WE all know kind-hearted people who give up their time to make a difference in their community and we are celebrating all they do.

We asked who you think deserves special recognition and today we’re delighted to announce those in with a shot at being our 2020 Volunteer of the Year.

Now it’s down to you to get voting and help us find an overall winner to be crowned early next month.

There can only be one overall winner and the prize up for grabs is a special one.

Whoever is named Volunteer of the Year will clinch a framed certificate, winners trophy and follow-up story with their favourite local newspaper.

You can play a key role in determining who claims that prize, so get involved by completing the voting form found on page 4 of your Echo newspaper. The closing date is October 11.

Your vote form can be sent to: Volunteer of the Year, Unit 1 Brunel Court, Brunel Way, Severalls Industrial Estate, Colchester, CO4 9XP.

Please note one vote per form, photocopies, damaged, forged, or incomplete forms will be excluded.

For a contestant reminder, visit echo-news.co.uk/promotions.

Newsquest terms and conditions apply. Visit newsquest.co.uk/prize-competition-rules and newsquest.co.uk/privacy-policy.

Below is the full list of volunteers in the running.

1. Robert Gould


At the community garden - Robert Gould

ROBERT Gould is in contention to end an unforgettable year on a high thanks to being put forward for the Volunteer of the Year gong by Janice Lyons.

Robert lends a helping hand to the Early Help Services at Southend Council and also devotes time to a community garden in the seaside town.

Janice said: “Robert has been a volunteer with the Early Help Services at Southend Council for over two years and, during these difficult times, has been invaluable to our services.

“He volunteers at our community garden in Norwich Avenue, Southend. When lockdown restrictions were eased by the government in the spring, Robert was the first volunteer back in the garden.

“Robert asked how other volunteers were and told them it would be good to return to the garden.

“He has a calm and welcoming approach and immediately makes people feel at ease.”

2. Gemma Channon


In the running - Gemma Channon

GEMMA Channon would be fully deserving of being crowned Volunteer of the Year, according to Deborah Moore.

Despite having a full-time job, Gemma devotes numerous hours all year-round to helping countless members of the community.

Deborah insists Gemma’s volunteering has had a positive impact on her life.

She said: “Gemma, on top of a full-time job at a school, volunteers for local breastfeeding support.

“Gemma gives up her evenings and parts of her weekends answering calls on the National Breastfeeding helplines.

“She does lots of online support through our local Facebook group.

“Gemma is doing so much for new parents, especially in the current situation where support is scarce or even non-existent.

“What she does makes such an impact on the families she speaks with. She’s amazing.”

3. Lizzie Start


Helping the community - Lizzie Start

LIZZIE Start is in the running to crowned Volunteer of the Year after being nominated by Laura Moskwa.

Lizzie plays a key role in helping the community after establishing the Cake Club.

She is also in charge of the Southend Sling Library, which led to Laura’s nomination.

Laura said: “Alongside running the Southend Sling Library, Lizzie created Cake Club in 2018 which, at the time, was a meet-up once a week where we all drank coffee, ate cake and chatted with other parents.

“This has now become an established community of parents where there is literally no judgement about anything.

“The support she gives others in the community is first class.

“She is, without a doubt, one of most important people I’ve met in my motherhood journey.”

4. Jon and Debbie Barrow


United - Jon and Debbie Barrow

JON and Debbie Barrow are hoping to be confirmed as the Volunteers of the Year thanks to being put forward for the award by Michelle Fairchild.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to numerous people suffering from mental health issues, but the Barrows’ charity, Sociability, has played a key role in helping the community for an extensive period.

Michelle feels the Barrows would be fully deserving of the crown.

She said: “Sociability is a mental health charity set up by Jon and Debbie.

“They volunteer 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, providing drop-in services and a phone service for anyone experiencing mental health issues.

“Since the coronavirus outbreak first hit our shores in March, they have been helping the NHS and Basildon Council.

“Jon and Debbie deserve to be recognised for their volunteering.”

5. Stephanie Trew


Happy - Stephanie Trew

STEPHANIE Trew is fighting it out to be named Volunteer of the Year thanks to Carla Livermore’s nomination.

Stephanie devotes her time to volunteering with Canvey First Responders and the Coastguard.

But it’s her work during lockdown which has led to Carla putting Stephanie’s name forward.

Carla said: “Stephanie volunteers for the Canvey First Responders and gives up any free time she has to run the group and help save lives when 999 is called.

“She also volunteers for the Coastguard and is an amazing example of giving back to her community.

“During lockdown, she organised a helpline for shielding Canvey residents to request prescriptions to be collected and dropped off.”

6. Alexandra Waite


Helpful - Alexandra Waite

ALEXANDRA Waite’s selflessness has led to her being nominated for the eagerly-anticipated competition.

Alrita Hyre was keen to throw Alexandra’s name into the mix for the Volunteer of the Year award.

The nomination comes thanks to Alexandra helping children within the south Essex community during the lockdown period put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Alrita said: “Alexandra never thinks about herself.

“She thinks of others and puts others before herself.

“Alexandra runs a club that operates in the holidays for children.

“She also went shopping for those who could not leave their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Alexandra works to make our community better to live in.

“She is so amazing and deserves to win.”

7. Siobhan Burleigh


Together - volunteers

THE final name in the running to clinch the top prize which comes with winning Volunteer of the Year is Siobhan Burleigh.

A nomination by Lisa Haig has resulted in Siobhan being in contention for the coveted prize.

Lisa feels Siobhan deserves recognition after helping her daughter during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

Siobhan has also supported numerous other families during these testing times.

Lisa said: “This lady helped tirelessly during the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“She has been supporting many families within the local community.

“Siobhan stepped in to help my daughter at the last minute when she was low on food.

“She has helped rally the community to help each other.”