Community changers honoured at Inspire Awards

Hannah Gibbons (left) pictured receiving a donation to the Gillingham Foodbank she set up in 2008

The winners of this year's Inspire Awards include a couple who were formerly homeless, an award-winning financial adviser, and a programme helping young girls with self-identity issues.

Carol and Len Fowler, who were once destitute, scooped the Inspiring Project award for their work with the homeless through The Well Centre they founded in Blackpool 10 years ago.

"It's about showing God's love, grace and mercy and this is what we are trying to do this in a small way to show people that there is hope," said Carol Fowler.

"Sometimes we have had people come in who are suicidal and we have been able to sit down with them and say 'there is hope' because Jesus is our hope.

"We have seen lives changed and we just thank God that we have been able to be part of this ministry and it will continue to grow."

The Inspiring Individual award went to Hannah Gibbons for her work in setting up and running a Christians Against Poverty debt-counselling centre through Gillingham Community Church in Dorset. The centre has helped more than 400 people resolve their debt problems since it established in 2008.

She said: "It is really good to see how far the project has come since it started a few years ago and absolutely pleasing about the number of people who they were able to help. God just opened doors and the number of people that we were able to help is absolutely mind blowing.

"I remember the day when I first went up to Christians Against Poverty just to find out what it was all about and I literally cried the whole day … but we have just started God has big plans for us and I just look forward to see what's coming next."

The Inspiring Youth/Children's Initiative award went to the Shine Project, which works in schools across Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch to help teenage girls with problems of self-identity.

The project's Beryl Bye: "It's so much fun spending time with these girls that we are going to see and giving them a different perspective on life. The media so often tells them who they should be and what is beautiful. It is fantastic going and speaking with these girls and telling them they are lovely just as they are."

The Inspire Awards are held each year by Inspire magazine, CPO and the Evangelical Alliance as a thank you to unsung heroes working for change within their communities.

The winners were announced at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on Thursday night by shadow employment minister Stephen Timms, Evangelical Alliance general director Steve Clifford and Inspire magazine editor Russ Bravo.

Speaking at the awards, Mr Timms said: "Believing in Jesus inspires people to do wonderful things. You don't have to be a believer to realise that. Believing in Jesus moves people on to not just think something is a good idea, but to act on it. The contributions we are celebrating this afternoon are examples not of a dying phenomenon, but a growing one."

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, said the awards were one of the highlights of his year.

"I would have loved for those who believe the Church is dead or irrelevant to society to have been here today," he said. "This is faith in the community at work."

Russ Bravo, editor of Inspire magazine, praised the work of the winners and other Christians like them serving their communities.

"We love to tell some of the most encouraging stories of Christians and the local Church in action, making life better for so many in their communities," he said. "These people are living their faith in a way that really counts."

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