Published: 09:39, 15 April 2019
| Updated: 09:50, 15 April 2019
By Bel Austin
In 25 years, Sheppey Matters has impacted on the community so strongly to be worthy of a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
So said Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Paul Auston, at the organisation’s 25th anniversary celebrations at Minster Working Men’s Club on Friday.
“Today, as I represent Her Majesty at this event, and I hear of the years of service by Sheppey Matters, I feel it should be nominated for this prestigious award,” he said. “It is not easy to win – in fact only 200 or so have been presented right across the UK and Northern Ireland, but if nominated I would do all in my power to help.”
Radio station Sheppey FM was included in his commendation.
An exhibition of photographs and newspaper cuttings showing Sheppey Matters’ achievements was viewed by guests from many Island organisations, including Oasis Academy pupils.
Sharing the platform was Sheppey Matters’ chief exec Nigel Martin, its co-founder and chairman Mike Brown and community development manager Nicola Waghorne.
The group, based at the Healthy Living Centre, Sheerness, has been organising events and activities for every age group and ability since 1994.
Nicola is anxious for more people, particularly those who are isolated or lonely, to find out more, perhaps by visiting its regular coffee mornings.
There is everything from travel, shopping trips and outings with Sheppey Wheels, songs and story time, Nordic walking, a monthly lunch club, a bereavement and friendship group, cooking, knitting and sewing sessions, art lessons, gardening club, even a school community wardrobe where donated uniforms are made available.
For those with hearing problems there are lessons in singing and sign language and help in cases of drug and alcohol and sexual health problems. There is also help for children with ADHD or learning difficulties.
New to the programme is One Foot in the Gravy, a cookery course for men. In charge is community chef Mike Spackman. Now in his 12th year in the job, he’s a firm believer that food brings people together and impacts positively on wellbeing.
Statistics show the borough is the second most deprived in Kent, and 77th nationally. If Sheppey were a stand-alone authority it would be the second most deprived in the country.
Sheppey Matters ensures the Island really matters and, along with other agencies and community groups, does everything it can to address the inequalities.
Mr Martin said he hoped many present were inspired by the celebrations to bring their knowledge and talents to join in and help. To round off the 25th birthday, a cake was cut by Becky Briener, who is partially deaf and runs sign teaching classes in Sheerness and Sittingbourne.