Richard’s dedication to others sees him named Sunderland’s Covid community champion
A pensioner who refused to let even the loss of his beloved wife stop his work to support people has been named as Sunderland’s Covid community champion.
Seventy-four-year-old Richard Beck and wife Margaret - both long-standing volunteers at Fulwell Community Library - created comprehensive support plans to help local people at the start of the pandemic.
They both fell seriously ill at the beginning of the first lockdown and Margaret passed away in March last year.
But once recovered, Richard continued to lead the library’s dedicated team of volunteers, determined to deliver the support the couple had planned.
Every week, together with the Friends of Fulwell, they delivered books and activity packs to vulnerable residents. Richard also arranged for book pickups and drop offs in the library’s lobby and set up a Salvation Army food donation box and a school uniform donation drop-off to help struggling families.
Now he has been honoured for his hard work.
Regional public health campaign BeatCovidNE has named the winners of its Covid Acts of Kindness Community Award, backed by the seven North East local authorities.
One winner from each council area has been chosen – and Richard is Sunderland’s.
Richard said he was surprised to have been nominated: “I am very humbled,” he said.
"You just don’t think about these things – you don’t do it in search of recognition.”
And he dedicated the award to Margaret: “We worked together,” he said.
"She did the actual setting up of things and I worked through the mechanics. It was a team effort.”
He was proud to have carried on the work they started as a couple: “I would like her to think that what she did – and she did a massive amount – would be carried on,” he said.
"I think if she was looking down now, she would be proud of where we are, because we have developed the library and it has turned into a real success story.”
Chair of the Association of Directors of Public Health North East and Director of Public Health for County Durham, Amanda Healy, said she had been delighted with the response to the awards scheme.
"I’d like to thank everyone who submitted a nomination,” she said.
"We were overwhelmed by the number of inspiring acts of Covid kindness we received from right across the region.”
The fact that all the winners were continuing to support their local communities was a reminder Covid had not gone away: “Infection rates are rising and our hospitals are continuing to see Covid admissions increase and sadly, people are dying from this dreadful virus,” she said.
"The most important thing we can all do to slow the spread of Covid is to take up all recommended doses of the vaccine and get the flu jab, at the earliest opportunity.
“It’s important we also remember that simple acts of kindness - such as wearing face coverings in crowded places, socially distancing when out and about, meeting outdoors when possible, self-testing regularly and isolating if we test positive - help to protect each other and those at risk.”