Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

October 8, 2008

Community Champions to gain recognition

All across the country, countless thousands of hours of voluntary effort – often unseen and usually unrecognised – are what underpins the community sector and provides the ‘social glue’ that hold so many of our communities together. Glasgow’s Evening Times has decided that some of these unsung heroes should get some recognition as Community Champions. Two women from Easterhouse feature in the early nominations

Evening Times

GLASGOW has a hidden army whose tireless dedication improves lives across the city. Now the Evening Times is launching a search for unsung community heroes.

The Glasgow Community Champion Awards is an initiative recognising the individuals and groups committed to making a difference. Over the next 12 months, the awards scheme will travel north, south, east and west to host high profile ceremonies crowning six Community Champions in 10 different areas of the city.

All 60 local winners will then be invited to a gala final at the City Chambers next September, where we will crown the overall Glasgow Community Champions.

The first area to be featured is the East End, including Baillieston, Shettleston and Easterhouse and two long term activists, Maureen Morris and Maureen Ferrie, are among the first to be nominated.

MAUREEN MORRIS: Hero with a global following

MAUREEN MORRIS has established a global reputation for being active in her local community.

The Wellhouse campaigner has been invited to speak in the United States and Australia on the work she has done over the last 30 years.

“At the one time I was involved in 11 committees and I was an office bearer in eight,” said the widow, 57, who has three grown-up children and two grandchildren.

Maureen began her work in the voluntary sector after suffering depression following the birth of her first daughter. Helping out at a nursery planted a seed that would grow into a life-long commitment to improving the lives of people in her area.

“I struggle with depression and low self-esteem, but the more involved I become, the better I feel,” she said.

Maureen is a former chairwoman of the Wellhouse Community Trust, which spearheaded the introduction of three important community facilities, including hubSports.

Among her other roles, she is treasurer of the Glasgow East Mental Health Service Users & Carers Forum, chairwoman of the Easter-house Festival Forum, on the committee of the Easterhouse Citizens’ Advice Bureau and secretary of the Well-house and Queenslie Community Council.

Her work was recognised at the Diamond Awards during the NHS’s 60th anniversary celebrations in July.

“It’s crucial for people to be involved in their local community,” said Maureen.

“People can ensure they’re getting the service they want rather than the person who is funding it deciding what they should get.

“It’s by local people attending meetings that you’re getting a say for your neighbours.”


MAUREEN FERRIE: Supergran has a life of devotion

THIRTEEN-HOUR shifts would take their toll on anyone, but Maureen Ferrie thinks nothing of devoting her life to the project she set up almost 30 years ago.

The Garthamlock grandmother and husband Michael formed Greater Easterhouse Supporting Hands in 1979 to provide a social hub for people with physical and learning disabilities.

She’s there from 9am until 10pm every day to ensure the centre in Redcastle Square is filled with laughter to brighten up the lives of more than 400 members.

“It’s my project so it’s like my baby – now I’m in here all day and night,” says Maureen, 61, who was a finalist in our Scotswoman of the Year awards in 2001.

GESH began in Lochend Secondary School in 1979 with 12 members. It soon outgrew a second home in a scout hall in Cranhill to take over a council-owned sports centre in Garthamlock earmarked for demolition.

They transformed the sports hall in 1999 with £400,000 raised locally, giving the community a much-needed social venue.

GESH is open daily from 7am until 11pm, with activities including lunch clubs, dance classes, bingo and quiz nights, carpet bowls and snooker.

The project receives no funding and has only one paid admin employee – it relies solely on the generosity of more than 40 volunteers as well as its members’ efforts.

Criminals on community service orders carry out cleaning and decoration, with many staying on after they have served their sentences.

It has taken around 150 members on exchanges to Nuremberg in Germany, and has a caravan in Ayr where members can take a holiday.

It is supported by donations from Vera and Gerald Weisfeld, The Body Shop and Lloyds TSB, while local pub The Roadhouse paid to have the driveway mono-blocked.

“It’s all about the community spirit and it makes people feel worthwhile,” says retired Maureen, who worked for 27 years as an after-school care co-ordinator in Easterhouse.

“We’re not financially rich, but we’re stable enough.

“Obviously I can’t do this for the rest of my life, so what I’m going to try to do is put it in safe hands … eventually!

“I don’t want to give it up right now, but I want to make it so we can hand it over.”