Gail Porter has helped to relaunch a West Lothian community group and paid tribute to the importance of their work.
The Edinburgh-born TV star and campaigner joined more than 100 members of the local community as Craigshill Good Neighbour Network formally relaunched itself as Spark.
The new name highlights the charity’s ability to ‘spark connections’ and the potential in those who get involved with its services, and the relaunch came about after the group stepped up to provide help to people across West Lothian during the pandemic.
The community support group – which started as a lunch club – has become the very first organisation in Scotland to receive Diversity Scotland’s charter mark.
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Members, volunteers, businesses, corporate organisations and representatives from all parts of the Craigshill community gathered together to celebrate the work that Spark does and to highlight the continued need for financial and practical support.
Hosting the event, Porter gave an emotionally charged speech, telling the audience: “At my lowest point I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I just needed help. I wish I had somewhere like Spark.”
She added: “Community support is so very important. Even just a smiling face makes the darkest day a little brighter.”
Tony McCaffrey, the founder of Diversity Scotland who presented CEO Jane Deary and her staff with the charter mark and training certificates, said: “Spark receives the gold charter mark because of the exemplary work that they do in terms of creating a sense of belonging and inclusion in the community in West Lothian.
“I have been incredibly impressed with the respite care earlier this year and how they fit inclusion into every single aspect of the services they offer.”
Colin Williamson, a Spark member and volunteer, entertained and moved the crowd with his storytelling, telling them how vital the charity has been in his life.
He said: “I’m eternally grateful to Jane and her team. I’m accepted. Finally, I’m accepted.”
The newly named group celebrates its 40th birthday next year.
Having started as a lunch club in the Craigshill area of Livingston, it has spread its work throughout West Lothian and has become a lifeline to hundreds across the county during the pandemic by delivering food, digital access and offering a friendly face and support.
By local democracy reporter Stuart Sommerville