As she reaches the end of her year as High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, Amanda has been touring the county presenting awards to the many grassroots community groups and charities she has met since April 2020. Despite the pandemic, Amanda has succeeded in raising awareness and funds for a huge number of causes, and used her awards as a chance to recognise the hard work and dedication of the voluntary sector.
At the start of her Shrieval Year, Amanda had hoped to welcome both philanthropists and community organisations to her home at Sarsden, kicking off with a party in April 2020 to celebrate OCF’s 25th birthday. Sadly this and all of her other planned engagements had to be cancelled due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – but she soon dusted herself off and embraced the possibilities for connecting with people offered by online interactions on Zoom.
Amanda’s support for OCF throughout the year has been unwavering, beginning with co-hosting our regular webinars, where she interviewed charity leaders working at the frontline of the local COVID response. This contact was an eye-opener for Amanda as she talked to family centres in Bretch Hill distributing nappies to struggling families from the backs of cars, volunteers giving out meals to vulnerably housed people in Oxford, befriending schemes in Bicester getting older people online, community counselling services in Henley seeing demand go through the roof, and many more. These conversations became the foundation for building relationships and, when restrictions eased over the summer, getting out and visiting some of the organisations making a huge difference to their communities and the lives of the most vulnerable.
Inspired by these connections and unable to hold the traditional High Sheriff’s Awards ceremony for individuals in Oxford Town Hall, Amanda has rounded off her year by travelling around the county to surprise the people who are the lifeblood of the community sector with nearly 50 separate High Sheriff’s Awards. Most of these have been given to grassroots organisations that mobilise volunteers on a very local level to put in place initiatives such as community larders and neighbourhood support groups, representing the wave of kindness and community spirit that has arisen in the face of the pandemic. A full list of awards made is below.
OCF’s CEO Adrian Sell says: “The last year has been a hugely challenging one for people across Oxfordshire. While Amanda has not had the year she hoped for, she has been a wonderfully uplifting presence, raising morale and connecting with people and organisations across the county to support their efforts and celebrate the success local groups and organisations have had in supporting our local communities through the pandemic. Her generosity and good humour have brought good cheer and ensured that people realise how much their contribution is valued. OCF has been proud to work with Amanda over the last year and celebrate the success of everyone who has helped Oxfordshire get through the last year.”
In December 2020 Amanda cemented her support for the community by becoming one of OCF’s first Patrons, and encouraging others to commit in the same way by co-hosting our Giving Tuesday event and other philanthropy engagement events. We are absolutely delighted that she will continue to work with us in this way during the coming years.
OCF’s Chair Nick Case says: “During her year as High Sheriff of Oxfordshire Amanda has been a fantastic supporter of the Oxfordshire Community Foundation. By hosting a series of our webinars she raised the profile of the Foundation whilst publicising the activities of a range of vital voluntary organisations across the county. She has also been a tireless champion for the work we do in supporting these organisations. By carrying on the family tradition of philanthropy in Oxfordshire she has been a beacon for all those who care about supporting individuals and communities across the county.”
On 8th April 2021 Amanda’s year as High Sheriff of Oxfordshire came to an end and the next High Sheriff, Imam Monawar Hussain MBE, was officially sworn in during a ceremony held on Zoom. Speaking of her experience, Amanda said: “I became Oxfordshire’s first Lockdown High Sheriff. We witnessed the fighting spirit of Oxfordshire springing up in every corner of the county and my role for the year became very clear. I would reach out to every community, street or city, village or town and help them in any way I could. I explored the county more forensically and widely than I could ever have done by travel and physical meetings. And I made strong connections. Above all I had Tim Stevenson, our Lord Lieutenant who was a rock and guided me.
“But I still needed more help to be able to reach out effectively, and Oxfordshire Community Foundation came to my rescue. As I learnt more about them, I realised that their knowledge and support of the local, smaller charities that tackle Oxfordshire’s most pressing social problems was second to none. When COVID struck they moved fast. Their Community Resilience Fund sprang to life and they immediately started supporting those charities at the frontline of the crisis.
“I will forever be grateful to the wonderful OCF team. You have not only distributed over £1 million worth of grants in the past year to help those most in need, but you threw a lifeline to a lockdown High Sheriff and I shall never forget that.”
Paying tribute to Amanda’s achievements, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire and OCF President Tim Stevenson said: “Her good humour; her warm and generous presence online and off it, seems never to have been shaken. She has a very clever way of showing real interest, an appetite for learning about all that goes on across the county, and an ability to really appreciate, very obviously, genuinely, what people do – and a skill at asking questions on behalf of us all that enable real understanding of issues and solutions. I know I speak for us all when I say what a wonderful influence your calm and generous presence has been.”
Full list of High Sheriff’s Awards given out by Amanda Ponsonby MBE
A Helping Hand in Grove and Wantage
Abingdon Community Larder
Abingdon Covid Community Response
Abingdon Food Bank
African Families UK in Blackbird Leys
Appleton Community Village Shop
Banbury Community Fridge at the Banbury Mosque
Banbury Star Cycle Club
Banbury Volunteer Driver Service
Barton Community Larder
Berinsfield Community Larder
Blackbird Leys Community Larder
Botley Community Larder
Brightwell cum Sotwell Covid Volunteers
Carterton Community Assistance Group
Chalgrove and Watlington First Steps Family Hub
Cherwell Community Larder
Colonel Lyndon Robinson in Bicester
Community Action Group in Cowley
Cutteslowe Community Larder
Didcot Community Larder
Faringdon Viral Kindness
Flowers from Molly in Faringdon/Rebekah Pugh
Helping Oxfordshire Homeless Collaboration
Hooky Neighbours/Michelle Dix
Kidlington and Surrounding Area Community Help
Linda Champion – The Berin Centre
Lucy Laird in Shrivenham
Mary’s Meals in Chipping Norton
Millstream Community Hub in Benson
North Oxfordshire Food Bank
Oxford Food Hub
Oxfordshire All In
Oxfordshire Homeless Movement
Richard Kennell, SOFEA
Rose Hill Community Larder
Royal Voluntary Service (Oxfordshire Hub)
South Oxfordshire Food and Education Alliance
Thame Community Larder
The Bicester Food Bank
The Chippy Larder
The Sunshine Centre in Banbury
Voices Across Time
Waste2Taste in Cowley
Wendy Bayliss in Long Hanborough