An auntie and niece team who “brought the railway family and communities together” to support NHS staff during the Covid-19 pandemic have received a coveted national award.
Shellene Divall and Christine Holland, both ‘community rail’ volunteers, won the Railway Family Supporting Communities Award, sponsored by Rail Delivery Group, at the 16th national Community Rail Awards, on 9 December 2020.
This new award was created this year to recognise those within the rail industry and community rail who had gone above and beyond their usual activities to help communities during the pandemic and made a difference to people’s lives.
When Covid-19 hit, Shellene and niece Christine helped tackle the huge demands placed on the NHS by making much-needed scrubs and bags for their local hospital, Blackpool Victoria, other medical centres and care homes. Between them, they sourced materials and threads from friends and sewing groups, and secured donations and support from local businesses.
The pair are both volunteer station ‘friends’ at St Annes Station on Lancashire’s South Fylde Line, and leading by example, took it upon themselves to encourage more people to get involved, working with volunteers at other nearby stations to support the project, bringing communities linked by rail together.
Reacting to their win, Shellene said: “It was quite a shock, considering there were so many other people doing wonderful things for their communities. We just thought we were doing our bit for our corner of the country, so to win was quite amazing really.”
Tony Ford, who nominated Shellene and Christine for the award as chair of both the South Fylde Line and the Friends of St Anne’s Station, added: “This year has been difficult for everyone, but Shellene and Christine stepped in, saw there was a need for scrubs and got organised. They were supported by other volunteers from stations along the South Fylde Line who, as well as sewing items together, donated materials that were used to create washbags as well as sets of scrubs. It was a great example of those involved in community rail putting in time and effort to engage with their local communities in a productive and worthwhile way.”
The Community Rail Awards, organised by Community Rail Network, recognise the important, often unsung, work by community rail partnerships, station friends, and other community rail groups across Britain. They shine a light on vital projects across this growing grassroots movement, highlighting community rail’s contribution to sustainable mobility, social inclusion, community development, and wellbeing.
The awards were delivered as an online gala evening for the first time with 550 guests, including community rail volunteers, officers, rail industry leaders and government representatives.
Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network, said: “Our congratulations go to Shellene and Christine, whose inspirational efforts brought the railway family and local communities together at a time of national crisis. They are a credit to the community rail movement, and show how station volunteers work together and support their local areas with rail as a focal point.
“The Community Rail Awards recognise the achievements and passion of community rail volunteers, groups and partnerships across Britain. Their tireless efforts connect local people with their railways and stations, bring communities together, and enable more people to access sustainable travel. This contributes to greener, healthier, happier communities, and promotes wider access to opportunity. This couldn’t be more important right now.”