This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Help us find the good neighbour of the year
We all know someone who is a jewel in the community, whether they are visiting the lonely, doing shopping for the housebound or working tirelessly for volunteer groups.
They are the people, often unsung, who bring caring and kindness to where we live.
Today, the Mercury launches a search for the Good Neighbour of the Year.
We have teamed up with the East Midlands Housing Group (EMHG) to find that special someone.
Launching the search today, Chan Kataria, chief executive of EMHG, said: "We want to hear about those neighbours who go the extra mile for others, whether that's keeping an eye on the area through Neighbourhood Watch groups or helping to organise community events, activities and services."
One person who fits the good neighbour category is Sarah Clarke, 69, a former actress and holistic practitioner, who lives in Little Bowden, near Market Harborough.
According to friends, she is always there to lend a helping hand and is active in a number of community groups.
She said: "We all need to try to do our bit to help others.
"I fully support the Good Neighbour of the Year award and would encourage people to nominate those who deserve a bit of recognition for what they do in their communities.
"I am a volunteer at the local credit union which provides people with an opportunity to save and borrow money who are not normally considered by banks."
Sarah is also a member of her church council and regularly takes an elderly parishioner to services on a Sunday.
She is active in a number of organisations dedicated to the improvement of the environment and the quality of life in the town.
"I believe that for society to flourish we need people who put other people's interests above their own and are willing to volunteer and help those who need support," Sarah said.
Mr Kataria said: "We are proud to be sponsoring these awards, which are an opportunity to promote the type of community spirit that clearly exists in areas across Leicester and Leicestershire.
"I'm in no doubt that without these neighbourhood heroes, the health of our communities would be a lot poorer and, instead of prospering, face the difficult symptoms of isolation and social exclusion."
EMHG owns and manages more than 1,700 homes across the region.
Mr Kataria added: "We are a not-for-profit social investment agency and are sponsoring this event because communities are only sustainable when you have lots of people coming together to contribute to that community in some way.
"That way, people want to live there, move into them and actively care about their wellbeing.
"Our evidence suggests that when this happens residents are made to feel they have stake in the people and place they live and the communities are more likely to be successful, stable and prosperous.
"Our philosophy is to recognise and celebrate those individuals who do make an important contribution."
The judges for the competition are the Leicester Mercury's publisher, David Simms, representatives from East Midlands Housing Group Chan Kataria, chief executive, Louise Riley and Jerry Sykes. They will be joined by Capital FM DJs Dino and Pete. The awards will be presented at a ceremony hosted by Dino and Pete at St Martin's House, Leicester, on August 2.