A NETWORK of community volunteers set up during the pandemic is celebrating winning a prestigious BBC award.

The Knaphill, St John’s and Brookwood Volunteers Support Group were honoured in the Community Group category of the Radio Surrey Make A Difference Awards, which celebrate local heroes nominated by the station’s listeners.

Group founder Sonal Sher received the award from the MP for Mid-Sussex, Mims Davies, and Radio Surrey presenter Emily Jeffery at a ceremony on Monday.

“It’s only just starting to sink in,” said Sonal. “I really didn’t expect it, we’re only a little local group and I felt that we were up against some very strong opposition.

“The award is all about the volunteers, though, they do such wonderful work. I’m delighted for them.”

The group now has more than 200 volunteers who support residents in local communities, picking up groceries and prescriptions, mowing lawns, walking dogs, collecting pensions, and assisting wherever needed.

“We started when we helped people to cope with the pandemic,” Sonal said. “I thought about what I could do to help those I knew, and then found there were other volunteers in the same position.

“The group is starting to evolve though now, and we’ve applied to be registered with the Charity Commission. That’s an important step for us.

“If we’re accepted, and we’re crossing everything while our application is being considered, it means we have much greater access to funding, which in turn allows us to widen what we can do.

“Although we’re not seeing the worst of the pandemic now, we’re still seeing its effects. People are anxious, they’re grateful for a volunteer popping round for a cup of tea or a chat, or maybe walking to the library with them.  

“Mental health remains a major issue, and we’re planning to run a safeguarding pilot in Woking with an emphasis on early intervention.

“We’d like to make our support more targeted, rather than work on an individual case-by-case basis. That would help us go forward as a group. We have so many volunteers with particular skills.”

To contact the group, email [email protected] or call 01483 380801.

In the Environmental Award category, it was a near miss for Lauren Horncastle’s Woking Litter Warriors.

They were edged out by the Surrey Choices, volunteers living with a range of disabilities and support needs who are passionate about protecting the natural environment in their communities.