St John Ambulance’s Hastings Homeless Service was crowned the winner of the ‘Community Hero’ category at the charity’s annual Everyday Heroes awards last night (October 7).
Now in its eighth year, the Everyday Heroes awards – sponsored by Zoll – honours individuals, volunteers and teams who step forward in their communities and in the moments that matter to help loved ones, colleagues, customers or even strangers in need.
Volunteers and staff at St John Ambulance Hastings Homeless Service have supported homeless and vulnerably housed people in Hastings and St Leonards for 15 years.
They deliver a specialised, accessible, nurse-led primary healthcare, first aid and training service, and work in partnership with Seaview in Southwater Road, St Leonards, where nurse-led drop-in clinics are held in a treatment-room four days per week, including podiatry.
Every Saturday evening the service also provides a health outreach session at Hope Kitchen, the supportive out-of-hours soup kitchen at Wellington Square Church in Hastings town centre.
Since the service was founded in 2004, it has grown from five volunteers to 17, including seven fully-qualified nurses. Between them they gave 1,830 hours in 2018 to help this vulnerable section of society get better access to healthcare.
Lead volunteer nurse, Sandy Collver, aged 67, was given a special mention at the awards ceremony. Not only has she conducted more clinics than any other nurse at the service but has also acted as a powerful advocate for homeless and other vulnerable people. She has often gone the extra mile to ensure effective communication between service users, the Homeless Service and the NHS, to make sure service users received optimal care.
On one occasion, Sandy led a search around the town for a particular service user who had been suicidal. Once the man was found, Sandy persuaded him to go to hospital where she stayed with him until a treatment plan had been agreed.
Commenting on the news the Hastings Homeless Service had won, Sandy said: “It’s incredibly overwhelming – we have the best team ever led by the best boss ever; we just love it and love the people we see and I think it shows.
“This is got to be where it starts to get better. When they get onto the road to recovery, we’re there supporting them all the way; we never give up on them, ever. This is the most rewarding nursing job I’ve ever had in my life – hands down.”
Roger Nuttall, nurse coordinator, added: “It’s incredible – our team is the best – Sandy has been described as a ‘guardian angel’ and I’m not sure we’d be able to do it without her!
“What we try to achieve in the Hastings Homeless Service isn’t just about making healthcare accessible to homeless and vulnerably housed people, but it’s giving people a sense of worth, identity, and hope.”
As well as recognising community projects such as the Hastings Homeless Service, Everyday Heroes also celebrated the bravery, courage and lifesaving skills of young people, and rewards the kindness of strangers, colleagues and St John volunteers in three other categories: Young Hero, Workplace Hero and Volunteer Hero.
Other winners included an 11-year-old boy from Dover who helped save the life of his grandad when he had a heart attack; a racecourse groundskeeper from Epsom who performed CPR on a colleague; and two St John volunteers who talked a young suicidal male down from the edge of a cliff in Brighton.
The awards were hosted for the second time by Reverend Richard Coles, celebrity vicar and one half of 80s band The Communards.
Richard Coles said: “I was honoured to be invited to host the Everyday Heroes awards again this year and had no doubt that I’d hear another set of amazing stories – I certainly haven’t been disappointed. The young people commended tonight have really stood out and I believe the future of our communities is in good hands if they are anything to go by. I hope their stories will inspire many others to volunteer, learn new skills and be confident to help when it really matters.”
St John Ambulance’s Chief Executive, Martin Houghton-Brown congratulated all the award winners, saying: “This evening I have had the honour of celebrating with the truly incredible ordinary people whose moments of extraordinary heroism allow us to put their humanity, care and courage in the spotlight.
“Many of these are young people, who are the healthcare professionals and community leaders of the future, and their courage is just what our communities need and want. St John has been equipping people like this for 140 years and I am delighted that we can honour this long history with a celebration of our Everyday Heroes tonight.”
For more information on St John Ambulance, including how to make a donation, volunteering opportunities, and details of training for the public, schools and businesses, visit www.sja.org.uk.