THE hard work and dedication of individuals and groups who are working to make the borough a better place to live and work were celebrated at the second Forging a Future For All Awards.

Organised by the Halesowen and Dudley News and Stourbridge News, in partnership with Dudley Council, the awards showcase how individuals and organisations have been working hard to make the borough an attractive, vibrant, healthy and safe place to live and work.

The awards, which debuted in 2018, have helped to launch an inspiring vision for the Dudley borough which was set out by community leaders last year, setting out aspirations for the kind of place Dudley wants to be in 2030.

The winners of the awards were announced at a black tie gala dinner event at The Copthorne Hotel in Brierley Hill on Thursday, November 28.

The Young Achiever Award, sponsored by Gaunts of Wollaston, was awarded to Kesia Blake, who after a tough start in life in care, has worked hard to achieve her career dreams. After enrolling at Skills Training UK, she has aced her qualifications and hopes to train to become a social worker.

Lauren Millard took home the Healthy and Safe Communities Award, sponsored by Dudley NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, for her inspiring work to tackle period poverty in her community. She started a project through Dudley Young Health Champions to make up period poverty bags to help improve the lives of young people.

Librarian Melvyn Blackmore won the Community Award, sponsored by the Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust, for his dedication to improve life in Lye and tackle crime. He requested a transfer from Stourbridge Library to Lye so he could help the community.

The Digital Innovation Award, sponsored by Cushillo Personnel, went to Anthony Cokeley, for his creation of a digital platform for carers of children with complex health needs and disabilities to help make a difference to their lives.

Friends of Alder Coppice won the Improving the Local Environment Award (group) for their work to make the woods a space the whole community can enjoy. Their successes have included creating the UK's first Conversation Crescent to help tackle loneliness among older people.

The Improving the Local Environment Award (individual), sponsored by the Ryemarket shopping centre, went to Les Drinkwater. A volunteer at Saltwells Nature Reserve, Les has helped the reserve achieve national recognition and helped set up the Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve group.

Jayne Gordon won the Transport Support Award, sponsored by Falcon Taxis, for her work in leading a team of severe weather volunteers as part of the urgent care unit at Dudley Council, to make sure nobody is left without help when a cold snap strikes.

The Outstanding Contribution to Education Award, sponsored by Fairmont Residential, went to Skills Training UK Dudley Centre for their work in providing practical support to help learners achieve their qualifications, build confidence and help them discover the right career path.

Retired engineer Phil Harris took home the title for Visitor Attraction Volunteer of the Year for his dedication to giving his time to the collections team at the Black Country Living Museum.

Click here for exclusive video from the gala night

The Rising Apprentice Star Award, sponsored by Dudley College of Technology, was awarded to 23-year-old Lori Arthurs. Lori joined the Dudley Council for Voluntary Service as an apprentice in May and has already made a massive impact through her work with the digital platform IZONE to help young people.

Cliff Sherwood from the Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust won the Visitor Attraction Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by the Tipton and Coseley Building Society. Cliff has been integral to the tunnels, as a youngster he worked tirelessly to save them from closure. He was been connected to the tunnels and mines since the late 1950s and has helped it secure a future.

David Harcourt took home the Town Centre Unsung Hero Award, sponsored by Advanced Accountancy Midlands. David is president of the Stourbridge and District Chamber of Trade and has dedicated himself for over a decade to Stourbridge in Bloom, with the team winning the coveted gold award nine times.

Educational Psychology for Everyone Ltd won the Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Dudley Council. The business offers training and support to develop the role of emotional literacy support assistants to promote the emotional wellbeing of children and young people.

Speaking after the awards, Stephanie Preece, editor of the Halesowen and Dudley News and Stourbridge News, said: “What a fantastic night!

“Congratulations to all our finalists but especially our winners. They are all so deserving of their nominations.

“A big thank you to our sponsors who have enabled this fantastic event to go ahead.

“We are so proud of the remarkable work being done by so many in Dudley that truly make this such a great place to live and work."

Our thanks again go to our generous sponsors - Cushillo Personnel, Dudley NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, Dudley College of Technology, Fairmont Residential, Gaunts of Wollaston, Falcon Taxis, the Tipton and Coseley Building Society, Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust, Advanced Accountancy Midlands, the Ryemarket shopping centre, Lapal House and the Rotary Club of Dudley - whose support helped make the awards possible.