I HOPE you all had a lovely festive period and have had a good start to 2023 so far.

I’ve already got some dates in my diary and am looking forward to a busy year as I get out and about to meet more wonderful people in the various communities across East Renfrewshire, as well as attending various events and marking some new achievements.

Prior to Christmas, I had the joy of visiting some of the primary schools in our local area to watch their nativities. We really do have some talented young people.

I also enjoyed attending many winter fetes organised by staff, parents and our wider school communities.

Speaking of wonderful people, I’m delighted that Stan Esson has been named as Citizen of the Year for 2022, thanks to his impressive work with East Renfrewshire Foodbank.

Stan lives in Barrhead and has been volunteering for almost 10 years at the foodbank based in Lowndes Street.

As a founding member of the foodbank, he works tirelessly week in and week out to support its efforts, whether this be sorting donations, organising the storerooms, keeping tallies of all goods by hand and online, meeting clients or liaising with the Trussell Trust to ensure that everyone who accesses the foodbank gets what they need.

Sadly, the number of people who rely on foodbanks as they struggle to make ends meet has increased over the past few years and there is now a bigger demand than ever.

Volunteers like Stan have had to work even harder to ensure those who need this vital support can continue to access it.

After tough deliberation with the judging panel, it only seemed right that Stan was awarded with the 2022 Provost Award.

He received several nominations and each one could not speak highly enough of his efforts.

It is clear that he is an unsung hero in his community who puts the needs of others before his own.

I plan to meet with Stan at the foodbank in the coming weeks to learn more about its work and what volunteering means to him.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit a nomination for the Provost Award. We have so many hard-working volunteers across the whole of East Renfrewshire who happily give up their free time to lend a hand to others. You are all fantastic.

East Renfrewshire Foodbank is open every Tuesday, from noon until 2pm, and on Fridays, from 2pm until 4pm. A minimum of three days’ worth of nutritionally-balanced tinned and dried food donated by the local community is provided.

Other branches are located in Thornliebank and, most recently, in Busby.

Increased cost of living costs are impacting all of us this winter but support is available if you need it. Reach out for help with your finances or energy costs by getting in touch with East Renfrewshire Council by phoning 0141 577 8420 or emailing mart@eastrenfrewshire.gov.uk.

You can also contact Citizens Advice on 0141 881 3660 or 0141 881 2032 or send an email to bureau@eastrenfrewshirecab.casonline.org.uk.

Finally, East Renfrewshire is a welcoming place for people fleeing the war in Ukraine, so I was honoured to attend the opening of a Ukrainian Culture Club in Clarkston recently.

This drop-in centre provides a safe and secure environment for Ukrainian refugees to socialise, meet others, get help with their English, integrate into our local society and much more.

My thanks go to everyone involved in this essential project, which will make a positive impact on the lives of many people this year.