Published: 11:59, 14 June 2019
| Updated: 17:04, 14 June 2019
Hundreds of guests gathered in Folkestone as the winners of the Kent Charity Awards were announced last night.
Now in its fifth year, the annual celebration recognises the hard work put in by volunteers and trustees across the county.
Presented by ITV Meridian's Sangeeta Bhabra, 31 nominees waited nervously to find out if they had triumphed in their categories.
The overall winner of the night - being awarded Kent Charity of the Year 2019 - was Oasis Domestic Abuse Services, who were met with thunderous applause and indoor fireworks as they went up to receive the accolade.
Taking home a trophy and £1,000, judges found their outreach and support services for those affected by domestic abuse was second to none on the night.
Speaking after the event, Oasis' chairman of trustees Derrick Downs said: "I'm flabbergasted. Obviously it was a tremendous surprise when there are so many charities represented here tonight, to come out as the overall winners was a great shock.
"We've been here before but we weren't successful in the past.
"It's a reward and satisfaction for the staff because they're the ones who do all the work and it's great they're recognised for what they do."
The 25-year-old charity, which runs refuges in Thanet and Dover and visits schools to make children aware of domestic abuse signs, was also nominated for the Community Charity of the Year award alongside Stride4Life, Kent Autistic Trust and Catching Lives.
It was the latter who were victorious for their work providing shelter and provisions to rough sleepers in Canterbury.
Another hotly contested category is the Volunteer of the Year Award, which this year went to Mike Clark from the Broadstairs Town Teams Garden Group - a team of people who spruce up the town's public spaces and create collaborations between parties interested in creating events and improving Broadstairs life.
Upon accepting the award from Susan Robinson - a partner at sponsor Kreston Reeves - Mr Clark said: "I'm sure there are lots of people around this room who are doing all kinds of fantastic volunteer work, and I'm just one of them. I wouldn't be here today without the people around me who do the work in Broadstairs."
Home-Start Medway, whose volunteers visit families with children under five to provide support, friendship and practical help, came top in the Best Use of Volunteers class. It beat Medway Foodbank and the children's wellbeing charity The Family Trust.
Hospices featured heavily in the Care Charity of the Year nominations with Gravesend's Ellenor losing out to Maidstone-based Heart of Kent Hospice, which won for its work with terminally ill people both in their homes and at the charity's Aylesford hospice. Porchlight was also nominated for its helping vulnerable and isolated people with their mental health, housing, education and employment.
In the Children's Charity of the Year section, Young Lives Foundation beat out competition from East Farleigh's Dandelion Time and disability help group We Are Beams.
Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource was crowned Disability Charity of the Year, despite tough competition from East Kent Mencap and Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource.
Spadework's George Harvey was given the Trustee of the Year Award for his 32-year association with the group.
Having worked his way from volunteer to the role of chairman of the trustees and patron, Mr Harvey humbly accepted his award saying: "I'm very grateful, highly flattered, and most of all I'm surprised.
"As everyone knows it's not recognition of the person but the team, so I dedicate this to the colleagues at Spadework and the people we teach. They're the ultimate inspiration and the ultimate reward."
Hypo Hound - an innovative charity that trains pet dogs to recognise the signs of an upcoming diabetic episode - won Start-up Charity of the Year with Big Reveal, Child's Vision and The Hygiene Bank as runners-up.
"As everyone knows it's not recognition of the person but the team, so I dedicate this to the colleagues at Spadework and the people we teach. They're the ultimate inspiration and the ultimate reward." George Harvey, Trustee of the Year
For its work providing veterans and disadvantaged men and women with care, support and jobs, Aylesford-based Royal British Legion Industries received the Large Charity of the Year Award.
A common sight in the skies abovethe county, the Air Ambulance Kent, Surrey, and Sussex were given the Outstanding Contribution to Kent gong.
The Wildwood Trust also received a mention, being deemed the Animal and Environment Charity of the Year.
The Kent Charity Awards were founded by Jo Hage and Sarah MacDonald of Rise Communications, after realising there was no countywide competition that recognised the charitable efforts being made.
Chief judge Susan Robinson said on the night: “This has been another incredible year of applications, demonstrating the high quality of charities operating in Kent.
"The judges faced a difficult task of short-listing the finalists and then made some incredible visits to each of those charities.
"We were inspired, laughed, cried but overall came away humbled. We witnessed innovation and collaboration. During these challenging times, we saw hope and possibilities.
"We thank all the charities that entered this year and hope they will again continue to challenge us. Well done to all the finalists.”
A raffle held on the night raised a total of £950 which was presented to the winner of last year's Kent Charity of the Year award, Children and Families.
Entries for the 2019/20 awards will open in October 2019 and can be made through the Kent Charity Awards website www.kentcharityawards.com
More by this authorCharlie Harman