GOOD NEIGHBOUR AWARDS: Nine finalists are chosen by judges
Our team of judges has drawn up a list of nine deserving finalists in the search of our good neighbour of 2012.
The search, sponsored by East Midlands Housing (EMH) Group, attracted dozens of nominations from people who wanted to recognise the person in their community who goes that extra mile for others.
The Good Neighbour 2012 winner will receive a four-night holiday break for two in Algarve, supplied by Ryanair, and £250 spending money.
They will also be given a hamper of goodies from Asda at Fosse Park.
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Two runners-up will receive a hamper of goodies from Asda Fosse Park and £50 in cash.
Mercury publisher David Simms, EMH chief executive Chan Kataria and staff members Louise Riley and Jerry Sykes were joined by Capital FM DJs Dino and Pete in the tough task of choosing the finalists.
Mr Kataria said: "There were a number of outstanding entries, causing a lot of debate among the judges.
"There were some difficult decisions to be made, but in the end we all agreed on a shortlist and on who was most deserving of the award."
Dino and Pete said: "It's such an honour to be involved in a award ceremony which recognises unsung heroes of the community. It was extremely difficult making the final decision.
"We're looking forward to the award ceremony as the whole experience has been a real pleasure for us."
The awards will be presented at a lunch to be hosted by Dino and Pete at St Martin's House, next to Leicester Cathedral, on Thursday, August 2.
THE NINE NOMINATIONS ARE:
Sandra Francis has been nominated by her neighbour, 83-year-old Sylvia Kenney, who lives in Biddle Road, Leicester.
Mrs Kenney told us that Sandra is always looking after her neighbours.
She said: "Sandra's our knight in shining armour and then some, as she is not in too good health herself. But you never hear a word of complaint."
"She looks after her brother who is disabled, cooks him a family meal on Sundays, does his shopping and cleans for him and also does trips to hospitals. She also helps him fill out forms.
She also helps her elderly neighbour with her shopping, helping her in the house and does some gardening for her.
"Then, of course, she looks after me. She does my big shopping and helps me in the garden. She's always there at the end of the phone whenever we are in trouble or can't cope."
Mrs Francis (62), a widow, said: "I like to help where I can.
"I am very pleased to have been nominated by my neighbour Sylvia and to have made the list of finalists."
Salma, of Clumber Street, Leicester, has been nominated by John McCallum, of Evington.
He said: " Mrs Ravat is a dedicated family woman who has a busy home life and yet still finds time to volunteer in inspirational ways to help some of the most disadvantaged people in Leicester.
"She is inspired by her Islamic faith to offer unconditional support and care to those around her and particularly the homeless, who often fall through the net of statutory responsibility."
He said working through the Islamic Society of Britain's Leicester branch, Salma has helped deliver the Eat 'n' Meet project supplying food, toiletries and clothing to vulnerable people.
She approached Canon Glynn Tailby, vicar of St James the Greater, in London Road, and asked if she and fellow Muslims might work with the church to create a project on Saturdays which now attracts 30 volunteers.
He said: "This important work now sees numerous homeless people spending a few hours in warm and friendly company and getting a hot meal and cup of tea as well as being able to share their problems and sometimes seek further help from the network of contacts Salma has built up."
He said she was also involved in setting up Leicester Homeless Forum, which has developed plans and has better co-ordinated activity to ensure these most vulnerable people in our community receive some of the care and support they deserve.
Salma, 40, said: "It is a very great honour to have been nominated. I am not sure I am worthy."
Chunilal Parmar, from Highfields, Leicester, was nominated by Lila Dagli of Abney Street as someone people could rely on.
She said: "He has been disabled for so many years but he is always willing to help others, forgetting about his pains.
"He regularly helps neighbours by driving them to hospital appointments and work.
"He also looked after an elderly lady who had a disabled adult son for many years.
"He is a good example to everyone in our street. If anything happens, he helps.
"He is a very kind-hearted person, so he deserves to get the good neighbour award.
"I wish there were many more people like him."
Mr Parmar, 72, said: "I try to do what I can to help people who need it.
"I think it is what a neighbour should do.
"It is true that I am in pain a lot of the time – I had a big back injury some time ago and I have also had a heart bypass.
"But I can take people to appointments at hospital in my car and to work if they need a lift."
Community stalwart Wendy Biddles, from Thurnby Lodge, was nominated by her friend Trevor Taylor.
Mr Taylor said: "Without her tireless efforts, life would not be as good as it is for the residents of Thurnby Lodge.
"She is a very caring person and gives assistance to all she can.
"Her chairmanship of the tenants and residents association keeps it running smoothly."
He said she got valuable tasks done for individuals while keeping close ties with the police, who have an office in the community centre.
"She runs weekly coffee mornings on Thursdays at the community centre which bring people together," he said.
Wendy, 67, said: "I am thrilled that I have been nominated. I think it is important that people help others. I enjoy being involved in the community and it keeps me very busy."
"I also organise shows at the community centre which people really enjoy. That is good fun."
Pensioner Irene Gimson has a heart of gold, according to housebound neighbour Iris Neale.
