the awards to the deserving winners.

Those winners were:

  • Citizen of the Year - Susan Gill. Susan's Homeless Hub and Café provides meals, toiletries, shower facilities and many other supportive measures for the most vulnerable.
  • Covid-19 Award - Phillippa Donegan. Phillippa formed PIPSCO at the start of the pandemic, which has since ensured families and vulnerable people who need to shield food parcels and care packages.
  • Helping People to Improve their Educational and Vocational Capacity (business) Award - Vicky Scott (Holiday Inn Express). Guest Services Manager Vicky has worked with Project Choice to help a vulnerable young lady with learning difficulties to work and live more independently.
  • Helping People to Improve their Educational and Vocational Capacity (community) Award - Unicorn Centre. The Unicorn Centre offers riding therapy and opportunities to over 200 disabled adults and children.
  • Improving Employment Opportunities for Residents (business) Award - Itec (North East). Itec NE is a company which delivers educational and vocational training in IT. It has supported more than 1,000 apprentices in the Tees Valley alone and more than 150 employers have benefited from their work.
  • Improving Employment Opportunities for Residents (community) Award - Barbara Smith and Routes to Work. Routes to Work support the long-term unemployed, helping people gain skills and experience to take steps into employment.
  • Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Residents (business) Award - Leon and Adele Pengilley. Leon and Adele run Pendraken Miniatures and when the pandemic began they turned their efforts to creating face masks for care homes, care providers, doctors' surgeries and hospitals.
  • Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Residents (community) Award - Ted Docherty. Ted is the chairman of the Teesside Stroke Club which helps people recover from stokes as well as providing much-needed support.
  • Making People Happier (business) Award - Nunthorpe Oaks Care Home. Staff have put on special events for residents during lockdown, have organised Facetime for family members and generally gone above and beyond to make sure residents are happy and safe.
  • Making People Happier (community) Award - Farshid Azizi. Farshid has been litter picking in North Ormesby since he arrived in Middlesbrough last year.
  • Making Physical Improvements to our Neighbourhoods (business) Award - Gary Hamilton (Active Tees Valley). Gary and colleagues have taken over a number of community buildings in east Middlesbrough and have filled them with thriving businesses as well as sports and community activities for all.
  • Making Physical Improvements to our Neighbourhoods (community) Award - Community Champions. The Community Champions group was formed by Jackie and Keith Young with the aim of improving Middlesbrough's environment. They plant trees, paint street furniture, litter pick and tidy the gardens of elderly or vulnerable people - as well as supporting children through the Duke of Edinburgh award.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston, said: "I want to say a massive congratulations, but mainly a huge thank you to everyone who was even nominated in these awards.

"Every single person put forward has given so much to make Middlesbrough a better place. I hear stories every day of people making positive contributions to their community and it really does make a difference.

"Every year all year round these things go on with people going above and beyond - often unnoticed - so that's why we want to hold a celebration to give credit where it's due.

"This year has seen people go even further with their community spirit to help others in Middlesbrough get through this awful pandemic and it has truly been inspiring.

"Finally a thank you and congratulations to Susan Gill - no one can deny the positive contribution she makes to the lives of some of the most vulnerable in Middlesbrough. She is a very worthy Citizen of the Year for 2020."