the magnificent seven


In our recent campaign to find local community heroes, who have in some small way, made a difference to the lives of others, we received lots of nominations and heard about some very inspirational people.

The seven winners were all recognised for their efforts and have been rewarded with the gift of an active, healthy lifestyle by way of a 12-month Abbeycroft membership.

Read more about each of them below.

Warren Smyth, chief executive at Abbeycroft said:

“What an incredible bunch of people!” When we launched this campaign, we wanted to find individuals that really deserved recognition, and whilst we appreciate there are probably lots more, we’re just pleased to be able to reward our ‘Magnificent Seven.’

“As a not-for-profit social enterprise our mantra is about working with and improving the lives of the community, so shining on a light on these guys gives us such pleasure.”

Abigail Gilby from Mildenhall

Abigail is the local guide leader, and during the pandemic she adapted the meetings for girls across Mildenhall, inspiring them with zoom meetings, badge work, arts sessions, competitions and face to face meetings when allowed.

She has found funding from external sources to pay for activities to reduce the financial burden on families who may have been furloughed. She has continued to link up with local scouts where possible and girl guides around the world.

She has done all this whilst home schooling her own three children, who have varying presentations of autism.
A true hero at home and in the community.

Abigail said: “A lot of the Guide meetings across the county stopped during the lockdowns but I felt the girls needed to continue to have social interaction, so I just had to carry on with something. Our Mildenhall unit has doubled in size during the pandemic and we’ve been able to offer a programme of activities, led by girls, that not only improves their skills but is fun.”

Mike and Carol Hall

Mike Hall from Haverhill

Mike was nominated by his son Peter after his wife tragically died following a very aggressive cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma) and Sepsis. Carol Hall collapsed at home during the lockdown, suffered 3 cardiac arrests and was later diagnosed and given 3 months to live. In fact she courageously survived for 6 months but her death has left the family devastated.

In the last year Mike has set up MICA Travels, with the aim of raising money and awareness for two charities – AMMF Bile Duct Cancer and UK Sepsis Trust. They have pledged to walk all of the 214 Wainwright Fells as well as the coast to coast walk and so far they have raised over £5000.

Mike said “Carol was my childhood sweetheart and we were together 47 years. I am really struggling with the grief, as is the whole family and we’re determined to raise awareness of the charities by doing these challenging walks, however, it’s taking its toll on my body and I need to train more, so this reward of a gym membership will help enormously.”

Max Kemp


Max, 16, was responsible for an elderly woman being rescued after collapsing in her own home and laying stricken for two days. He was doing his normal paper round for The Kiosk newsagents at Borehamgate Precinct in Sudbury when he spotted something unusual and alerted his employers at the newsagents.

He went to the woman’s house and saw that she had two papers that hadn’t been taken in. He had noticed one the day before but thought she had just forgotten to pick it up as sometimes customers do that. But when he came back the next day, he was concerned so he called the owner of The Kiosk, Becky, to tell her and luckily she called round and was able to raise the alarm, so the old lady was taken to hospital.

Max said “I was really worried about her and thought If I was in that situation, I’d really want someone to help me. My whole family are proud of me which is so nice. I’m really happy winning this prize as I’ve been studying hard for my GCSE’s and I want to get back into some exercise before I go to college.”

Mel Kirby


Mel has been working for the Home First service for over 17 years as a carer and reablement support worker and more recently as an assessor.

She has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, dedicated to her job, very knowledgeable, advocates for her patients and is helpful to everyone around her, nothing ever seems to be too much.

Mel said “Our service works along with many health professionals for people who have been in Hospital, making sure they have a safe return home with a care package to encourage and bring back as much independence and support as possible in their recovery. I have always loved my job and feel very lucky working with a great team of people around me . This has been such a lovely surprise to have been chosen for this reward.

Caroline Kocel


Caroline has been an awesome community hero!

She has been brightening up the neighbourhood during lockdown in all sorts of different ways. Most people recognise her as the ‘hula hooper’, commonly seen dancing along the streets, hula hooping and running (yes, at the same time) and dancing on the village green.

It brings a smile to everyone’s faces, some look out through the window, and quite a few people have had a go, and surprised themselves at their hidden hula hoop talents. Caroline has also been litter- picking and promoting litter picking in the community. She volunteered with the local environmental group, both online, and more recently when they could meet again, digging with the team to make a new butterfly-friendly zone on the village green.

Caroline said: “I think community spirit is so important. When we give away exactly what we want, it ripples outwards and comes back multiplied. Being nominated is incredible and motivates me to bulk buy hula hoops so I can encourage even more people to join the fun! I’ve never had a gym membership before so I plan to try as many new kinds of exercise and sports as possible, and swim every week, as I really miss swimming in the Pacific ocean.

Jessica Rudd


Jessica gave birth to her son Hunter, just eight weeks before the first lockdown and having previously been a children’s nanny, she understood how hard it was to keep children entertained, especially during a pandemic.

So she arranged five Covid safe events for her community on The Nowton Estate in Bury St Edmunds by working with neighbours to create ‘trails’. The community spirit was incredible with 24 roads, walks and closes and over 50 homes eventually taking part. They had a zoo trail, round-the-world trail, easter, halloween and Xmas trail.

She also organised food parcels to those in need, discreetly delivering donated items from the community.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Jessica also volunteers for baby bereavement charity West Suffolk SANDS and this year, she has successfully driven a campaign in Suffolk to waiver the death certificate fees for babies and children under 18 years old.

Jessica said: “I was blown away by the community spirit shown by our estate when we started the trails, and the reaction from all the kids and families was so rewarding. People felt safe doing it in their own time and space, but it also brought people closer and the one silver lining of this pandemic for our estate, is that we have become a close community, looking out for one another.

But I’m also thrilled with my achievement, along with massive support from Cllr James Reeder, in getting the death certificate fees waivered, as this will be a long-lasting legacy for parents in Suffolk.
I’m certainly looking forward to a bit of ‘me’ time, swimming at the leisure centre and also taking Hunter for lessons.”

Trevor Sheldrick


Trevor has been the sole volunteer community responder for the Hadleigh area for much of the Covid period.

Despite the risks of being the first to attend 999 calls with the potential of exposure to Covid, he has done an amazing amount of hours, providing life saving care and support to the residents of Hadleigh and surrounding area.

Trevor said: “Lots of volunteer responders around the county stopped at the start of the pandemic, as many of us were classed as vulnerable and therefore were shielding. Therefore I felt I needed to carry on volunteering because many people were scared and if there wasn’t anyone available, people would suffer even more.

The recognition of this reward is really for all of us on the team and it’s come at the right time for me, as I’ve put on a few pounds so I’m looking forward to using the lovely new pool at Hadleigh Pool and Leisure to get back into swimming.”