Emotional scenes played out Thursday (29 Nov) night at the Dorothy Pax bar in Sheffield as winner of the first-ever Neighbour of the Year award, Paul Zeun, was officially presented with his trophy.
A gathering of around 40 neighbours from Paul’s close-knit community came to see him pick up the gong. It soon became clear why Paul had triumphed over 400 other entries.
John Hayward-Cripps, the CEO of Neighbourhood Watch, presented Paul with his award. “When Paul first moved into the area, people didn’t know each other, they didn’t talk to each other”, he said. “Now, only a year after moving to the area, everyone knows each other. He introduces people and brings them together. He is the embodiment of Neighbourhood Watch values.
“We are all increasingly living busier lives and although technology allows us to stay in touch with friends and family on the other side of the world, nothing can quite replace having a chat with a next door neighbour, checking in on them and helping out now and then.”
Abby Wilson nominated Paul for the award, initiated this year by Neighbourhood Watch and Coop Insurance. They met after he came to her aid when she was locked out of her flat. They have been firm friends ever since.
“I always wanted to put Paul forward for something like this”, she says. “He is such a sweet friendly man, someone you can have a laugh with and who will help you out whenever he can.”
A small park between the blocks of flats where they live was never used before Paul arrived. Now, however, because of his friendly and engaging manner, neighbours are out in the green practically every day, talking to each other with barbeques and parties in the summer.
Paul has helped his neighbours decorate their flats, taken them to A&E and sat with them there, cared for terminally ill people, shared food from his allotment and arranged parties.
The compliments paid to Paul last night by his different neighbours were genuine, effusive and bountiful. “The nicest guy you’ll ever meet”, “anybody would be lucky to live next to him” and “one of a kind” were just some of what people had to say.
He even has a bit of a fan club developing. One women, who lives too far away to be considered a neighbour, wants to move just to be closer to him. “I’m so jealous of the people who live next door to him”, she said light-heartedly.
On being handed the award, all Paul could say, eyes welling up with tears, was a simple: “Thank you all, thank you all” before a round of applause burst out.
Everyone else in the room was thinking the same thing: “No, thank you Paul.”