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Highland Heroes 2024: Community champion shortlist revealed – VOTE NOW!


By Leah Williamson

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Here is the shortlist for community champion...

Ian Ash

Ian Ash
Ian Ash

Nurturing communities comes naturally to retired deputy headteacher Ian Ash and it’s this quality that has secured his place in the final for the Highland Heroes Community Champion award.

Ian, who lived and worked in the Central Belt for most of his life, used to holiday in Kincraig; he loved it so much he relocated there to enjoy his retirement.

His nomination said: “Ian is an integral part of our community and beyond. He knows everyone and undoubtedly they know him because he will have helped them at some point in their lives. He helps at the primary school, secondary school, local cafe and pub, community centre, and he’s on the community council as well as tidying the gardens and streets and meeting and greeting tourists on the Cairngorm mountain. Our community is incredibly lucky to have someone so kind and knowledgeable.”

Ian said: “Getting involved in the community is so much fun for me. I love to meet new people and nurture relationships. Whenever I see an opportunity to bring different age groups together I do my best to take it forward; everybody benefits. To brighten up the village I developed an intergenerational gardening project with the primary school and the younger generations have also helped give a new impetus to the village remembrance service. It’s a real joy to be part of such a great community.”

Kats Macleod

Kats Macleod
Kats Macleod

A split second decision to help families less fortunate than her own has seen Tain-based Kats Macleod set up a non-profit organisation, and be shortlisted for a Highland Heroes Community Champion of the Year award.

Kats and her friend were delivering packed lunches to children in October 2020 when she was shocked to notice that some of them were wearing summer clothes even though it was bitterly cold.

She said: “I cried on my way home and knew we had to help so I asked my Facebook friends to donate.”

At first, Kats thought she might redistribute donations for two to three months, but people’s generosity continued.

In January 2021, she officially established Kats Second Editions, which (anonymously) provides clothing and essentials such as toiletries to families who are facing hardship. She has helped clothe more than 2,000 children from 1,400 families in the Highlands.

Kats said: “I’m just so thrilled to be able to help and that my teenage children are patient with the bags and bags of clothes and toiletries that are brought to our house. Discretion is our number one priority when it comes to passing these on to families because we know that that enables them to ask for what they really need.

“We’ve received donations from as far afield as Norfolk, thanks to the help of a handful of good friends we pass what we receive to those who need them.”

David Macrae

David Macrae
David Macrae

An Inverness man heard the call to step in and take action when two young boys showed up for football practice without any of the kit they needed.

David Macrae, now 59, said: “I bought what the boys needed, took it to their house, rang the bell and walked away. I just wanted them to be able to play with their friends and enjoy their game like any of the other children. That spurred me on to become a secret santa for underprivileged families.

“Over the past 18 years my mission has grown; now, with the help of a team of 14, we make gift bags for children, pensioners, people with disabilities, people who are homeless, the food banks and Raigmore Hospital. Secret Santa takes us three to four months of effort, it’s worth it.”

“This Christmas alone our secret Santa has given to more than 1,200 people.”

David continued: “I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 27 years ago; when I stopped working eight years ago I decided to dedicate as much time as my health will allow to collecting donations and redistributing them to those who need them most. It gives me a purpose in life.”

David’s nomination said: “His work to bring happiness to those less fortunate is understated, dedicated and selfless.”

Springfield is sponsoring the community champion award.

Springfield managing director (north), Dave Main, said: “At Springfield, we understand the importance and value of a community. We know it takes more than houses to create a home. It takes people, places for children to play and local amenities nearby ‒ it takes a community. From pre-planning stages, during construction and once our homes are occupied, we work hard to engage and support our neighbours and those living in our homes.

“That’s why we are, once again, proud to support the community champion category of the Highland Heroes Awards. We want to hear about those people who are doing fantastic work to help shape and make communities across the Highlands. These awards are an excellent way to celebrate these people and give them the recognition they deserve.”

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