£10,000 prize for Tonbridge church in Ecclesiastical volunteering competition

The £10,000 grand prize in Ecclesiastical Insurance's 'Little Deeds, Big Difference' competition for church volunteers has gone to St Stephen's Church in Tonbridge as volunteer Betty Keywood was crowned overall winner.

Ecclesiastical, the UK's leading church insurer, ran the competition to celebrate the role of church volunteers who devote their time and energy to support their local communities and church.

EcclesiasticalBetty Keyworth volunteers at St Stephen's church, Tonbridge.

Betty's tireless efforts, which include counselling and organising craft groups, have transformed the lives of countless vulnerable people in her community. During the last 60 years she has dedicated her time to supporting elderly and disabled people, those recently bereaved and people suffering from depression.

Ecclesiastical's judging panel was particularly impressed with the longevity and breadth of her commitment to volunteering and the significant number of people she has reached.

Betty was named as the overall winner of the competition at a celebration lunch yesterday, which took place in St Martins-in-the-Field Church, London. Five other winners also attended collecting £2,000 each in prize money for their churches.

Now 87, she has served as a vicar's secretary and set up the church office, was part of a team supporting a local school, and set up a craft group. She said after the presentation: 'I've learned such a lot. I've loved working with old people; they're often pushed aside as though they're too old to do anything.'

In his letter nominating Betty for the competition, Mark Barker, vicar at St Stephen's, referred to her 'incredible gifts of love, care, wisdom and support'.

Michael Angell, church operations director at Ecclesiastical and one of the judges, commented: 'As soon as we read about Betty's tireless contribution to her community, we were immediately heartened. She has had a profound effect on the lives of so many people, many of whom have been in need and Betty has been there as a friend throughout. She has done this with grace, dedication and a zest for life.'

Ecclesiastical/TwitterWinners from various churches were celebrated.

Alongside Betty and representatives from St Stephen's Church, the other winners present at the celebration lunch were representatives from:

– Holy Trinity Church, Combe Down, Somerset and winning volunteer Sharon Blair

– St Mary and St John's Church, Lamyatt, Somerset and winning volunteer Freda Gibbons

– St Michael and All Angels Church, Bishop's Cleeve, Cheltenham and winning volunteer Mary Hughes

– Christ Church, Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire and winning volunteer group The Friday Men

– All Saints Church, Kettlestone, Fakenham, Norfolk and winning volunteer Roger Townsin

The Little Deeds, Big Difference competition was designed to raise the profile of church volunteers and highlight the difference that they make to communities around the country. More than 340 thank-you notes were also displayed at the celebration lunch, each one representing a church volunteer nominated for the competition.

To find out more about this year's competition click here.

Lifestyle