Iris, 85, who lives in Rothley, said: "Irene is the best neighbour anyone could have.
"I have very poorly legs. I cannot walk very well and I am housebound.
"I have suffered two strokes and I do not know what I would do if it was not for Irene.
"My husband Ken is poorly, too, and at the moment is away awaiting an operation.
"That means I am on my own and Irene's concern for me and helping hands are very valuable.
"She helped me when I was taken ill once. She saw I was not well and called the ambulance so I could be taken to hospital.
"It is Irene that makes my life easier. She pops in daily. She gets my shopping, asks me if I need anything and even washes my heavy jumpers by hand. She is not too well herself, either, but she does not put herself first."
Irene, 79, said: "I know Iris is very grateful for what I do for her. But she is a neighbour and I enjoy helping her."
Shopkeeper Arunkumar Vagani is the linchpin who unites his community, according to neighbour Ruby Salt.
Ms Salt, 40, of Hamilton Street, North Evington, Leicester said: "He is a businessman who helps anyone in need and shows nothing but kindness to those he meets.
"He will do shopping for those who are infirm and transport those who can't move.
"Mr Vagani is always willing to help his neighbours and is a constant in our community.
"He can and will turn his hand to anything – he even helped me with an excruciating back problem.
"He mediates on behalf of those who can't speak English and introduces people to the finer nuances of British life.
"He binds members of this neighbourhood together with his helpful and outgoing nature."
"As a neighbour of mine, I have come to cherish him for his kindness and wisdom.
"I feel extremely honoured to know him. He is more than a shopkeeper, he is a neighbour, a confidante, a communicator, a teacher, a mediator and an inspiration."
Mr Vagani, 67, who has lived in Hamilton Street for 38 years said: "I am flattered Ms Salt has nominated me for the award.
"I believe in helping people and being part of the community."
Pensioner Eve Lynne always puts the welfare of others first, according to housebound neighbour Marguerita Keymer.
Mrs Keymer, 84, was widowed 17 years ago and Eve, 73, has kept a special eye on her since.
Mrs Keymer, of Parklands Avenue, Groby, said: "She is a wonderful neighbour.
"I suffer from eye disease and she comes in every day to give me my eye drops.
"She is a valued and close friend. I am housebound because I suffer from a serious lung condition which means I have to take oxygen all the time. She helps me with my medication and generally makes sure I am all right.
"She is always on call.
"When I could leave the house, Eve often took me out for the day or to go shopping.
"She now brings round home-made cakes and cooks my meals every day.
"She keeps me updated on all the village news and brightens up my day, which otherwise would be spent alone."
Eve said: "I am very flattered my neighbour has nominated me. She is a dear neighbour to me."
Since he moved into a new neighbourhood in Leicester, James Fox has become the person people turn to for help.
Colin Pitcairn, 53, who is disabled, lives in Fredscott Close, Thurnby Lodge, and nominated Mr Fox for the award.
Mr Pitcairn said: "I would like to nominate James for the effort he puts into running the Neighbourhood Watch in our close.
"He is very good to all of us who live here.
"He looks after the sick and disabled, looking in to see if they are okay and doing odd jobs where he can.
"I have severe mobility problems. James, I believe, has saved my life in the past.
"Once, I was seriously ill and needed to get to hospital.
"The ambulance crew could not get to me because of heavy snow.
"James helped to dig a path through the snow so I could be taken to hospital.
"He has physical difficulties of his own, but is always there with advice and you can always turn to him for help with getting repairs done."
Mr Fox, 62, said: "What a nice thing for someone to do to nominate me.
"I have known Colin for 10 years and he is a very good person himself."
Lee Hamilton had the best reason to nominate mother-of-two Louisa Bennett for the award – she saved his life.
When 31-year-old Lee collapsed at his home in Northfield Avenue, Wigston, his frantic wife, Natalie, rushed next door to ask Louisa to help.
Louisa started to carry out CPR and continued for up to 50 minutes – during which time Lee's heart stopped beating three times.
Speaking about the day of the incident, which happened in February, Louisa said: "He was foaming at the mouth and his breathing was very shallow.
"He then stopped breathing altogether and I could not feel a pulse.
"I started CPR by pumping on his chest and he gave a gasp and started breathing.
"Lee's mum had arrived and was talking to the ambulance service as I continued to pump his chest.
"I lost him again but managed to get him breathing twice more.
"Lee's mum was counting with me and keeping me focused. I was shouting at Lee, telling him not to die.
"When the paramedics arrived after about 20 minutes, they asked me to keep pumping so they could administer oxygen and fit a drip.
"They had to use the defibrillator twice to get his heart going again before carrying him to the ambulance.
"I went in the ambulance and continued to pump his chest until we got to hospital and he was rushed into intensive care.
"It was extremely traumatic. Lee is a friend and I had his life in my hands.
After spending several weeks in hospital, Lee is now recuperating at home.
Lee said: "I owe Louisa my life."
The ambulance service also praised what Mrs Bennett did in saving his life.
The Mercury would like to thank Asda Fosse Park, Ryanair, George's Hair Salon and Brookside Nurseries for their contribution to the event and for supplying the winners' prizes.