Russell Smith and Victoria Mosedale have been crowned joint regional winners of the Co-op’s Neighbour of the Year Awards 2020, as part of Co-op Insurance and Neighbourhood Watch’s search for the UK’s best neighbours.
During lockdown, Russell created an online group for his neighbours to help them keep connected whilst staying at home and shielding. Russell has also been instrumental with his local Remembrance Service, ensuring the event was shared virtually online, which saw veterans, villagers and schoolchildren come together for the occasion.
Victoria was nominated for her work with a local animal charity, raising money and looking after animals. She has also been collecting items for expectant and new mothers through a local project – and running errands for vulnerable and elderly residents.
Russell and Victoria’s neighbours, Christine White and Jo Yarnall, nominated them for the award. They said: “They do such a lot for the community - they really do go above and beyond. Their contribution during the last six months has made a real difference to the lives of local people. They really are a very special couple who deserve recognition for what they do.”
Russell Smith, West Midland’s Neighbour of the Year, said: “I’ve lived in Aldridge all my life, so I wanted to do something to reintegrate into the community. We’re big believers in community. It’s too easy to live somewhere and not know your neighbours. We both think better communities are coming out of lockdown. Aldridge has given us a focus, from the online quizzes, to running two Facebook pages, it’s all kept us busy.”
Victoria Mosedale, West Midland’s Neighbour of the Year, said: “I wanted to get involved so I could settle when I moved into the village. It was also so I could do things to get out of the house! I was amazed by how many people were willing to help, no questions asked.”
The Neighbour of the Year award celebrates neighbours who look out for others, are sociable and friendly, offer practical help and are kind, caring and respectful. In its third year, the number of entries increased by a staggering 100 percent from 2019.
Ellis German, Home Insurance Executive at Co-op Insurance said: “We’re so proud of Russell and Victoria – they’re an excellent reminder that there are those on our doorsteps who need us more than ever. All the judges agreed that they were the worthy winner of the West Midlands Neighbour of the Year 2020 award.”
This year the awards are being back by actress Catherine Tyldesley, who played Eva Price in Coronation Street, who said: “It’s heartening to see that neighbours like Russell and Victoria exist and are being recognised for the great work they’re doing to create communities where everyone feels safe and part of something.”
This year’s winners are announced as new data from Co-op Insurance and Neighbourhood Watch warns that the surge in neighbourliness seen in the Spring hasn’t been sustained, as pandemic fatigue sets in across the UK.
During the peak of the first national lockdown in April, data from Co-op showed a spike in neighbourliness, with almost three quarters (73%) of adults in the West Midlands said they knew which of their neighbours was classed as high risk.
After seven months of pandemic restrictions, this figure has seen a dramatic fall, with only a quarter (22%) of adults in the West Midlands revealing they know which of their neighbours are at risk.
“With the Co-op, we really urge everyone to be as supportive of each other as possible and be truly vigilant. It will be a very challenging Christmas for so many of us.”
Ellis added: “Our latest research is cause for concern as we start to see neighbourliness plateau. The length of time of the pandemic, the personal impact on everyday lives and the shorter days and colder weather are all key reasons for why we’re seeing this.
“We’re urging people to band together and keep up neighbourly spirits this winter, especially with neighbours who are vulnerable or alone, whether that’s by having a friendly chat over the garden fence, checking in to see if they need food or medicine dropping off or by keeping in touch online.”