Chulmleigh woman among ‘inspirational’ St Boniface Award winners

By Alan Quick   |   Editorial Manager/Photojournalist   |
Saturday 26th June 2021 9:11 am
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Sue Croft of Chulmleigh with her medal.

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A CHULMLEIGH woman is among the 16 recipients of this year’s St Boniface awards.

In addition, an 89-year-old woman who has been volunteering and fundraising for her village church for more than seven decades and an 18-year-old student who helped keep her church open during the pandemic are award recipients.

The winners, who were nominated from across Devon, were admitted into the Company of St Boniface by the Bishop of Exeter in a special service at Exeter Cathedral on Saturday, June 19.

The annual awards, to recognise people from the Church of England in Devon who have gone above and beyond to serve their churches, church schools and communities, are named after the patron saint of Devon, Boniface, who was born Wynfrith in Crediton.

The Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Rev Jackie Searle, was one of the award’s judges and was preacher at the service.

She said: “St Boniface is an inspiration, not least for his courage and perseverance in sharing the love of Christ with all, wanting the best for those he served.

“Receiving the award is a recognition of the courage and perseverance shown today, by people who demonstrate that same love of Jesus in their words and actions.

“All those receiving the award are an inspiration in their service of God and neighbour.”

SUE CROFT

Award recipient Sue Croft is a churchwarden at St Mary Magdalene, Chulmleigh and was at the forefront of the community pandemic response in Chulmleigh, despite being extremely vulnerable and shielding herself.

She quickly established a support system using her links in local government, the school, church and health centre.

She built up a telephone contact system and bank of volunteers. Services provided included shopping, dog-walking, transport, prescription deliveries and telephone support.

The volunteers also delivered 70 Christmas gifts to people who were self-isolating. Sue is the main co-ordinator and first point of contact for all these services.

Her Team Rector, Rev Tony Rockey, said “Sue’s identification of the need, quick response in setting up a support system and ongoing dedication to serving the people of Chulmleigh and beyond, has brought the service of the church and members of the local community to the fore in this time of need.”

He added: “Sue has enabled all who have requested help to feel valued and supported. She is the human, caring face of the help offered, as such, she has been able to represent what is best in our church to those around us.”

AILEEN BADCOCK

Aileen Badcock (89), became the sole remaining member of the congregation at St Swithun’s church in Littleham, North Devon, in the 1950s when the vicar “locked the building and left”, leaving the church in a badly dilapidated state. She led a community fundraising effort and by the 1960s the church was thriving once more.

She has been a churchwarden and Sunday school leader there for more than 30 years. She is still fundraising for the community, most recently by selling tea-towels in her front garden during lockdown, raising money for a new toilet for the church.

The Rev Marisa Cockfield, who nominated her, said: “Aileen is greatly loved by her community. She inspires us to love each other and to work for God, I cannot think of a more worthy recipient.”

Many of this year’s nominees have been recognised for their work during the coronavirus pandemic, including 18-year-old Lizzy Flaherty, from Holsworthy Parish Church, who took on a number of roles in order to keep the church open when older volunteers were shielding. This included cleaning the entire church and helping-out during services.

Several other award recipients were nominated for running foodbanks, school holiday food programmes and homeless services, providing much-needed support to their local communities.

Toby Grier (17), is the youngest of the 2021 winners. He has been proactive in volunteering for a range of church and secular organisations focusing on food poverty, fair trade issues and the environment.

Despite the difficulties of studying in and out of lockdown over the last year, Toby has continued to act on his passion for social and environmental justice and has done voluntary work for Devon Development Education, helping the organisation develop its social media and online presence. His work was particularly appreciated during Fairtrade Fortnight.

The Diocese of Exeter Church and Society Officer, Chris Keppie said: “Toby’s presentation on Guyana seemed to create the online equivalent of a standing ovation; subsequent chat reflected on the refreshing value of a younger voice, and desire for more of the same. I hope it also brought new energy to long-term campaigners.”

Another winner, Katie Freeman is the new Chair of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NaTRE), the first time in 18 years a primary school teacher and early years specialist has been chosen for the role.

Katie said: “I am extremely touched that someone has taken the time to nominate me for this award and feel honoured to be receiving it. It is a real privilege to work at a Church of England School and to work within the RE community.”

Ben Slater, nominated for his work providing guidance and training on how to best support people with mental health challenges said: “Receiving this award is humbling and exciting.

“The nomination and award came out of the blue! For me, it is a real encouragement in terms of the recognition of the value of what we’ve quietly been doing during this hard chapter. I have been so heartened by the response of people doing the training and this award is such a blessing on top!”

During the awards’ service the recipients were interviewed and received a medal from Bishop Robert as a sign of their admittance to the Company of St Boniface.

The other award recipients were: Annie Jefferies - St Peter’s, Lamerton; Ben Slater - St Michael and All Angels, Pinhoe, Exeter; Corrine Shutt - St Mary’s, Walkhampton; David Currey - S.E.A. Church (St Aiden’s, Ernesettle, Plymouth); Hannah Fleming-Hill - St Judes, Plymouth; Jennie McNulty - St Mary Magdalene, Torquay; Joanna Bound - St Budeux, Plymouth; Katie Freeman - Emmanuel Church, Plymouth; Melanie Whitehead - St Andrew’s, Cullompton; Phil Smith - St Mary the Virgin, Plympton; Roger Grose - St Peter and St Paul, Uplyme and Sharon Marshall - St Mary’s, Pilton, Barnstaple.

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