We had an overwhelming number of entries for this section, which is supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Every single one of them could have made the shortlist.
Malcolm Buchanan, chair of the bank’s Scotland board, said: “At the Royal Bank of Scotland we have been staggered by the volume and quality of entrants. Across every category there are stories of groups and individuals who are determined to make a difference and help improve the lives of people around them.
“Every finalist deserves recognition for the difference they make and we are delighted to join the celebration of their efforts at the awards ceremony in March.”
Choosing who should make the cut was extremely hard – but we think you’ll agree our finalists deserve their place at our awards ceremony at Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel on March 10.
Betty Weir and Jean Reader: A lifeline for the elderly
WHEN Betty Weir moved to Bourtreehill in Irvine 40 years ago, she was a young mum who didn’t know anyone.
Soon she formed a community council, campaigning for play areas for children.
Then she was asked if she’d consider forming a drop-in centre for elderly people. She set about establishing the group with her boundless energy and was joined by another mum who had moved to Bourtreehill, Jean Reader.
Together, Betty and Jean have been running the Bourtreehill Drop-In Centre ever since, with chef Eileen – and it is a vital lifeline for the elderly and infirm in the area.
Betty is 73 and Jean 78 – but they are still running the centre with the same enthusiasm.
“I love it. We get so much out of it – money can’t buy what we get back,” Betty says.
The dynamic duo also raise funds.
“One of our best moments was when we managed to get a bus,” Betty laughs. “It was a wreck and half the time we had to get out and push! But now we’ve got a bus that cost £35,000 and it’s great.”
Betty and Jean give up time for the group, but there’s one night of the week that’s their time.
“Saturday night is bingo night,” Betty laughs. “That’s our time off!”
Josh Littlejohn: Creating businesses that change lives
Five years ago, Josh read a book about social businesses, which aim to create successful companies and help solve social problems into the bargain.
Reading that book changed Josh’s and many other lives.
After a trip to Bangladesh to find out more about this way of working, Josh and his business partner Alice Thompson, decided to sell their events business and set up Social Bite, a sandwich shop with a difference. With a menu created by a Michelin-starred chef, all the profits from Social Bite go towards helping solve social problems.
And one in four of the staff working there are formerly homeless people.
Josh and Alice believe in making a difference. And while they are thrilled with their nomination, Josh stresses they wouldn’t be where they are today without the help of many people.
“It’s great to be recognised. But I should stress that Social Bite is a team effort – we work together like a big family and that’s been part of our success,” he says.
Social Bite hit the headlines back in November when George Clooney visited and left a $1000 donation.
“George is such an exceptionally nice and funny guy – he had all the staff in stitches. He grabbed one worker’s phone and took a group selfie,” he says. “The next day that snap was on every newspaper’s front page.”
Square One Kinship Care Group: Supporting carers and families
SQUARE ONE KINSHIP CARE GROUP has helped dozens of families who have become carers for their grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
The group was set up in 2007 and since then, it’s become a much-loved support network for the selfless grans and granddads, aunts and uncles who have taken in children in their family, acting as surrogate parents.
Chairperson Charlene Thomson takes up the story.
“Becoming a kinship carer can be quite isolating. Whether you’ve ended up in this situation because a family member has drink, drugs or mental health issues, or has perhaps died, it can be difficult to talk about,” she says. “You go from being an adult with grown-up children to a carer with younger kids and your back-up isn’t there, because your circle of friends no longer has young children.”
Charlene says being able to talk to people who are in the same boat and understand the issues is a big help.
“Speaking to others is a lifeline,” she says. “They understand what you’re going through and because we’re all looking after children of different ages, there’s always someone who can say this is how we’ve done it. One of our ladies, Katherine, has tissues as someone often ends up in tears!”
The group are all thrilled at being nominated for a Broons Award.
“Actually, we’re gobsmacked!” Charlene says.
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