Published: 15:19, 19 May 2022
| Updated: 12:07, 23 May 2022
Kent’s first black female magistrate, a hip hop talent agency and a wheelchair rugby group have all been honoured for their work in the community.
Praise was heaped on kind-spirited volunteers and organisations as part of Gravesham council's annual civic and community awards.
The 2022 event took place on Tuesday and aims to celebrate those who go above and beyond for their community.
Gravesham council chief executive Stuart Bobby opened the night by paying tribute to Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) for North West Kent chief Marilyn Keating, who unexpectedly passed away at the beginning of the month, aged 70.
Mr Bobby said: “Marilyn had been the chief executive for CVS and her unstinting support for our local community organisations and initiatives had a huge impact on community life in the borough.
“This has included sitting on the community awards judging panel, and she herself was justly recognised with an award for outstanding services to the community in 2014.
“Marilyn you will be sorely missed but never forgotten.”
The civic awards were presented by the outgoing Mayor of Gravesham, Cllr Lyn Milner.
Among the winners were Linda Rush, a regular volunteer at ellenor Hospice where she organises walk and talk sessions for those experiencing bereavement.
In her role Linda helps with the local cadet force and regularly supports local litter picking events.
During the pandemic, she volunteered at the Gurdwara, preparing and packing food and was a regular volunteer at The Woodville vaccination centre. More recently, she has been involved at a local centre collecting for the Ukraine appeal.
Also honoured was Claudette Bramble, who came to Gravesend from Antigua and Barbuda in 1968 aged 13 and has devoted her life to supporting the community.
Claudette became chairman of Gravesend West Indian Association in 1985. Through the 1980s she was an active member of the Community Relations Association and sat on the committee of Gravesham’s Citizens' Advice Bureau.
In 1990 she was made chairman of the Police Liaison Committee, involved in racial awareness training of new recruits and supporting communication between Kent Police and Gravesend’s Caribbean community.
She was also on the committee of Gravesend Churches Housing Association from 1990 until 2010.
Claudette also later became Kent’s first black female magistrate, a position she still proudly fulfils on a regular basis, and in 2015 helped start the North Kent Caribbean Network which provides social and educational activities for elderly members of the community.
During the pandemic she helped co-ordinate a rota of volunteers to help with meals, shopping, collecting prescriptions and making health appointments.
Gurjit Shokar received an award on the night for his work to prevent further deaths due to mental health issues.
He recently experienced the loss of his brother to suicide and has chosen to use the experience to raise awareness, particular within the Asian community.
Gurjit has delivered talks and events to the congregation at the Gurdwara, young members of the Punjab United football club, and at a conference at The Woodville, reaching people from a broad range of backgrounds and ages.
In addition to this he also regularly volunteers at the Grand healthy living centre and works closely with local GP Dr Manpinder Sahota.
Also receiving an accolade for championing mental health awareness in the community was hip-hop talent collective GTown Talents.
GTown has provided a positive platform for young people across Gravesham to come together and channel their emotions and ideas creatively to help raise awareness of sensitive topics such as domestic abuse and grief.
The group was set up with the assistance of Jimmy Babalola and aims to provide young people with an opportunity to develop their creative talents through music and performing.
Lived experiences around suicide and mental health have inspired performances in music, film and drama, providing hope and building self-belief.
Recently they worked with local domestic abuse charity Oasis to produce a short film on domestic violence, as well as helping raise vital funds for ellenor hospice during lockdown.
The Mayor’s special award was given to Gravesend Dynamite, a wheelchair rugby group formed by Jason Owen in September 2013.
It's an inclusive sports club open to all and welcomes participation from both able-bodied and disabled people.
The club focuses on wheelchair rugby league, but also plays wheelchair rugby 7s and was the first club in the UK to introduce wheelchair American Football, helping to form the first ever version of the sport with the national governing body.
They have provided taster sessions to more than 4,000 young people from schools and youth groups and work to challenge perceptions of disability.
This year also saw the introduction of a highly commended category to recognise nominations worthy of a special mention.
Those featured were Gravesham Foodbank, Gravesend Methodist Church – Daytime Hub, George Duffort from Istead Rise, Priscilla McBean, and Lenny Hwami.
Speaking after the ceremony, Cllr Shane Mochrie-Cox, Gravesham council’s cabinet member for community and leisure, said: “Our awards recognise all that is good about our borough.
“Just listening to why our recipients were nominated this year highlights just how freely so many people give their time to help bring our communities together and work to ensure everyone, regardless of gender, race, faith or ability, feels included and part of Gravesham.
“It was fantastic that for the first time since the pandemic the whole council was able to come together to pay tribute to those who do only good things for the borough. Congratulations to them all.”