Ecclesiastical announces Little Deeds, Big Difference £10,000 prize winner

10,000 grand prize goes to St. Stephen’s Church in Tonbridge as volunteer Betty Keywood is crowned overall winner.

The UK’s leading church insurer Ecclesiastical has revealed that St. Stephen’s Church, Tonbridge in Kent has won the £10,000 ‘Little Deeds, Big Difference’ grand prize following the nomination of church volunteer Betty Keywood.

The national church competition celebrated the role of church volunteers who tirelessly devote their time and energy to support their local communities and church.

Betty’s tireless efforts, which include counselling and organising craft groups, have transformed the lives of countless vulnerable people in her community. Over the last 60 years, Betty has dedicated her time to supporting the elderly, disabled, recently bereaved and those suffering from depression.

Ecclesiastical’s judging panel was particularly impressed with the longevity and breadth of her commitment to volunteering and the significant number of people she has reached.

Betty was named as the overall winner of the competition at a celebration lunch, which took place in St. Martins-in-the-Field Church, London. Five other winners also attended collecting £2,000 in prize money for their churches.

When commenting on her nomination, Betty’s passion for enriching the lives of others was clear:

“They’re making an awful lot of fuss about me doing things that I thoroughly enjoy doing. I love helping people and that’s what I do,” she said.

In his letter nominating Betty for the competition, Mark Barker, Vicar at St. Stephen’s, movingly described her contribution to community life and its impact:

“Through your organising, baking, sewing, making and teaching you have shared with others incredible gifts of love, care, wisdom and support.  So please accept my heartfelt thanks for all that you do. You truly are an inspiration to us all.”

Michael Angell, Church Operations Director at Ecclesiastical and one of the judges, commented: “As soon as we read about Betty’s tireless contribution to her community, we were immediately heartened. She has had a profound effect on the lives of so many people, many of whom have been in need and Betty has been there as a friend throughout. She has done this with grace, dedication and a zest for life. That’s without mentioning the gliding, climbing and motor biking – but that’s another story. She truly is a worthy winner of this prize.”

Alongside Betty and representatives from St. Stephen’s Church, the other winners present at the celebration lunch were representatives from:

  • Holy Trinity Church, Combe Down, Somerset and winning volunteer Sharon Blair
  • St. Mary and St. John’s Church, Lamyatt, Somerset and winning volunteer Freda Gibbons
  • St. Michael and All Angels Church, Bishop’s Cleeve, Cheltenham and winning volunteer Mary Hughes
  • Christ Church, Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire and winning volunteer group The Friday Men
  • All Saints Church, Kettlestone, Fakenham, Norfolk and winning volunteer Roger Townsin

Commenting on the judging process, Michael added,

“It was an extremely difficult decision because each of the winners has had a lasting and unique effect on their church communities. Reading about their work, and how it has touched so many lives has been a rewarding experience and all of the ‘Little Deeds, Big Difference’ prizes are richly deserved. It was fantastic to meet them all at the Winners’ Lunch and be able to thank them for their efforts in person.”

The Little Deeds, Big Difference competition was designed to raise the profile of church volunteers and highlight the difference that they make to communities around the country. More than 340 thank you notes were also displayed at the celebration lunch, each one representing a church volunteer that was nominated for the competition.

Betty Keywood’s Story

Now 87, Betty joined the church in 1958 and immediately became involved with helping to organise its projects and initiatives.

In her early days at St. Stephen’s, Betty started lunch clubs for the elderly, did the vicar’s typing, set up a church office, and edited the church magazine. Later she trained as a pastoral visitor and bereavement counsellor and started a help group for the recently bereaved.

In the 1990s Betty joined a small team based at the local school doing everything from running services to baking cakes. Some of the children, now adults, fondly remember the hand puppets and Biblical board games that Betty constructed for their entertainment.

Betty has also helped enrich the lives of her community through her craft group, which encouraged isolated and lonely elderly ladies to come together for mutual support. A poignant moment in the life of the group came when Betty persuaded a lady that was homebound and suffering from depression to join it.

It improved her quality of life and transformed her spirit over the last six months of her life through helping her to rediscover her creativity. Before she died, she made Betty a stuffed toy frog who travelled on the basket of her bike for many years and who’s now attached to her shopping trolley. “He preferred the bike,” says Betty with typical humour. “It went faster.”

Betty is also a parent-governor at a Tonbridge primary school and teaches crafts to the children as well as at Tonbridge Cottage Hospital.

 

To find out more about this year’s competition visit: www.ecclesiastical.com/churchcomp.

 

Oliver Higgs 

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