The incredible 2014 Awards!


MORE than 380 guests attended this year’s Celebrate Maidstone awards gala event to recognise those who have made large contributions to the voluntary sector.

Teaming up with Voluntary Action Maidstone, Celebrate Maidstone held the event in the Clive Emson Suite at the Kent County Showground.

The awards dinner is held annually and each year sees a different theme. With 2014 focusing on the voluntary sector, categories ranged from the Star Sports and Performing Arts through to Star for the Next Generation awards.


Celebrate Maidstone Chair Neil Pattison

Celebrate Maidstone Chairman Neil Pattison said: “I was thrilled with the success of this year’s gala event. More than doubling the size of the evening from last year was a big stretch but our team of around 150 volunteers rose to the challenge.

“Announcing the winners was, as always, an honour and we were all struck by the amount of volunteer work going on in the Maidstone area and the contribution the organisations and volunteers are making to the Maidstone economy.”

As part of each event a lifetime achievement award is presented. This year the trophy was won by Mike Fitzgerald who has raised thousands of pounds for charity, has helped to recruit volunteers and worked hard for vulnerable people in Maidstone for decades.

He said: “One never thinks about an award, let alone a lifetime award, but to be given this recognition by the people of Maidstone – the people who one is working with – is so very special and hard to take in.

“It is important that we do take time out to thank the volunteers and charities for the contribution they make to the quality of life of others. In life a thank you makes all the difference.”

_MG_4555 (2)

Helen Grant, MP, prepares to announce an award winner

The evening itself saw dignitaries, business people, politicians and category nominees and winners treated to a silver service dinner provided by volunteers from the Mid Kent College and with live entertainment from Jubilee Creative Arts Academy and New Line Learning Academy’ A Level dance students.

I was delighted to attend the Celebrate Maidstone awards on Friday night – what a fantastic evening! I was lucky enough to present the Star Neighbour award to Laraine Soliman.” – Helen Grant, MP
Helen Grant MP was one of the evening’s guests. She said: “I was delighted to attend the Celebrate Maidstone awards on Friday night – what a fantastic evening! I was lucky enough to present the Star Neighbour award to Laraine Soliman. “Laraine is a real pillar of her community, loved and respected by her whole street – underlined by the fact that she has spare keys for everyone’s houses! “I’d like to pay tribute to all at Celebrate Maidstone for putting together this brilliant event championing unsung heroes across our communities. Huge congratulations to all the winners!”

Categories and Winners

Star Sports and Performing Arts winner is Bubbles Swim Club

presented by Deborah McNair of Restoring Health. Bubbles has around 30 regular volunteers (boys and girls) aged between 13 and 19 who work on a one-to-one basis at Mote Park Leisure Centre with club members who find it difficult accessing mainstream classes (due to disabilities , anxiety behavioural difficulties etc), encouraging them to reach their full potential in the water.


_MG_4587Star Clubs and Charities winner is David Reay

presented by Roy Laming, General Manager of Enterprise Foundation. David carries out listening duties with the Samaritans which include night shifts as well as those during the day. Registered blind, he has been a member of Maidstone Samaritans for 20 years. He was the Director of the Maidstone and Weald Branch from 1999 – 2002.


_MG_4609Star Education winner is Vianne Gibbons

presented by Anne Allen, newly appointed head of Jubilee Primary School. Chairman of Loose Parish Council and Food Tech teacher at St Augustine’s Academy, Vianne has altered the life chances of a lot of people around her. She has made a fabulous job of bringing up her severely autistic son and three other children.


_MG_4624Star Next Generation winner is Jack Gregory 

presented by Matt Rowbotham of Wonderful Creative. A member of the youth executive of the Diana Award Scheme, Jack leads a group of Anti Bullying Ambassadors locally in St Simon Stock, nationally and internationally. He has advised Facebook this year about Anti Bullying and addressed the EU members about the problems young people may face from bullies. Jack is also part of a Peer Mentor team.



_MG_4672Star Wildlife and Ecology winner is Endel White 

presented by Glyn Charlton of Kent Events Centre. A regular volunteer supporting the opportunity for Kenward Trust Garden Enterprise to provide voluntary opportunities to new residents, Endel has shown himself to be a selfless individual, always happy to help and give his personal time for free so that others can benefit from his skills and experience.


_MG_4690Star Impact, nominated by elected councillors, winner is Geraldine Brown 

presented by James Coltart of Sovereign Property Ltd. Geraldine has been chairman of the parish council in Yalding for some 20 years. She is committed to the village and its residents and works tirelessly on many fronts as an unpaid volunteer, putting in long hours to improve the lives and opportunities of those who live there. Geraldine is a true champion and tower of strength to the community, particularly supporting the elderly and vulnerable.


_MG_4718Star Neighbour winner is Laraine Soliman 

presented by Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone and the Weald of Kent, on behalf of Restoring Hope. Restoring Hope, part of the Restoring Hands charity, owns a home which provides a safe and supportive environment where vulnerable women can recover from the trauma of being trafficked, regain their independence and successfully integrate back into the community.Laraine gives her time so generously not just as a neighbour but within the community. She is a single lady with no children of her own but she volunteers as a governor at a local primary school. Laraine has looked after so many of us like we are family. She is very respected and loved by the whole street and has spare keys for everyone’s houses as she cares for animals, moves post etc., when people are away on holiday.


_MG_4762Lifetime Achievement Award winner is Mike Fitzgerald 

presented by Jonathan Jankowski on behalf of Maidstone Churches. Mike has raised thousands of pounds for charity, helps to recruit volunteers and works hard for vulnerable people. He was parish councillor for Coxheath in 1967, then a parish Councillor for Chart Sutton & Boughton Monchelsea and then Borough Councillor for more than 10 years. Mike was Mayor of Maidstone in 2007/8.

If you would like to find out more about Celebrate Maidstone, please call 01622 673754 and ask for Neil Pattison or email