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News Archive > General > ‘Community hero’ Beth is best of Britain – by smiles

‘Community hero’ Beth is best of Britain – by smiles

By Warren Wilkins 24th February 2021

‘Community hero’ Beth is best of Britain – by smiles
Smile champion Beth Mitchell

A community hero who has helped put a smile on people’s faces in Newquay has won a nationwide competition.  

Beth Mitchell, 55, has been crowned Specsavers UK Smile Maker for her service to the community following the success of her Soul Food Kitchen initiative.

The mother and foster carer started the healthy cooking project nearly nine years ago with the aim of getting people engaged in the community and reducing social isolation.

Beth had previously worked in soup kitchens but wanted to step away from this model and encourage participation. 

She was nominated for the award by one of her volunteers, Becky Horne, for the work she has done to help bring smiles to people’s faces during the pandemic. 

Soul Food is run solely by volunteers like Beth, who encourage all types of people from different walks of life to come together to prepare a community meal.

Everyone who takes part chips in to prepare food, lay tables and tidy up, with the aim of building a sense of community, belonging and purpose. 

Beth has also supported Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme students with their volunteering, giving young people the opportunity to work with a variety of people from different backgrounds. 

Beth said: “I am absolutely thrilled I have won.

“It means so much to me that people view me as a ‘smile maker’ - my main goal has always been to make my local community smile so to be rewarded like this is fantastic.

“What’s important about Soul Food is that it allows people the ability to give.

“Even if it’s just cutting up the vegetables, putting the salt and pepper on the table, or washing the dishes, it allows people to feel as if they belong to something and this builds their confidence.”

The impact of covid-19 has meant the weekly community meal is on hold for now but this has not stopped the Soul Food team, and particularly volunteers Sue Jones and Garry Smith.

The kitchen has been delivering more than 100 takeaway portions to those in need following donations from local suppliers and help from volunteer delivery drivers. 

As well as receiving the Smile Maker award, Beth won a one-to-one video call with celebrity father and son TV and radio stars and ITV Sunday Best presenters Martin and Roman Kemp, as well as £1,000 and a glasses voucher to spend in her local Specsavers store.  

Beth said: “Martin and Roman were so kind about the work I have done in my community and loved hearing about Soul Food.

“They put smiles on all of our faces! Talking to them was an honour and I will remember this for a long time to come.”

Martin said: “This year has been tough but people like Beth, who has been so generous in her commitment to the Newquay community, make such a positive difference. 

“We were thrilled to be able to virtually meet Beth, learn about her incredibly inspirational work and say thank you for her service to making people smile.”

Capital Breakfast host Roman said: “Beth is a very deserving winner and my dad and I loved chatting with her.”

Steven Morris, store director at Specsavers Newquay, said: “The Smile Maker competition has done a wonderful job of shining a light on those who have continued to make us smile when we have needed it most.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled that Beth has been crowned one of the winners – she is a true community hero.”

By Warren Wilkins 24th February 2021

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