West Devonians showed their true community spirit in the final of the BBC’s Make a Difference Awards which took place on Wednesday last week (September 27).

Okehampton Men in Sheds, Gay Hill from Chagford and Tania Kovalchuk, a Ukrainian refugee now living in Tavistock, beat dozens of other individuals and community groups from across Devon for a place in the final, held at Powderham Castle.

Though none won the ultimate Judge’s Award title in their category, all received a ‘highly commended’ trophy.

Phil Bush from Okehampton Men in Sheds, a finalist in the Community Group Award category, said the group were very proud of the achivement and that they would put the trophy in pride of place in the shed, located in Okehampton Community Garden.

Gay Hill, a finalist in the Carer Award category, said: “It was so lovely to be nominated, to be honest. I mean you do the things and you don’t think twice about it.

“I think the run up to it was great from the point of view of James who nominated me. At the time, I got to know him, I was chairman of the parish council and I got to know him because he was living in isolated hamlet.

“When Covid came we implemented the emergency plan, where we leaflet-dropped all the houses in the parish to say if they wanted anything and James was one of the people that rang. I started doing his shopping and then when he moved to Chagford we ended up as neighbours.”

Tania Kovalchuk was named as a finalist in the Together Award category, for her work bringing Ukrainian refugees and Tavistock residents together.

Individuals and groups can be nominated for one of eight categories within the Make a Difference Awards: The Volunteer Award, The Community Group Award, The Fundraiser Award, The Carer Award, The Great Neighbour Award, The Bravery Award, The Green Award and The Together Award.