Pillars of the Merton community helped raise the roof of the civic centre as their achievements were applauded during the borough’s inaugural civic awards.

For the first time in a decade the thousands of hours of work put in day and night by a voluntary force of more than 600 people across Merton were formally recognised by the council.

The outgoing Mayor of Merton, Councillor Martin Whelton, who helped established the awards, said: “The borough is stronger for the positive contribution of people from all backgrounds and ages.”

Council leader, David Williams, added: “When you’re in the role of Mayor and go around the borough, you find out so much about what’s going on in the community. The area has many unsung heroes.”

There were four different awards recognising a young person’s achievement, an individual’s community contribution, a group’s community contribution and the London Borough of Merton Award for outstanding achievement.

The Young Person’s Outstanding Achievement Award

Joint winners, Kinnari Patel and Oyeronke Oyerinde, were both praised for their outstanding and inspirational leadership.

Cramer School pupil, Oyeronke, 12, wrote Merton’s winning song for the 2012 Olympics which was performed by 6,000 school singers and is being put forward to the Mayor of London for use at the Olympics.

Judges were also impressed by her efforts to establish Cramer School’s first ever choir.

The energy and enthusiasm that Kinnari Patel, 17, from Ursuline High School displays while helping others and overcoming almost total blindness was praised at the ceremony.

Kinnari has taken a lead in Ursuline’s recycling efforts and recently helped organise a multicultural event for the school in Crescent Road.

She said: “After all the support that I’ve been given from volunteers, I feel like it’s important that I give something back and help others.”

The Community Contribution Award

A retired journalist, a stalwart of AFC Wimbledon, and a volunteer driver of the Merton and Morden Guild were joint recipients of the community contribution award.

Wimbledon Hillside resident John Ellison has dedicated his spare time editing the respected and authoritative local newsletter - Community Voice.

Described as a great community leader, judges were also impressed by John’s hard work as a member of the Wimbledon Sector Police Forum and Hillside neighbourhood watch panel.

The Fleet Street veteran said: “The person most amazed by winning this is me. The whole idea of leading a community operation is that a great many people get together and have a huge amount of fun in the process.”

Local businessman Paul Strank is a proud sponsor of AFC Wimbledon and a number of junior football sides.

He has also raised money and provided invaluable support for the Lennox Children’s Cancer Fund and Kids in Action, prompting judges to describe him as Merton’s leading small business benefactor.

Merton and Morden Guild member Peter Steiner was the third recipient of the community contribution award, sparking applause for 25 years of service to the organisation.

For the last 23 years, Peter and his wife have dedicated their weekends to providing a meals on wheels service and he was recently made life-long president of the guild.

The Community Group Award

Dedicated members of The John Innes Society have helped transform the Merton park, so much so it was awarded a prized Green Flag by the Environment Agency in 2008.

The judges were impressed by the time dedicated by the society’s army of volunteers who have raised enough money to reinstate two ponds, a rockery and rose arbour.

The society’s president John Priestland said: “I’m totally stunned. It’s wonderful to be part of an event like this which congratulates the hard work of so many volunteers.

“It’s also fitting to receive this award 100 years from when John Innes donated part of his back garden to the people of Merton. Not only is this great encouragement to all the people involved with the society who work so hard, but hopefully it will help us attract more volunteers.”

The London Borough of Merton Award for Outstanding Achievement

Special praise was heaped on Jessie Waldron, winner of the evening’s final award for her volunteer work at the St Raphael’s hospice for the terminally ill.

For 17 years Jessie has volunteered as a Ward Clerk helping the most vulnerable and deserving of cases and taking a lead in raising vitally needed funds for the hospice.

Aside from quiz nights, fun days and charity stalls, Jessie has ensured donations have kept coming in by regularly completing the Flora 5k run despite being well into her 80s.

The panel of judges praised her sensitive concern for others and described her many years of contribution to Merton as “without parallel.” Council leader David Williams added that her nomination was “remarkable”.

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