OXFORD has honoured the volunteers that help hold the city’s communities together.

Nine stalwarts – from dog-walkers to cafe owners – were given certificates of honour at a civic ceremony this week.

They were all nominated by members of the public and Oxford City Council decided the winners.

Lord Mayor Elise Benjamin, who presented the awards, said: “This is a way of honouring and acknowledging the great work residents do within the community.

“The work these people do is vital. The dedication of the volunteers is what holds communities together.”

A great service

Ali Akkas, 49, of Headington, received the award for his work improving education and health in the Bangladeshi community.

He set up the Oxfordshire Bangladeshi Association in 2002 and its research has been used by groups including Oxfordshire PCT to improve services. Mr Akkas said: “We tried to get people involved and sharing things in the wider community.

“Our main concern was education. Children were not doing well in school and we had to get parents talking to teachers.

“As a result of our work, the Bangladeshi pupils are doing a lot better in schools, and we are hoping that continues.”

He added: “It is unbelievable to have received this award. It is a great moment for me.”

Good listener

Myron “Mike” Broun, 91, of Wendlebury, was honoured for his work with the Samaritans for more than 25 years. He joined the charity after being taken to a fundraising event by friends and worked on the organisation’s helpline, listening to and helping those in need. He said: “The Samaritans immediately engaged my objectives, which were to offer people who are emotionally troubled a listening ear. It has made me aware of the range of problems people have, and there is still a great need for the charity’s work. “The life we lead these days is more complicated and more burdensome – particularly with the economic situation.” He added: “I was touched that I was awarded, but all the volunteers nominated are entitled to this because they are all putting in the hard work.”

Helping parents

Peter Goodgame, 68, of Templar Road, was recognised for his work with young mothers and children in Cutteslowe. He aims to raise attainment in schools and improve aspirations by getting youngsters involved in community woodland and allotments projects. He said: “In 2002 we did a survey of Cutteslowe residents and it was not good reading. We found there was deprivation going on under our noses. “No one seemed to be doing much about it so I got involved. If I can make a difference to one person life that is a result.” He added: “We do not do it for the recognition but it is nice to know that people recognise the work.”

Clean sweep

Rosanne Bostock, 72, of North Oxford, organises 2,000 people to take part in yearly spring-cleans around the city.

She set up Oxclean after travelling to Australia and realising how dirty the city’s streets had become compared to other major cities across the world.

She said: “Oxford is lovely and special but to have it with all the litter was spoiling it.

“It is now back where it should be as one of the finest cities in the world.

“I feel overwhelmed with this award.

“Surprised, amazed and pleased.”

Mind matters

DENNIS Preece, 78, of North Oxford, received an award for his work and fundraising for mental health services in Oxford over the last 30 years.

Mr Preece, who had a stroke last year and can no longer speak, was a coordinator for national charity Rethink and has raised millions. He organised concerts with the like of Sting and pushed The Sun to apologise after it described boxer Frank Bruno as “bonkers”. His son, Paul Preece, 53, said: “Thirty years ago mental health issues were taboo. It was something that was hidden away. “My dad has been involved in education and raising funds for research. There is more awareness.”

Warm welcome

Andreas Koumi, 79, of East Oxford, won for creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for people suffering mental health issues.

He has run Excelsior Cafe, in Cowley Road, since 1961.

He said: “I wanted people to consider the cafe as their home, where they could come and rest and not have anyone saying they’d been there too long. I want people to come in every day and to know about their lives. Anyone would.”

He added: “I am pleased to have received the award. I never expected it.”

A pet project

Kathleen Mulligan, 72, of Headington, was recognised for her work with Guide Dogs for the Blind for the last 38 years. She started out as a puppy walker, before working in public relations and fundraising for the charity and then Oxford and District Branch chairman. She said: “It was the puppy to start with but when I got into it I realised what the dog meant. “It means freedom for blind people and being able to lead their lives as we do. That is why we continue to do it and why I am still doing it over 38 years later.” She added: “It was a surprise to win, but a delightful surprise. It is lovely to be awarded for something you love doing.”

Fresh outlook

Jean and Alan Wormald, 85 and 86, of Headington, were praised for setting up and running Cheney Over-50s Club. They formed the club, which meets in Cheney Community Hall, in 1992 after seeing a need for it within the community. Up to 60 people now regularly attend. Mrs Wormald said: “There was nothing before we set up the group. So many over-50s have lost partners and this brings them together.” She added: “To receive the award is superb, absolutely superb. To be recognised for what you have done is great.”

Reaching out

Sally Hersom, 50, of Botley, was recognised for her work as a social evening helper and befriender for The Archway Foundation over almost 30 years.

She got involved with the foundation, which aims to help people who are suffering from loneliness, after she was lonely herself.

She said: “I thought I could help other people.

“Some of the people who come to us do not see people from one week to the next because they can’t get out or can’t without a friend.

“We try to buoy them up so they can come again another week. I have met some wonderful people over the years.”

She added: “It was a great shock to win, but I do not feel as though I have done anything to deserve it because there are so many other people who do greater work than I do.”