Billingshurst’s ‘unsung hero’ receives national award for ‘selfless work’ feeding families during pandemic

The ‘selfless work’ of a Billingshurst woman has been recognised with a national award which champions unsung heroes whose volunteering efforts have had a huge impact on people’s lives both at home and internationally.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 1:23 pm

Denise Campbell was nominated by the Billingshurst and District Rotary Club to receive a prestigious Community Champion award from Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland for her innovative voluntary projects which ensured disadvantaged families were fed and cared for during the pandemic.

She received her award during a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, June 30, alongside 11 other recipients as well as last year’s winners whose ceremony was postponed due to Covid-19.

Denise said: “I am delighted to receive this award but, like all successful projects and schemes, it requires the dedication of more than just one person. In particular, I would like to thank Little Bean Cafe who make the meals that are so much enjoyed and appreciated.

Denise Campbell (left) with Tracey Dowse of Little Bean Cafe, who has generously supplied the food SUS-210607-130122001

“For me, knowing that we have been able to help so many families feel that they’re part of our community, and are cared for by the simple act of being able to give them a meal every now and then, is very humbling and at the same time is hugely rewarding.”

Known to many as ‘Mrs Billingshurst’, Denise is a founding member of a local Covid-19 community support group that as early as March 2020 provided shopping services, collection and delivery of prescription and emotional support to families who were experiencing real hardship as a result of the pandemic.

Heading up the community support partnership, Denise worked with many local organisations and businesses including schools, pre-schools, churches, Billingshurst and District Rotary Club, cafes and a food bank to make sure those families most in need continued to get the help they needed.

Whilst the provision of complimentary meals addressed the immediate problem for many families facing food poverty, the additional positive outcomes of the project are numerous.

The project has helped a family with their housing problem, supported several families dealing with severe mental health problems, provided debt support and guidance, bereavement support, helped key workers by providing much needed support at the worst times during the pandemic and supporting the many families who were self isolating.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of both Denise and her team of loyal volunteers across the local community, the Complimentary Meals project has now been granted funding to continue until at least March 2022.

Tom Griffin, president of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland, said: “Covid-19 caused sudden and immediate hardship to a significant number of families.

“By getting to know the families in her local area who were most in need on a very personal level, Denise has been able to build a significant level of trust and has been able to identify their needs and help them find the help and support they need.

“There has been a real sense of a community coming together in times of hardship to support one another and this has been led from the front by Denise.”

The Champions Awards is about giving those who pioneer, lead and support some amazing volunteering projects the recognition they deserve.

The search for this year’s winners was carried out across Rotary’s vibrant network of over 1,700 Rotary clubs, with Rotary members and also members of the public having their extraordinary work recognised.

This ranged from feeding disadvantaged people during the Covid-19 pandemic to knitting teddies for children in emergency care.

Tom added: “The selfless and truly life-changing impact of our champions really demonstrates how we can make a difference and touch people’s lives.

“Rotary is certainly a place where people can turn their passion and ideas into lasting change. There are so many heroes out there and to them I say ‘thank you and keep doing what you’re doing’.”

For more information about Rotary’s Champions Awards visit www.rotarygbi.org/events or to get involved in Rotary and make a difference in your community, visit www.rotarygbi.org/join