Woking’s outstanding community heroes celebrated


Friday, 19 May, 2023

Exceptional members of Woking’s community celebrated their achievements at the annual Mayor Making ceremony last night (Thursday 18 May), hosted by the outgoing Mayor of Woking, Cllr Saj Hussain.

The event recognises the dedication of Woking residents during the past mayoral year who have demonstrated exemplary behaviours and had a significant impact on the lives of others.

Eminent Citizen

Each year, the outgoing Mayor selects a resident who has provided an ‘eminent service’ to the community and appoints them Eminent Citizen.

Julia Hopkins - Eminent Citizen

Julia, from Knaphill, is an outstanding resident who has given so much to Woking’s community and various charities.

In 2019, Julia opened Woking’s first community fridge. What started as a shed in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Knaphill, is today a purpose-built cabin that supports hundreds of families each week.

Over the years, Knaphill’s community fridge has saved over 162 tonnes of food from going into landfill – an enormous achievement. The fridge now operates five days a week and is staffed by a fantastic team of over 40 volunteers ready to welcome anyone in need.

Local students are also benefitting from Julia’s work, achieving their voluntary section of the Duke of Edinburgh award by helping out at the fridge.

Julia continues to work closely with Woking Foodbank and other local charities, signposting and making referrals when needed.

Aside from her work at the community fridge, over the years Julia has also raised money for mental health and pancreatic cancer charities.

Young People’s Civic Award Scheme

For almost 30 years, the Young People’s Civic Award Scheme has rewarded young people who make an outstanding contribution to the community whose achievements may not normally be recognised.

The scheme is open to all young people up to the age of 18 who live or attend school or college in Woking.

The judging panel included representatives from Woking Borough Council, Surrey Youth Cabinet, Surrey Police, Sport Woking, and the voluntary sector.

The winners of this year’s Young People’s Civic Award Scheme are:

James Howell - Outstanding Contribution to the Community

James, a Year 11 student at Woking High School, is an active member of the community with a passion for improving the town’s sustainability.

This bright spark is a leading light in Woking High School’s eco-council where he initiates meetings with peers and staff to discuss how his school can improve its sustainability initiatives. This year, James has instigated a TerraCycle project to recycle old pens and has led discussions on ‘meat-free Mondays’ in the school canteen.

Locally, James is involved with Woking Environmental Action (WEAct), a group of committed volunteers who are passionate about tackling climate change, and he is keen to increase his participation with WEAct after completing his GSCEs.

As a very determined young man, James has written to Woking’s MP with ideas about creating a sustainable village plan that could be used for future housing developments, and has also met with local councillors to discuss his other budding ideas.

James has real desire and drive to improve the world for everyone and is very keen to carve a career as a climate scientist.

Annabelle MacAlister – Outstanding Achievement

Annabelle is a young carer from Goldsworth Park who cares for her parents alongside her two older siblings.

After starting home schooling in 2018, Annabelle passed all of her GSCEs with flying colours and has since re-joined mainstream education to study for her A-Levels.

As a valued member of Woking Young Carers, Annabelle enjoys supporting other members and getting involved in activities and community events.

With the help of her fellow young carers, Annabelle demonstrated true determination to complete her Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award last summer. Not only did Annabelle push herself to the limit, she also supported and encouraged her peers on expeditions. 

Just two days after finishing her Duke of Edinburgh Award, Annabelle also participated in the Rotary Young Leaders Award. Annabelle rose to the challenge and event leaders were very proud.

Chloe Harding - Triumph Over Adversity

Chloe is a remarkable young lady who deserves true recognition for her exceptional resilience and determination to overcome enormous challenges.

Chloe joined Hoe Valley School five years ago and suffered the tragic loss of her parents during her time at secondary school. With the support of her family, school and the Hope Service, she slowly managed to rebuild her life in the face of adversity.

Chloe, who has cerebral palsy and is a young carer at home, always participated in school life to the best of her ability. Despite the traumatic events in her past, Chloe has continually demonstrated an incredible resilience and determination to push forwards towards her goals.

Since achieving her GSCEs, Chloe has started college to pursue her wish to work with young children. Her willingness to accept support, her caring attitude towards others, an amazing capacity to achieve against the odds, and the courage and dignity with which she has overcome great adversity makes Chloe extremely deserving of this award and an example to us all.

About the Presentation

Sponsored by The Ambassadors Theatre Group, each winner was presented with a glass trophy, a certificate, and a one-year Super Nova Cinema membership.

Speaking about the awards, Cllr Saj Hussain, Mayor of Woking, said: “I am honoured to end my mayoral year by celebrating these exemplary Woking residents who are a true inspiration to us all.

“Our winners have consistently gone above and beyond what is expected of them in their school, work or private lives, overcoming every barrier along the way. I am particularly impressed with their motivation to keep achieving their very best and help others too. They should all be incredibly proud of themselves, and I wish them the very best of luck for their bright futures.

“I’d also like to recognise the many other voluntary groups and individuals from across Woking who work tirelessly to make significant contributions to the lives of others. It has been an absolute pleasure to witness first hand the brilliant support networks we have here throughout my year as Mayor. Thank you for your continued dedication and commitment.”

Find out more about the Young People’s Civic Awards Scheme.

Watch the annual Mayor Making ceremony, including the presentation, online.