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North East local heroes making a difference shortlisted in new community awards judged by Gabby Logan

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Shortlist announced in Avant Homes' Let's Make a Difference Awards with Gabby Logan

Five local North East heroes have been shortlisted for a special award recognising the positive impact they make in their local communities.

Created by housebuilder Avant Homes, the ‘Let’s Make a Difference Awards’ looks to reward individuals, groups and organisations that are pushing boundaries, pioneering change and making a positive contribution in the areas in which Avant builds. The awards are open to anyone living in Scotland, north east England, Yorkshire and the Midlands with over 250 people put forward in the nomination stage.

The North East finalists include Julie Cooper from Stockton-on-Tees, the volunteers at Whitley Bay Tea Dance Club, Paul Yates from Middlesbrough, Phil Brown from South Shields and students from the Whickham School Rainbow Society in Gateshead. Between them all they make a huge contribution to society supporting the people in their communities that need it most.

Julie Cooper is responsible for running the Don War Memorial Museum and Veterans Hub in Stockton-on-Tees, which honours the memory of those who lost their lives serving in the armed forces. Julie has decorated the Hub with more than 70,000 poppies hung from the ceiling and walls, making it a place for people to meet up and honour fallen friends.


The Whitley Bay Tea Dance Club is a not for profit group run completely by volunteers. The group is open to every resident across the local area and sees more than 40 people coming to dance sessions each week. Not only has this become a place for older members of the Whitley Bay community to make friends but it has also improved their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing with the dancing activities.

Paul Yates is the chairman of Middlesbrough Powerchair Football Club and dedicates his spare time to training, coaching and refereeing the club. Being a single father to 12-year-old Adam Yates who has cerebral palsy, Paul has not only made it possible for his son to play Powerchair football but several youngsters in the Middlesbrough area.

Phil Brown is an all-around charity champion who has worked in nursing for 40 years. Following the overnight closure of the children’s A & E department in South Shields, Phil has started a new venture named the Pegasus Project to assist families who don’t have the access to funds for private transport from the local area to Sunderland Royal Hospital between 10pm and 8am.

The Whickham School Rainbow Society is a student-led LGBT+ advocacy group in Gateshead. With more than 50 students attending weekly sessions, the group aims to promote inclusion within the school and the wider community. Plus, the students have made external partnerships with Northumbria Police, Fun Palaces and Northern Pride, while also becoming the first group of children in the UK to hosts its own show on Pride Radio, which is broadcast worldwide on the first Tuesday of every month.

Voting is now open, and members of the public are invited to choose the person, project or organisation that they believe makes the biggest difference within the community. Winners will receive a £1,000 cash prize and an invitation to a special event with Avant Homes and its brand ambassador and TV personality, Gabby Logan.

Commenting on the shortlisted candidates, Gabby Logan, said: “The outstanding number of entries we received during the nomination stage of the awards, made it very clear that there are many unsung heroes who are invaluable across their communities.

“I would encourage everyone to head to the Let’s Make a Difference awards website, read the inspiring stories of the finalists and vote for their winner.”

To vote for a person, group, or organisation, visit the Let’s Make a Difference Awards website. Voting closes on December 20 and winners will be announced on January 24, 2020.

Avant Homes is one of the leading developers of residential property in the UK. Its North East operation is based in Sunderland and currently has 12 developments under construction in the region stretching from Birkey Heights in Acomb to Tall Trees in Yarm.

Avant Homes North East managing director, Scott Varley, said: “At Avant Homes we believe in supporting every community we build in. We have created the Let’s Make a Difference Awards to find people, groups and organisations that connect, inspire, foster friendships and encourage togetherness.

“This has been an incredible opportunity for people to show their appreciation for individuals and organisations important to them and in turn we have discovered some exceptional stories that we are proud to shine a light on. I wish everyone from the region in our shortlist the very best of luck.”

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