A HUSBAND and wife team scooped the top honour on an emotional night celebrating Witney’s ‘shining lights’.

Linda and Graeme Young, founders of Witney Day Centre, were jointly named the town’s Citizens of the Year for 2018 at a civic reception at the Corn Exchange.

The day centre has enjoyed a remarkable rise since it opened 13 months ago at Ceewood Hall, on Fettiplace Road, with almost 40 people attending every Thursday.

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The honour was extra special for Mrs Young, whose father, Bert, received the same award 10 years ago for his work in the community.

She said: “He died a couple of years ago, but we’ve still got his medal and newspaper cuttings.

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“To get the same award was quite emotional for me. I was overwhelmed.”

The day centre is open one day each week and provides a range of activities, from arts and crafts and live music to an exercise class and a two-course lunch.

But the Witney couple devote many more hours to running the initiative, fulfilling tasks such as collecting donated food and visiting members who are unwell in hospital.

Many members cannot transport themselves to Ceewood Hall and Mr and Mrs Young even brought a minibus, which Mr Young drives around Witney and beyond every Thursday to ensure nobody misses out.

He said: “We’ve only been doing this for a year so we never thought it was coming.

“Some people who won awards have been doing great things for 40 years.”

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The couple were quick to praise the volunteers who contribute to the smooth running of the day centre, many of whom were at the Corn Exchange last Friday.

A range of ages received prizes, with the young citizen of the year award going to Yasmin Digweed, who is chair of the Witney Youth Council.

Miss Digweed led a consultation and fundraising exercise at Witney Carnival in July, which helped the youth council identify several projects and activities they would like to fund from their budget.

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It is hoped these schemes benefit residents as much as The Windrush Bike Project, based on Corn Street, which was given the Outstanding Commitment to the Community award.

The initiative helps volunteers gain skills and confidence through rescuing and refurbishing abandoned bikes, alongside trained mechanics.

Since forming just two years ago, the social enterprise has taught hundreds of schoolchildren and disadvantaged young adults across the district.

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The Outstanding Service to the Community prize went to an individual who has volunteered for considerably longer.

In 1978, Peter Brading founded Witney Talking News, a weekly news service for the visually impaired.

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Mr Brading set up the scheme after helping raise £4,500 to buy recording equipment.

He has since served as chairman and volunteer, providing an hour of spoken news to 80 people in the Witney area for several decades.

Two figures at The Henry Box School jointly received the 'Valued Contribution to Education' prize.

Janet Currah and Jacqueline Mainwaring were recognised for their contributions 'well beyond the school walls'.

For several years, Ms Currah was responsible for liaising with primary schools and played a key role in the journey of hundreds of children making the step up.

An award sponsor said: "It is said that by the time a child started at Henry Box School, they could be sure that at least one teacher knew their name and face, their family and their history- and that is Ms Currah."

Meanwhile, Ms Mainwaring received the prize for her efforts in turning Henry Box into a successful languages specialist school.

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All prizes were presented by town mayor, Brenda Churchill, and she presented the Mayor's Special Award to Dianne Parkes.

Last year, Mrs Parkes organised the first ever six-week Witney Wonderland at St Mary's Church, which raised money for the church and charity Joss Searchlight.

The Witney resident is a founding trustee of the charity, along with her husband Nigel, following the loss of their son to cancer in 2011.

Joss Searchlight has helped countless other children and their families, offering physical and emotional support and an educational programme for cancer patients in schools.

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Witney MP Robert Courts attended the event and thanked the winners for all their hard work.

He said: “It was an honour to attend Witney Town Council’s recent Citizen of the Year Award ceremony to celebrate those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to better our community.

“Congratulations to all winners who have, in their own special way, demonstrated endless commitment and enthusiasm to improving our area.

“I was privileged to thank the winners on behalf of all of us in West Oxfordshire and to see them get the recognition they so richly deserve.”

The evening's musical entertainment was provided by 93 year old Dennis Bishop, a self-taught amateur pianist.