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Neighbourhood heroes

A kind-hearted couple from Dorset have been crowned heroes in their community – after going above and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic

Debbie Johnson, a support worker in a care home, and lorry driver husband Gary Johnson, were nominated to receive a Neighbourhood Hero award by their fellow residents at RoyaleLife’s Royale Heights development in Beacon Hill.

As lockdown hit the nation, many residents on the development faced months in isolation due to being forced to shield for their own safety. With this in mind, Debbie – who is one of the youngest members in the community at 49 – sprang into action alongside Gary, 65, to help those who couldn’t leave their homes, assisting with a number of tasks including shopping and prescription collecting, while Gary leant a hand with any DIY and housekeeping jobs.

Gary said, “Receiving this award is a huge honour. We are such a strong community at Royale Heights, and we all look out for each other. With so many people shielding on the development, we knew we had to help in any way possible, not just with day-to-day tasks but also by helping keep people’s spirits up.”

Debbie added, “Knowing that our neighbours’ mental health may be impacted due to self-isolating, we organised a socially-distanced VE Day party where everybody brought their own picnic to the development’s tea gardens, chatted and listened to music. Being part of a supportive community has never felt more needed.”

But it has not just been those on the development who have benefited from the care of the Johnsons. Debbie, who previously worked as an NVQ assessor in health and social care, changed her role to work on the front line at a local Care Home in Dorset

Debbie said, “I wanted to help people by being more hands-on and back in the thick of it; there are so many people in care homes who can’t see their families or don’t understand the situation. It has been a distressing time for so many and I knew I had to support in any way I could.”

The RoyaleLife Neighbourhood Hero initiative has seen over 50 nominations from grateful neighbours across the country. The leading bungalow provider, which specialises in luxury developments for the over 45s, personally awarded the caring pair with an engraved keepsake, luxury hamper and ‘thank you’ card, which quoted the heartfelt nominations from their grateful neighbours.

For more information on RoyaleLife, please visit royalelife.com