Hero encourages people across Cumbria to nominate theirs

Richard Francis
Richard Francis

Richard Francis is one of Cumbria's true community heroes - and he is calling for people across the county to nominate others like him.

While the modest 30-year-old insists he could not have achieved what he has without an army of volunteers, he received a number of nominations in the 2016 Community Heroes Awards and was ultimately crowned Person of the Year by our judges.

Now we need YOU to tell us who else is deserving of recognition by nominating YOUR heroes now.

With the support of United Utilities, The Cumberland News Community Heroes Awards 2017 will honour and thank those who do so much to make a difference.

Richard, who lives in Currock, Carlisle, was among hundreds of heroes who stepped up to help those devastated by the floods in December 2015.

But after seeing how people's lives were so badly affected by Storm Desmond, he masterminded the Big Cumbrian Christmas Day Get Together - backed by a number of volunteers - in the aftermath of the storm to spread festive cheer to those left with so little.

Last year the dad-of-one gave us his Christmas Day again, this time thinking of those who struggle to make ends meet in December.

He and a team of volunteers embarked on Cumbria's Own Santa, a county-wide mission to deliver Christmas hampers across the area to brighten up the lives of those in need.

On receiving his award, Richard, who also volunteers for the Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (CADAS) and the fire service, told The Cumberland News: "It's meant a huge deal.

"I was very humbled by it and I couldn't have done what I did without the volunteers.

"For me it was about dedicating it as much to them as anybody. It was very much a team effort all along the way.

"Any community project I've done the Carlisle community, and even beyond that, throughout the whole county, has got behind me.

"The people you get to meet, that was a privilege in itself."

He is now encouraging anyone who knows a hero to give them the recognition they deserve and to nominate them for the Community Heroes Awards 2017.

"There's people who do it day to day. Just little tiny gestures that make up a huge difference to many people," he said.

"Sometimes people say the recognition really helps.

"I think for a lot of people it does because there's so many who go by unnoticed.

"Sometimes you don't know what people are going through on a personal level.

"If they've had a tough year but wanted to carry on helping others, that award and the gratification they receive from that can really make a difference."

Since receiving his award Richard has continued in his voluntary work with CADAS, supporting those overcoming drug and alcohol addiction, and has a few other things in the pipeline.

Everything he has done since the floods has led him to change his day job as a chef - and he now plans to continue helping people everyday by training as a paramedic.

Cumbria's community spirit is renowned the world over.

Our towns, villages and estates are full of people who go the extra mile to help others; there are clubs and organisations who survive on the tireless dedication of volunteers; there are school workers who inspire us to achieve and go out of the way to ensure we can fulfil our goals.

While most of our heroes seek little recognition, that's exactly what they deserve.

It's time for you to tell us who they are.

There are 11 categories to nominate your heroes in, including Carer of the Year, Good Neighbour and Good Friend.

A new award for 2017 is #proudcumbria, the judges' special award.

Other returning categories are Best Community Project, Unsung Hero and Volunteer of the Year.

The awards will be presented at Carlisle Racecourse on Thursday, June 29.

You can make a nomination online at www.cumberlandnews.co.uk/heroes

Nominations close on Friday, April 28.

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