Retired nurse tackles waste and wins rural community champion award

A retired nurse who has traveled 3,000 miles over the past three years to pick up litter has received a prestigious award for her work in the community.

Mandy McElreavey of the Cloughmills Community Action Team has won the Housing Executive’s 2021 Rural Community Champion Award, North Region. She also won £500 in prizes for the team and received a plaque for her hard work.

Mandy even creates beautiful artwork from the litter she collects, like dragonflies and pewter flowers.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to win this award and I’m just grateful to be able to help,” she said. “I was depressed looking at the trash and thought I could do something about it. I’ve been picking up trash throughout the pandemic and I’m pretty obsessed with it now.

“I’ve collected about 1,100 big bags of trash since I started and I’ve worn my boots out.”

Mandy’s community work also includes creating friendship and wellness groups to interact with village youth to change attitudes and inspire others by her example.

The 2021 competition recognizes the efforts of groups and individuals who have reached out and supported rural communities during the Covid-19 crisis.

It also gives rural communities and their local groups the opportunity to showcase the range of activities in which they are involved, helping to make their regions vibrant and attractive places to live.

Patrick Frew, chairman of the Cloughmills Community Action Team, praised Mandy for her continued efforts, especially during the lockdown.

“We have appointed Mandy for a whole range of community activities. She is originally from Liverpool and lived overseas before coming to Cloughmills but was quick to settle into community life. This award is a huge testament to the reputation she has earned,” he said.

“Mandy started out volunteering in the community garden, but developed an interest in keeping the area tidy. He’s a familiar figure who goes out in all weathers to pick up litter, sometimes walking nine to 11 miles a day and even pulling old tires from hedgerows. Next, she uses her creative talents to make dragonflies and flowers out of tin cans.

“Mandy is also good at identifying people who may be alone or on the fringes of the community and integrating them. Our community is so much enriched by his generous and caring spirit and we are delighted that his tireless efforts have been recognized.

Mark Alexander, Regional Director of Housing Executive Pavement, congratulated Mandy on her achievement. “A big congratulations to Mandy for her award! She deserves this recognition because of her outstanding volunteer work at Cloughmills,” he said.

“Mandy has had an extremely positive impact on this community and provided important human contact for people during Covid, which has been a very difficult time for many. She also encouraged others to be proud of their surroundings.

“Our Community Champion award was created to recognize that very often it takes the vision and perseverance of an extraordinary member of the community to make things happen. Mandy is a great example of this.

The 2021 Rural Community Award winners were:

North Region

Cloughmills Community Action Team (Individual) – Mandy McElreavey, Community Champion

Enagh Youth Forum, Strathfoyle, Derry-L’derry (group) – Cleaner and greener

Enagh Youth Forum (Individual) – Mischa Tracey, Youth Volunteer

South Region

Saintfield Development Association (individual) – Lorcan Doran, youth volunteer

Derriaghy Village Community Association (Individual) – Andrew Malcolm, Community Champion

Donaghmore Horticultural Community (group) – Cleaner and Greener Award

Derriaghy Village Community Association (group) – Community Spirit

Annahilt and Magheraconluce Community Association (group) – Community Spirit

About Keneth T. Graves

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