The achievements of some of Darlington’s most inspiring volunteers, community groups, athletes, students and businesses have been recognised at the annual Stronger Community Awards.

The awards, hosted by Darlington Council and sponsored by local businesses and organisations, celebrate all that is great about Darlington.

A glittering award ceremony was held for all the nominees on Friday at Central Hall in the Dolphin Centre.

Mike Renton, the council’s cabinet member for stronger communities, said: “The Stronger Communities Awards are a real highlight of the year. It is wonderful to hear so many inspiring stories of people, groups and businesses doing amazing things to make Darlington such a great place to live, work in and visit.

“It was so hard to choose winners this year as everyone had such fantastic stories to tell. I would like to thank everyone who nominated someone, all the nominees and of course the very deserving winners.”

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•            Academic Excellence – Andrew Ormrod is an exceptional mathematician. A recent student at QE Sixth Form College he achieved 4A* grades in his A levels and won a place at the University of St Andrews. He made it into the top 200 students in the country in the prestigious 2022 UKMT maths competition.

•            Bringing Success to Darlington – Bennett Saws. Established in 1964, the business has grown to employ 55 staff and has contracts across the country. The business supports the local community including buying two defibrators for Middleton St George and Middleton One Row

•            Business Contribution to the Community – Redde Northgate supports a wide range of charity and community activities. It has not only made generous donations to different community initiatives but also gives staff paid leave to volunteer on projects such as building a new play area at Firthmoor Community Centre.

•            Contribution to the Arts – Tracks plays a major role in many of the town’s musical festivals including the Last Train Home Festival, Big Little Gigs and Mish Mash. It champions and creates performance opportunities for local artists.

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•            Contribution to the Community – Eastbourne Park Community Hub volunteers have created a community facility where residents can pop in for a chat and an affordable meal. They also donate food hampers to local nursing homes.

•            Contribution to the Environment – 13th Darlington Scouts have joined the council’s ranger team on several projects to improve the local environment and have carried out a number of litter picks. They have also raised funds to buy a water pump for a school in Thailand.

•            Contribution to Sport – Denis Slater has volunteered his evenings twice a week for the past 40 years teaching karate to children and adults at a not-for-profit karate club.

•            Exceptional Care – the council’s leaving care team works to provide the best outcomes for young people leaving care, supporting them every step of the way into independence.

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•            Exceptional Student (joint winner) – Sofiia Nikolaiets moved from the Ukraine five years ago speaking very little English. She has just achieved three As at A level and has won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music

•            Exceptional Student – (joint winner) Danniella Noble has faced many challenges in her life and has been in a wheelchair since 2018. Her resilience and motivation led her to pass all her GCSEs and she is now attending college.

•            Exceptional Volunteer – Age UK kitchen volunteers have created a safe haven for older people providing homemade affordable meals and somewhere warm to stay and make friends. Their volunteer drivers also provide meals at home for older people.

The Northern Echo: Volunteers for Age UK Darlington and North YorkshireVolunteers for Age UK Darlington and North Yorkshire (Image: Darlington Borough Council)

•            Exceptional Young Volunteer – Charlie Richardson, 12, is on a mission to save animals and look after the natural world.

The Northern Echo: The award for Exceptional Young Volunteer went to 12-year-old Charlie RichardsonThe award for Exceptional Young Volunteer went to 12-year-old Charlie Richardson (Image: Darlington Borough Council)

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•            Independent Town Centre Business of the Year – Hartbeeps runs music classes throughout the borough for parents and young children providing a support network as well as fun activities.

•            Performance in Sport – Ian Barnes is a legendary runner who continues to break world records despite approaching his 87th birthday

•            Public Service Hero – the council’s building stronger families team works hard to make positive change for families with a range of needs, ensuring they get the right support.

•            Vocational Excellence – Alex Smith completed a travel and tourism course at Darlington college and work experience at Bannatyne’s Hotel before getting a job as an advisor at TSB. Part of the leaving care tam, Alex has received excellent feedback since he stated working.

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•            Stronger Communities Special Award – Jonathan Holmes has more than 20-years of experience in the Fire and Rescue Service and, in his own time, sits on the Darlington Multi Agency Problem Solving Group where his input has made a real difference to communities across the town.

•            Young Citizen of the Year – Johnson Durham is a member of the Cockerton Business Group gaining praise for rolling his sleeves up and volunteering in his community

•            Citizen of the Year – Kay Sandham has been instrumental in running Cockerton Community Group which has raised funds for the local community. She also volunteers for the school uniform exchange, The Bread and Butter Thing and the local scout group.

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