An inspirational Kenilworth woman who has made a positive impact on her community is the first winner of a competition praising local heroes.
Jose Ribeiro, of We Love Pizza in Regent Place, launched the Local Legends in March with the promise of a month’s worth of free pizza for the chosen nominees.
And Brownie leader Jennifer Matthews was nominated by friend John Thompson for ‘going above and beyond’ for her pack throughout the pandemic.
In her determination to overcome the challenges of lockdown, Jennifer, who has been a Brownie leader for more than 13 years, initiated a series of projects to keep the girls at 1st Kenilworth Brownies connected, including personally hand-delivering by bicycle Adventures at Home packs containing crafts, clay and recipes.
As the packs grew in popularity, so did Jennifer’s cycling commute!
She also took advantage of eased restrictions to arrange socially distanced meetings in November, even hosting a Brownie Promise ceremony in her front garden. Soon followed popular weekly Brownie Zoom sessions, highlights of which included virtual sleepovers, making Christmas crafts and Easter gardens, cooking marshmallows over a tealight to make Smores and cooking.
Reacting to the award this week, Jennifer said: “When I heard that I had won I was lost for words! I have just been doing what I enjoy!
"I am no different to hundreds of other leaders who have found new ways of keeping Guiding going through difficult times. But my husband and daughter were excited at the prospect of lots of pizza! Thank you to We Love Pizza for their generosity.”
She added: “Running a Brownie unit is not a job that can be done single-handed. I am blessed to be supported by four young leaders and parents have stepped forward to help too.
“Being a Brownie leader involves thinking creatively of new ways of doing ordinary things so I had to find ways of overcoming the challenges of keeping the Brownies going throughout this period, getting to know the new Brownies who had just joined and finding enough helpers and learning to use Zoom. I am not the most technical person!
“Throughout the year, Girlguiding has kept leaders informed about when and where we can meet, in what numbers and the risk assessments, consent forms and other documentation required. As you can imagine there are frequent changes in the restrictions, following all the government announcements, which means that things that are permitted one week may not be allowed the following week.
“This is a challenge for all leaders of youth organisations. So, it comes as no surprise that different Brownie units have had different approaches on when and how to meet. Our Brownie unit encompasses nine schools, so I’ve had to consider the impact of them mixing.”
John Tompson, who nominated Jennifer for the award, said: “I cannot think of anyone better deserving to get recognition. She must have spent hours and hours of her own time sorting all this out. She quietly gets on with all of it without any fuss.”
Jose Ribeiro said: “For the young generations times of social restrictions are more challenging than for any age group. They don’t have the tools to deal with isolation and are depending on older adults to provide them with safe, positive and caring ways to fill their time.
“Jennifer dedicated her time and energy to making sure young girls kept active and in contact with their friends and what was going on around them, by organising activities and group meetings at times when everything was more difficult, time-consuming and challenging. We applaud Jennifer and sharing our pizzas with her is a way to say ‘thank you’ for taking care of our future generation.”
Jose, whose restaurant has been closed more than open since it launched in September last year, has been keen to give something back to the community that has supported his business throughout those months.
Recently awarded SME Best Pizza Restaurant Warwickshire Award, you can find out more about the business at www.welovepizza.uk