A SPECIAL reception and awards ceremony has been held for volunteers to civic life by Ards Borough Council.
A total of five outstanding volunteers were named at the event, with the overall title of Ards Volunteer Champion 2013 was awarded to Caroline Mageean from the Portaferry Gala Committee and Portaferry Community Collective.
Described as an 'extraordinary, ordinary person' Caroline was recognised for juggling the demands of a full time job and young family, while also investing her time and energy in helping the wider community and in staging large scale events, like the annual gala.
Winner in the 25-59 age category was Debra Cox of the East End Residents' Association, who as well as being a carer for her husband and child, dedicates her time to making a difference in her local community.
Young volunteer for 2013 was Gregg Reid who works through both the Millisle Youth Forum and the Millisle and District Community Association to positively impact life in his village.
In the 60+ age category, joint winners were Ellie Dempster from Portaferry in Bloom and Helen Caldwell of Ballywalter Community Action Group and Ballywalter Seniors Group.
Ellie was recognised for her work to make Portaferry more visually appealing by creating planters, baskets and floral displays in the town, as well as the inspirational role she has played in encouraging others to volunteer.
Helen's tireless community service, from substantial fundraising efforts and making table decorations to taking on the role of Mrs Claus on a fire engine were recognised in her award.
Presenting the awards was Councillor Stephen McIlveen, Mayor of Ards, who paid tribute to the winners and all the volunteers present at the event.
He said: "The level of volunteering activity which goes on, right across the Ards Borough and right across a whole spectrum of work, from gardening to social support, is impressive and in the last year as Deputy Mayor, and now as Mayor, I have been privileged to meet many different people who give up their time so selflessly for the good of others and the good of their communities.
"Of course, most volunteers simply get on with the job quietly and without thought for reward or praise.
"This occasion is some small, but well-deserved recognition for what they do".