Third Sector Hebrides named top Scottish charity

Third Sector Hebrides has been crowned Charity of the Year 2011 at the Scottish Charity Awards just days after winning a business excellence accolade.

The pioneering Hebridean enterprise, which supports voluntary organisations across the Hebrides, fought off tough competition to take the top award in the face of tough competition from an employment charity from Shetland, an Edinburgh group tackling drug abuse and a new alliance of charities supporting people with long term conditions to win the award.

The awards, run by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) are now in their fifth year, and celebrate the unsung heroes across Scotland’s 45,000 voluntary organisations. Up for grabs were Charity of the Year, Community Action, Partnership Award, Campaign of the Year and Charity Champion.

Set up to support the local voluntary sector, Third Sector Hebrides has grown from having two staff in 1985 to an organisation which today has a staff of 40 and a turnover of £1 million.

Judges praised the organisation for its innovation and valuable contribution to the community, including its role as a major local employer. It runs the award-winning Hebridean Chocolates social enterprise, a community newspaper Am Pàipear, and Staran, a gardening and ground maintenance enterprise.

Chief executive Alasdair Nicholson said: “On behalf of the Third Sector Hebrides team, we are delighted to be recipients of this award which is something special and creates something of a record for our group these last few months. The bard Willie Neil wrote ‘we seek tomorrow’s tidings on bannered clouds whose tale is hid from those who do not sail’ and we all need this sense of adventure, and willingness to try new ventures, if we are to be successful in creating new opportunities.”

Alison Elliot, Convener of SCVO and host of the Awards congratulated all the winners and praised the applicants for the high standards of entries this year: “It has been a really tough year for a lot of organisations; we have seen a dramatic drop in the levels of funding available while those in need of support continue to increase. It is testament to the passion and dedication of those working in voluntary organisations that we had such a high standard of entry this year as groups continued to push to innovate, grow and develop despite the challenges.

“We have five very worthy winners this year and many excellent shortlisted organisations which show just what a difference the third sector makes to people right across Scotland.”