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Gardening guru Sammy wins Community Champion Award

'Very often it takes the vision and perseverance of one extraordinary community member to make things happen'

Winner Sammy Wilson with Sharon Crooks, the Housing Executive’s area manager for Mid Ulster, and members of Donaghmore Horticultural Community

A founding member of a Co Tyrone horticultural group has scooped a Community Champion Award.

Donaghmore man Sammy Wilson won the award for south region, in the Housing Executive’s annual Rural Community Awards 2022.

Sammy, who is the long-standing chairman of Donaghmore Horticultural Community (DHC), received a prize of £500 for his group and was presented with a plaque in recognition of his volunteering work.

Donaghmore Horticultural Community was formed in November 2010 and has won the village category in Ulster in Bloom four times as well as two gold awards in Britain in Bloom.

Meanwhile, Limore housing estate has won Best Housing Estate in Northern Ireland and the Housing Executive’s Cleaner and Greener Award for Donaghmore Village 2021.

Angela Mullen, from DHC, said: “Sammy richly deserves this award for his ongoing commitment. His leadership skills have created a hard-working and happy team of volunteers, who greatly respect his advice and knowledge.

“He has secured grants from the National Lottery Fund for Christmas lights for the village; funding for a solar powered waterfall; and several grants for a wildflower garden, beehives and tools and equipment for the group.

“Sammy is also involved with our young volunteers, the Wee Buds, and the adult special needs group, No Limits, developing their social skills and teaching new horticultural skills.”

She added: “During the pandemic Sammy was instrumental in organising deliveries of food to the elderly and providing them with fresh produce from our allotments and helped reduce social isolation.

“He is constantly liaising with stakeholders to come up with new opportunities to improve Donaghmore. He’s involved in the creation of a new garden in Ivy Bank Park housing estate, which has created floral displays linked to local heritage.

“Residents have benefited so much from Sammy’s guiding hand, which has helped create a welcoming, clean and vibrant village, which instils a sense of civic pride in everyone. His contribution to the community has been outstanding.”

Sammy said he was “absolutely delighted” to win the award and “honoured” to receive the recognition from the Housing Executive.

“I must thank those who have supported me,” he said. “I am especially grateful to our team of volunteers from DHC whose backing has made possible our success in improving the floral beauty, conservation and community ethic in our beautiful village.

“Thanks, also to our sponsors whose support has allowed our team to create an environment that helps to enhance civic pride.

“A continued effort will be made by myself and the DHC volunteers to keep up the good work in future years.’’

Sharon Crooks, the Housing Executive’s area manager for Mid-Ulster, congratulated Sammy on his award and praised him for his dedication and hard work.

“Our Community Champion Award was introduced to recognise that very often it takes the vision and perseverance of one extraordinary community member to make things happen. Sammy is a fine example of that,” she said.

The competition rewards individuals and groups who are making a difference in rural areas and showcases the range of activities they are involved in to improve quality of life and create cleaner, safer and more vibrant places to live.

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