The charity heroes who helped the nation survive the pandemic

What has been largely considered to be one of the most challenging years facing the UK has also been a time which has illuminated the kindness of heroes helping communities, families and frontline workers to keep going.

We take a look at some of the Covid heroes who helped Scotland and the wider UK to stay strong while also raising money for charities across the nations.

Captain Sir Tom Moore is undoubtedly the most famous name of the year’s heroes after he sought to raise funds for the struggling NHS by pledging to walk 100 laps of his garden

before his 100th birthday.

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Fundraiser Olivia Strong, from Edinburgh.Fundraiser Olivia Strong, from Edinburgh.
Fundraiser Olivia Strong, from Edinburgh.

The initiative brought in a whopping £33m in donations as Captain Tom – a former British Army officer from Yorkshire - successfully completed the challenge and instantly became a much-loved British icon.

His fundraiser soared far beyond its original £1,000 target and inspired many similar initiatives across the UK and the world.

Among those inspired by Captain Tom’s fundraiser was 90-year-old Highlands woman Margaret Payne, who took to her stairs to raise funds for the NHS, Highland Hospice and the RNLI through a ‘mountain climb’.

Mrs Payne had scaled the height of the 731-metre Suliven mountain by June 23 after beginning on Easter Sunday, having climbed the stairs 282 times in total at her home in Advar, Sutherland.

The remarkable Margaret Payne on the stairs of her home in Ardvar, Sutherland. Picture: PA WireThe remarkable Margaret Payne on the stairs of her home in Ardvar, Sutherland. Picture: PA Wire
The remarkable Margaret Payne on the stairs of her home in Ardvar, Sutherland. Picture: PA Wire

"I am very much looking forward to enjoying a good rest at the summit, and celebrating with my family and chosen charities,” she told the media – in good humour – half-way through her challenge.

Her services to the local community in Lochinver earned her a British Empire Medal from the Queen, which came as a “great honour” for Mrs Payne.

A couple in County Down who created thousands of face shields for NHS and frontline workers when the pandemic rocked the PPE supply chain were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Lloyd Creaney and his wife Ruth took to creating clear plastic visors in their home, ultimately distributing an estimated 4,000 shields to nearby hospitals in Northern Ireland.

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Edinburgh-based engineers volunteered their time and energy for similar feats, meeting demand for face shields and PPE as the Edinburgh Shield Force.

The international team of students, engineers, product designers and more created over 20,000 face shields for NHS staff locally after raising almost £35,000 through their crowdfunder.

Another remarkable achiever this year was also 27-year-old Olivia Strong, who was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours after founding Run for Heroes from her family home in Edinburgh.

The viral fundraiser became the most successful in the UK ever, after Olivia’s Instagram challenge urging Brits to run 5km, donate £5 and nominate five others to do the same, raised over £7m for the NHS.

With an initial target of £5,000, Olivia’s campaign took off as people across Britain sought to enjoy some exercise in lockdown while supporting hardworking NHS staff.

Day Today Stenhousemuir owners Asiyah and Jawad Javed went viral after creating free coronavirus care packs for pensioners in their local area, offering to deliver these door-to-door for those shielding or struggling in isolation in Alloa.

The couple has since been offering supplies to locals in need, with baby care packages of local parents as well as treats for frontline workers and families.

Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts was founded by chef Lewis MacLachlan after he noticed the rise in food poverty as the pandemic and subsequent lockdown set in.

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Based in Edinburgh, the community organisation looks to empower locals in need with healthy meals made using fresh, surplus food - cutting down on waste. Between March and June, the volunteers and out-of-work chefs at Empty Kitchens provided over 50,000 locals with nourishing meals.

Empty Kitchens was part of the Edinburgh Food Social initiative hoping to provide up to 1,500 meals for those in need on Christmas Day.

The Emergency Designer Network was honoured by the British Fashion Council at their Fashion Awards 2020 after a team of designers, including Scottish fashion designer Holly Fulton, came together to create over 50,000 surgical gowns for NHS staff.

The London-based designers also produced over 10,000 sets of scrubs for 40 NHS trusts across the UK, bringing together local makers and sewers across the country to help combat a national shortage of protective gear.

Another Edinburgh charity hero, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary research nurse Alison Wilson, received a British Empire Medal for services to the NHS following the creation of her charity Rainbow Boxes.

After seeing the impact of restrictions on keeping patients away from loved ones without means of contact, her charity saw boxes filled with chargers, pyjamas, toiletries and even iPads delivered to Covid-19 patients kept in isolation. The boxes were distributed to Covid wards in hospitals, as well as to local care homes and hospices in and around Edinburgh.

Over in Glasgow meanwhile, 62-year-old David Maguire was awarded an MBE for services to the community after repurposing his restaurant near Gartnavel Hospital to feed NHS workers, school children and those in need for free.

British kids even got involved with fundraising to help the NHS and others struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, with five-year-old Tony Hudgell completing his own walking challenge which went on to raise over £1m for a London children’s hospital.

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The young boy, with two prosthetic legs, walked 10km in 30 days and earned himself a Pride of Britain award for inspiring the country with his efforts.

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