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Front l-r, Henry Sterner, Maxine Croft and Anne Main MP Back, l-r, Observer editor Clare Bourke, Barclays manager Richard Lupton and Camphill director Nick Shinn.
ABBEY was filled with smiles on Thursday, July 21, when the Review and Observer shared out 25,000 between three charities at the Changing Lives awards.

The top award of 15,000 went to the Camphill Village Trust, which provides a social network of support for people with mental health problems, learning difficulties and other special needs.

Two prizes of 5,000 each went to Grove House Hospice and Hertfordshire Society for the Blind.

The money will go towards individual projects that each charity is undertaking to improve the lives of those they help.

The ceremony took place in the abbey's Lady Chapel and the awards were presented by MP Anne Main.

Changing Lives was set up as part of the Observer's 20th birthday celebrations, in conjunction with Barclays.

Introducing the awards, Barclays community manager for London and Hertfordshire Amanda Allchorn said: "Barclays staff are really passionate about being involved with local projects – we are really committed to the communities we work in."

Camphill Village Trust runs the Apt Creations Gallery in Catherine Street, , where adults with special needs can gain work experience and interact with the public.

Judges from the Observer and Barclays decided the trust should receive the top award for its plans to introduce a bar coding system, which will allow the staff to gain more work experience by serving customers at the counter.

The award was collected by staff members Maxine Croft and Henry Sterner and director Nick Shinn.

Maxine, who works at Camp Hill Village Trust's Apt Creations Gallery, said: "Thank you to everyone who has chosen us for the award. I help in the workshop behind the gallery and thanks to the award I will be able to serve customers as well."

Herts Society for the Blind income development manager John Hood and board director Rita Cotgrove talk to reporter Sally-Anne Johnson.
Grove House hospice received 5,000 for its Cancer Next Step programme, an eight-week support course for young people who have a positive prognosis.

Chief executive Mark Lister said: "This award secures funding for another course for the Next Step programme. The project is the first of its kind in the country, it helps people with cancer who might be trying to hold down a job or look after a family."

Hertfordshire Society for the Blind received its 5,000 award for its equipment outreach project.

The project, already running in other parts of Hertfordshire, will give blind and partially sighted people in access to life-improving gadgets and devices.

Hertfordshire Society for the Blind income development manager John Hood said: "We are an independent local charity which is completely self-funding so this award is very important to us. It will enable us to bring resources into rather than people having to travel halfway across the county to access them."

Review & Observer Editor Clare Bourke hopes the awards will now become an annual event.

She said: "We were pleased to be able to team up with Barclays and to be able to give something back to the community.

"After receiving their awards each of the charities spoke about what a difference the money would make and it was fabulous to know that we were really Changing Lives."

Grove House Chief executive Mark Lister, second from right, and fundraising co-ordinator Thomas Dyson, right, talk to Anne Main MP.

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