Our 2019 FaNs Awards Event

The Friends and Neighbours (FaNs) Essex Celebration Awards took place on Thursday 27th June 2019 at the JobServe Community Stadium. This recognised the ‘FaNs Network’ of volunteers and partners who have gone above and beyond, to help older people enjoy the best possible quality of life through meaningful engagement with their wider community.

My Home Life Essex Community Association, the Charity behind the FaNs Network brought together over 100 people of all ages to celebrate the transformational difference the charity’s volunteers and partners have made through projects including the Wishing Washing Line, bake off competitions, cooking with dementia sessions, Remembrance Sunday services, community events, school engagement projects and youth led activities with older people.

The event opened with a performance from the choir of St John’s Church of England School, whose school has benefited from working with the charity to connect with older people living in residential care homes in their community.

Facilitated by Community Engagement Lead Tony Lee, the event recognised community members from across Essex who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to the work of the charity.

It was incredibly humbling to have so many amazing volunteers, groups and partners in the same place to celebrate all that is great and good going on in our care homes. From the oldest to the youngest, a great time was had by all.

Tony Lee, Community Engagement Lead for FaNs Network

In the past two years alone, the Charity has enabled over 1,400 wishes from older people to be granted, using more than 1,800 volunteers and partners who have given up their time to enhance the lives of older people living in residential care homes. This number continue to rise as the FaNs Network of volunteers attracts national press coverage and the wish granting scheme continues to inspire the hearts and minds of the Essex.

Countless stories of impact were shared during the awards, including homeless people who are now active in volunteering and young people who have benefited from engaging with the older generation. All activities continue to be directly inspired by the needs and interests of older people in Essex.

Our shared vision is vital to the sustainability of our collective projects, as well as being the way to maximise our impact not only for older people but for our wider communities as well.

Vi Haddow, Trustee, The My Home Life Essex Essex Community Association

Amongst the winners were the Essex Fire Cadets who won the award for ‘Volunteer Team of the Year’ and Langenhoe Community Primary and Pre-School who won the award for ‘Young FaNs Cub of the Year’. Headteacher, Mrs Stevenson said "It’s a privilege to be involved and continue to be involved in this project. The school and children benefit so much from visiting the residents at Abberton Manor, as much as the residents benefit from seeing the children.”

Jim Cooper (Winner of Volunteer of the Year) was unable to attend the presentation but was praised for his limitless enthusiasm enhancing the lives of older people. Jim regularly assists in the gardens, takes care home residents on trips and organises a range of activities to brighten their day.

Tesco Extra, Highwoods, hosts of the very first FaNs Wishing Washing Line and who continue to support a variety of FaNs initiatives, won the prestigious Alice Bellord Award for ‘Supporting Organisation of the Year’. The Award was presented by the Sister Teresa Lenahan, who afterwards said how surprised and delighted Alice would have been to be remembered in this way.

Claire Martin from Milton Lodge won the closely fought ‘Activities Coordinator of the Year’ and BBC Essex Radio presenter Ray Clarke presented the ‘Essex Care Home of the Year award’ to Southminster Residential Care Home for its outstanding commitment to improving the quality of life for its residents by connecting with the wider community.

Liz Wynn, Southminster Residential Care Home Manager made an emotional speech and thanked MHLECA for its continued efforts’. She spoke passionately about the impact one wish had made on a particular resident suffering from depression, who through reengagement with the community, transformed him into a social media star, with over a million hits on a video of his power lifting experience at an Essex gym in 2018. The wish led to continued engagement with the gym and wider community as well as an extraordinary’ improvement in quality of life and social inclusion, reconnecting regularly with old friends.

Liz said The home has many of these stories and this clearly shows the stimulus the FaNs initiative has had on residents’ lives. Thank you, FaNs’.

The full list of FaNs Awards and 2019 Winners were:

  1. Volunteer of the Year won by Jim Cooper
  2. Activities Coordinator of the Year won by Claire Martin, Milton Lodge
  3. Volunteer Team of the Year won by Essex Fire Cadets
  4. Young FaNs Club of the Year won by Langenhoe Community Primary School and Pre-School
  5. Alice Bellord Award for Supporting Organisation of the Year won by Tesco Extra, Highwoods
  6. Essex Care Home of the Year awarded won by Southminster Residential Care Home

Congratualtions to them and to all those nominated!

The Charity would also like to say a massive 'Thank You' to all our Award Sponsors and our Photographer, Becky Palmer.

The event also saw the release of a new documentary video about the Wishing Washing Line, created by Jade Xu of University College London who was inspired by the scheme having seen the trending social media coverage in 2018.

The charity would like to thank all the volunteers who have joined the thriving FaNs Network and enabled so many older people to benefit.

Can you hep us continue and expand our work in Essex?

My Home Life Essex Community Association is solely reliant on grants and donations, which in a time of funding cuts has presented increasing challenges for the charity at the heart of the Essex community.

We are open to new ideas, open to conversations and open to collaboration. Because together, we can make the future incredible. We have the will and the innovation but of course none of this can happen without funding.

Charlotte Britton, Trustee, The My Home Life Essex Community Association

My Home Life Essex (FaNs Network) is asking community members to donate via their JustGiving page and is actively seeking corporate sponsors to be able to continue to improve the quality of life for older people.

You can donate via the charity’s JustGiving page:


Or contact info@mhlec.org to find out how you can help grant a wish and make a difference to the older people living in Essex.

Every day in care homes and the community, older people are receiving a level of support never before attempted. You are pioneers, you are life changers, you are community makers and the glue that bonds us together, together in our vision to make older people’s care homes exactly what they should be. And that is home.

Closing words from Tony Lee