MORE than 300 of Oxfordshire's unsung heroes headed to Oxford Town Hall this week to celebrate the work of community groups and charities at a glamorous special event.

A total of 14 individuals and groups were crowned winners at the ninth annual Oxfordshire Charity and Volunteer Awards on Tuesday, hosted by Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action (OCVA).

A performance by National Citizen Service graduates Gergina Osibodu and Emilia Chick kickstarted the invitation-only event which was then followed by Richard Venables, the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Tim Stevenson, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, presenting individual and charity awards.

Entries were judged by a panel and all those shortlisted for an award were invited to the event where winners were announced in front of hundreds from just after 5.30pm.

The first category to be announced was Best New Group, which aims to recognise the impact made by a group established in the past two years.

The award was won by Sanctuary Hosting, which has been working throughout Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley to match homeless asylum seekers and vulnerable refugees and migrants with big-hearted people in the community who can offer rent-free rooms.

Other charities shortlisted were Thrive South Abingdon and Big Brothers, Big Sisters which both work with youngsters.

Next up was the Environmental Award, which was appropriately timed to coincide with the annual World Environment Day on Tuesday and was sponsored by Oxford Bus Company – which recently revealed its £1.7m plan to deliver the first fully electric double-decker bus in Oxford to cut fumes and become more environmentally-friendly.

Sustainable Didcot bagged the award which aims to recognise actions taken over the past year which contributed to positive impacts on the environment.

The community action group are known for working together with residents, schools, and councils in Didcot to run projects and special events to raise awareness of climate change and living sustainably.

The Innovation Award followed, and was won by Makespace Oxford, a community–led organisation which aims to find innovative ways bringing unused buildings back into use as an affordable community working space in Oxford, dubbed one of the UK’s least affordable cities.

Also shortlisted for the award was One-Eighty, 2017 winners of Oxfordshire Charity of the Year who closed Tuesday’s ceremony with a talk on the impact the award has had on them throughout the year – something that organisers described as an exciting change to happen at the glitzy awards.

Shortlisted for the accolade this year were ARCh (Assisted Reading for Children), ArkT Centre and Clear Sky Children’s Charity.

ARCh bagged the prestigious award, which has changed the game for award winners over the past nine years, for its goal to help disadvantaged youngsters develop a love for reading in a bid to enhance their education.

The lifetime achievement award was won by The Gatehouse, which provide a calm and safe refuge for people who are homeless or vulnerably housed in a bid to relieve poverty in and around Oxford.

Managers and leaders of volunteers at organisations were also recognised during the award ceremony including David Simpson from League of Friends at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, who recently celebrated raising half a million in one year for the first time. Others included Sandford Talking Shop and award winner Home-Start Oxford, which helps reduce the isolation, stresses and strains that parenthood brings.

Other categories to be announced included the best groups in each district.

The winner from Cherwell was The Sunshine Centre which is celebrating 20 years of providing practical help and emotional support to families who need a little extra help.

The Volunteer Link–up took the prize for West Oxfordshire’s best group for its work in providing a good neighbour scheme and door-to-door volunteer services.

South Stoke Community Shop proudly waved the winning flag for South Oxfordshire.

The shop, which trades from a converted shipping container on the Recreation Ground, also provides a meeting ground for volunteers and shoppers and runs events to support the village.

Shortlisted in the Vale of White Horse were Uffington Baulking and Wollstone Minibus Association, The Vale and Downland Museum, the Wantage Independent Advice Centre and winners The Abingdon Bridge.

The Abingdon Bridge won the award for the free counselling services to vulnerable youngsters who find themselves in challenging circumstances.

Jackie Hibberd , who works for Woodstock Youth Club also took home the first individual award Young Volunteer of the Year Award. Next up was Jean Mander, who won the Long Service Award and finally Nicky Kennedy who bagged the Oxfordshire Volunteer of the Year Award which was sponsored by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

This year's awards ceremony was held, appropriately, during national Volunteers Week.