Herts High Sheriff Awards

Living Magazines Sunnyside Rural Trust

Ten representatives from Sunnyside Rural Trust joined an online celebration for the spectacular work that has taken place by voluntary groups and individuals in Hertfordshire, in quite exceptional circumstances. The 26th High Sheriff Awards, hosted by Henry Holland-Hibbert the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire wanted to recognise groups that have shown particular excellence in supporting their local communities or beneficiaries during this pandemic.

Whilst it is usual to meet in person to celebrate these awards, appreciation was able to be shown for the great work all the nominees do in their local community, via a virtual audience instead of the usual event at County Hall.

Last year was largely dominated by the crisis of the pandemic but Sunnyside remained opened and progressed their development at Northchurch, introducing therapeutic animals, opening the farm shop and developing the landscaping around the site. They raised funds and are now building a bakery, which will offer employment to vulnerable people and fresh bread for the community. They grew their bedding contract for Dacorum Council, sold essential food and produce in their farm shops and had the opportunity to grow and sell on to the public, a great selection of show-stopping plants, selected by landscape designer, Tom Stuart-Smith for his 2020 RHS Hampton Court garden.

During covid, Sunnyside have been able to offer vital services to their vulnerable trainees, families and the wider community, reacting quickly and adapting to the changing situation as it has and continues to unfold. The charity began by ensuring they could operate safely and then looked at resources so that they could help in the wider community. This included valuable respite for parents and carers, supporting families of their trainees to work by continuing to offer a service, outreach support to people’s homes and ensuring trainees had a robust understanding about how to stay safe.

The charity delivered engagement kits to those that needed to shield, these included grow your own veg kits, things to do with a pen and pencil, baking kits etc. They also rang everyone every day, to keep them connected and reduce the feeling of isolation.

Sunnyside worked in partnership with other key organisations in Dacorum e.g. Community Action Dacorum, South Hill Centre and DENS to ensure food bank parcels were delivered. They set up a responsive food bank delivery service that meant people shielding, in food poverty and those finding getting out difficult had all the supplies they needed. In addition, the charity worked with the intensive family support team to create children’s versions of the kits and they delivered these on a weekly basis throughout the spring and summer.

They also provided a huge amount of support to their team, with extra rest days, support for those who had children out of school/nursery or elderly parents to care for, daily smoothie making to boost immune systems, bulk buying supplies so people didn’t have to shop, PPE, extra work clothes, individual bags with their own mask, gloves, gardening tool and of course additional support to cope with the stresses of working during this period. Sunnyside did not have to furlough any staff and have taken on extra team members and volunteers to meet additional demand.

The charity continues to plan and respond to the current crisis. ‘We all feel very proud of the work we do and how we have sustained our creative and innovative response reflects our commitment to our community. To have been presented with a Heroes of Hertfordshire award and High Sheriff Award, means so much to our team, volunteers and trainees,’ said Keely Siddiqui Charlick, CEO.