Olywn Peters is not normally lost for words but was rendered speechless on learning she had won a Teesside Hero Award.
The talkative former Redcar and Cleveland Mayor admitted she was “gobsmacked” after being honoured for her commitment to helping her community.
Olwyn has not only been a stalwart of the Whale Hill Community Association for almost 30 years but she has also been on her local council for seven years to make sure her “area’s voice is heard”.
She said: “I feel passionately about the Whale Hill area because it’s where I come from. Wanting to do what is best and what is right for the people who live here is what drives me on.
“That’s why I’m dumbfounded, gobsmacked, stunned – call it what you want – over the Teesside Hero Award. It’s a real honour and it’s great that efforts to make the area better are being recognised in Whale Hill and beyond.”
The 55-year-old wins a trophy and £1,000 from charitable movement Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, which she is donating to Whale Hill Community Association for the children’s choir and Christmas activities.
“I’ve been with the Whale Hill Community Association for the last 28 years and I feel as though it’s had a really positive impact in an area where there is a great community spirit,” Olwyn said.
“I got involved initially in the work at the community centre because of my late mother, Audrey Lloyd, who inspired me because she was a fantastic community leader to the extent that she got a BEM from the Queen.
“Sadly, she died in March but I guess I have just been following in her footsteps and will continue to do so because the people of Whale Hill mean so much to me.
“They are the reason why I fought tooth and nail to keep the Whale Hill Community Centre going, despite it losing all of its public funding, because it’s so important to us all.
“The community association is a labour of love, so it’s great that it’s flourishing,” added Olwyn, who was born in South Bank but lives in Whale Hill.
“Through the centre, I’ve been involved in everything from mother-and-toddler groups to sorting out back-to-work and education programmes and will always be looking at ways to help make sure quality of life is better for people of all ages in our area.
Olwyn, who spent 35 years working for O’Rourke’s solicitors, launched the Whale Hill One Voice community choir with music teacher Alison Trelfa and takes particular pride at its progress.
She said: “We started the kids’ choir five years ago and we’ve branched out and started an adult choir, which is community-based and is absolutely amazing.
“It’s incredible to look back because it started off with five kids and we’ve ended up with 30 and we’ve got 20 adult members as well which is brilliant.
“We go all over the place because we feel passionately abut bringing music to the community. We sing everything from the ‘50s to war songs to summer songs – you name it and we will perform it! The choir has become my main passion and it’s lovely to see it go from strength to strength.”
The Whale Hill Community Association chair also represents the Eston ward on Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, applying the same drive and determination to local politics as she does to music.
Foundation trustee and patron John McCullagh paid tribute to Olwyn when presenting her with the award at the Goathland Road community centre.
“Olwyn is a genuinely big-hearted person who just gets out there and does whatever she can for her community,” said John.
“She heads the team of volunteers who kept the community centre going after funding ceased and that is one of the reasons why she is so incredibly important for the area. She’s worth her weight in gold to the people of Whale Hill.”
Photographer Doug Moody, who nominated Olwyn for a Teesside Hero Award, said: “Having known Olwyn for many years, it is clear that she’s always there for the people she serves. She is so passionate about the choir and is just a great community person.”