Retired nurse bags Rural Community Champion award

Woman and two men pose with artwork and reward

A retired nurse who walked 3,000 miles over the last three years picking up litter has been handed a top award for her work in the community.

Mandy McElreavey, from the Cloughmills Community Action Team, has won the Housing Executive’s Rural Community Champion Award 2021, North Region.

She also scooped £500 in prize money for the team and was presented with a plaque for her excellent work.

Mandy even creates beautiful art from the litter she collects such as tin dragonflies and flowers.

“I’m absolutely delighted to win this award and I’m just thankful that I’m able to help,” she said.

“I was getting depressed looking at the rubbish and thought I could do something about it. I litter picked all through the pandemic and I’m pretty obsessive about it now.

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

Mandy’s community work also includes setting up friendship and wellbeing groups to interacting with village youth to change attitudes and inspiring others by her example.

The 2021 competition rewards efforts made by both groups and individuals who reached out and supported rural communities during the Covid-19 crisis.

It also gives rural communities and their local groups a chance to showcase the range of activities that they are involved with, helping to keep their areas vibrant, attractive places to live.

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

 “We nominated Mandy for a whole raft of community activities. She is originally from Liverpool and had been living abroad before she came to Cloughmills but lost no time becoming integrated into community life. This award is a huge testament to how well-regarded she has become,” he said.

“Mandy started by volunteering in the community garden but developed an interest in keeping the area tidy. She is a familiar figure going out in all weathers to litter pick, at times walking nine to 11 miles a day, and even pulling old tyres out of hedges. Then she uses her creative talents to make dragonflies and flowers out of tin cans.

“Mandy is also good at identifying people who are perhaps lonely or on the margins of the community and bringing them onboard. Our community is so much richer thanks to her generous and kindly spirit and we are delighted that her tireless efforts have been recognised.”

Mark Alexander, the Housing Executive’s Causeway Area Manager, congratulated Mandy on her achievement.

“A big well done to Mandy on her award! She deserves this recognition due to her outstanding volunteering work in Cloughmills,” he said.           

“Mandy has had a hugely positive impact on this community and has provided important human contact for people during Covid, which has been a very difficult time for many. She has also encouraged others to take pride in their environment.

“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. Mandy is a fine example of that.”                                                                                                                                           

Rural Community Award winners 2021 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, Young Volunteer

South Region

  • Saintfield Development Association (individual) - Lorcan Doran, Young 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

Siobhan McCauley, the Housing Executive’s Director of Regional Services, said: “I would like to congratulate all of this year’s winners on their fantastic achievements. They all make impressive and important contributions to their local rural communities.

“Our annual Rural Community Awards are now in their 8th year, and are our way of showing that we appreciate the incredible work that communities are doing to make life better for people.  The Housing Executive engages closely with rural communities and through our dedicated Rural Strategy, we will continue to support their sustainable and inclusive growth.”


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