THE stars came out in Melrose last night to toast the volunteering efforts of 167 young Borderers.
The occasion in the Corn Exchange was the annual young volunteers awards, organised by the Galashiels-based Volunteer Centre.
The event was hosted by former Scotland, Chelsea and Everton winger Pat Nevin, well known to most of the gathering as one of our leading football pundits.
The Duns-based legend proved a popular and charismatic master of ceremonies, while Cameron Buttle, the BBC’s senior broadcast journalist, based in Selkirk, opened the proceedings with a fascinating talk about his career, including recent assignments reporting on life with the Scots troops serving in Afghanistan.
But the real stars of the event were the youngsters, all aged under 25, who were there to receive certificates to mark their nominations for awards.
As Mr Nevin pointed out, they had, between them, contributed nearly 15,000 hours of volunteering in the past year – “an immense effort” without which many projects could simply not function.
They have volunteered across a range of initiatives, from broadcasting with Radio Borders through Wired, Girlguiding, helping people with social care needs via the Borders Independent Advocacy Service, sports volunteering with Active Schools, as well as engaging in all tyoes of environmental work.
Fifty Borderers under 16 had earned nomination certificates, three of them for more than 200 hours volunteering last year, while 117 were similarly acknowledged in the 16-25 age group, with seven breaking the 200-hour barrier.
“You are all winners,” proclaimed Mr Nevin as the names were called out and the certificates presented by Mr Buttle.
It was then down to the main awards.
In the under-16s, the Execeptional Volunteering Achievement accolade went to Kara Blair of Lilliesleaf who is a volunteer with the Stable Life project, run by GYP Borders at Dryden Riding Centre near Ashkirk. She quickly become recognised as a role model and was asked to attend extra sessions. As such she has become a valued member of the team, while her own confidence has grown. Kara now intends pursuing a career in horse management.
The 16-25 winner was Selkirk’s Lizzie Bunyan who, the gathering heard, is also a volunteer with Stable Life Horse Therapy, becoming an invaluable addition to the project. As a result of her volunteering, Lizzie had been accepted for Camp America.
The Borders Sport and Leisure Trust Award for volunteering in sport and outdoor activities went to Mark Robertson from Innerleithen. Having qualified as a dinghy instructor, he has been coaching children in sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, as well as in land-based pursuits such as mountain-biking and hill-walking. A member of 2180 (Galashiels) Squadron, he has mentored and exerted a positive influence on younger Air Cadets.
The Organisation Award went to the ranger service of the Buccleuch Heritage Trust for its “consistent support of young volunteers over the years”.
The Bowhill-based rangers not only work with young adults with learning disabilities, but welcome volunteers to help with all aspects of the day-to-day running of the countryside, teaching the value of wildlife, the environment, team work, and health and safety.
The Team Volunteering Award was presented to Yours, Sincerely, the Berwickshire High-based rock band which has dedicated itself to writing, rehearsing and performing music over the past two years. The band, which also performed last night, have played at numerous fundraising concerts for good causes, including Help for Haiti and Light in Africa.
Finally, the Team Volunteering Award was lifted by the 13 painting and decorating students from Borders College who offered their services to community projects, including transforming the interior of Cardrona Village Hall over six days last year.