Volunteers and staff from High Life Highland (HLH) who went above and beyond in the line of their work to make lives better for others were recognised at an Awards ceremony held in Strathpeffer Pavilion in Strathpeffer.
The event began with celebrating important contribution made by volunteers to the charity.
Without the volunteer contribution across all High Life Highland, it would be impossible to deliver the current level and range of services.
Six volunteers were highlighted through recognition for their support to youth services, Inverness Botanic Gardens, sport, visitor attractions, museums and music.
Volunteer Award winners were:
Tilly Grist for support to youth work in Cromarty
Justine Dunne for support to youth work in Ardnamurchan.
Lisa MacInnes for support to Carrbridge
David Murray for support to young drummers in Inverness
Inverness Botanic Gardens volunteers
The Coracle Guys who volunteered at Highland Folk Museum.
The Inverness Botanic Gardens Volunteers had multiple nominations, reflecting the fact that over the past year the Botanic Gardens benefited from more than 3600 hours of volunteering time.
One nominator said:
“The gardens would not function in the way they do without the amazing group of volunteers who support all the activities in the gardens.”
Another nominator added:
“They share their skills and knowledge with us along with their energy and smiles and are an invaluable part of our team.”
The Coracle Guys are Jeremy Usher, Raymond Green and Nick Winter, three volunteers at Highland Folk Museum who have built a working forge for a Blacksmith’s Smiddy, a Coracle Boat Shed, run Coracle boating activities on Event Days and who over the past few years helped renovate the Woodsman’s Caravan.
The event also saw a posthumous tribute paid to Shadow the Cat, who has been in residence at Inverness Botanic Gardens since taking up squatters-rights in 2015 when his original owners moved away from the area.
Shadow, who sadly passed away earlier this summer, was one of the most photographed and social media posted aspects of the gardens.
The winner of the Public Nomination category was Margaret Mathieson, an exercise class instructor at Inverness Leisure.
Margaret, otherwise known as Midge, received multiple nominations from the public.
They all mentioned her cheerful and friendly personality.
However more than this they spoke of how Midge works “tirelessly to aid the health and welfare of her clients” and that “She leads with patience and conviction, encourages and enables us.”
It was pointed out throughout their nominations that Midge is “a perfect ambassador for High Life Highland and all it stands for.”
Winner of the HLH Role Model Award was Ewan MacKintosh, Manager at Inverness Botanic Gardens.
In the nomination, Ewan’s leadership through the difficulties of the pandemic was recognised, noting he was welcoming to all staff, volunteers and trainees.
Compered by Nicola McAlley, the ceremony saw volunteers and staff joined by invited partners and guests to celebrate the winners of seven award categories.
Guests were entertained throughout the evening by members of High Life Highland’s own music instruction team: Mark Bell, Sarah Musgreave, Heather Hook and Mark Reynolds.
Winners were chosen by a panel of judges from the charity’s board, following nominations by members of the public and HLH staff and board.
Volunteers and staff work together to bring the charity’s 12 services – including adult learning, archives, arts, catering and commercial, countryside rangers, leisure, libraries, museums, music development, outdoor activities, sport and youth work – into communities across the Highlands
High Life Highland Chair, Mark Tate said:
“Having seen our volunteers and staff operating in communities throughout Highland to deliver vital services during my time on the HLH Board, I’m delighted that we have this way of recognising those who went the extra mile.
“As well as the award winners at the ceremony, it was an opportunity to celebrate the huge range of work carried out by volunteers and staff of High Life Highland across all Highland communities.
“As always it was a challenge to whittle the nominations down to select the winners – and in two cases the judges felt that although there had to an outright winner, it was appropriate to award a Highly Commended Certificate to those that were a very close second.”
High Life Highland CEO Steve Walsh said:
“We were very pleased to receive so many nominations for this year’s awards, reflecting the dedication and commitment of our volunteers and staff as they work together to deliver our services in communities throughout the Highlands.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, it is fantastic to have this opportunity to celebrate the vital work of our volunteers and staff in maintaining High Life Highland services – without them our organisation would not be able to provide essential services to the Highland community.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank all our sponsors for their continued to support too, not only to the Awards, but also for High Life’s wider role in Highland communities.”
High Life Highland is grateful for the support of many sponsors for the Awards ceremony, including equipment supplier Technogym who were overall sponsor for the event, along with individual award sponsors Stagecoach, The Bolinda Experience, Sportsmax, Dynam, Haydock Music, Coffee Direct, MacCallum Bagpipes, Tennents and Brakes.
On the previous day, High Life Highland had recognised over 2,000 years of service from its staff at its Long-Service Awards, with staff with service over 20, 25, 30 and 35 years service being awarded bronze, silver, gold and platinum awards.
The event culminated in Avril Budge and Andrina Gammie receiving their double-platinum awards for service of over 40 years.