A COMMUNITY champion church has received national recognition and a big cash boost for its 'outstanding' Covid-conquering work.

St Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church in Port Glasgow has been awarded the Marsh Church and Community Heroes Award from the National Churches Trust (NCT) for its first class volunteer services during the pandemic.

Church members rallied round elderly and isolating members of the community in a variety of ways but the accolade, and the £1,000 prize that comes with it, came as a complete surprise to them.

They had never entered the awards, however, it appears that at least one impressed admirer of the church's work nominated them for the gong.

The £1,000 prize has been further boosted by a £15,000 NCT 'cornerstone grant' to help fix the church roof.

Vestry member Julie Tarrant said: "We were amazed that we'd been nominated, then to hear we had been shortlisted was a real boost as the pandemic has carried on.

"But then to hear that we had won the award was such a surprise.

"St Mary's is a busy church in the Port, and beyond, dedicated to helping the most vulnerable in the community.

"We didn't go down the route of food parcels but what we did do was keep in touch with everyone within the church community and the wider community.

"Every week we phoned members of our 'Heartland Circle' of seniors and elderly people who were isolating at home.

"We also welcome people with early stage dementia and we received referrals from Alzheimer Scotland.

"Our newsletter, called 'Forget Me Not', was delivered to everyone and we reassured people that if they needed anything, such as prescriptions for example, just to let us know.

"We made sure people knew that we were there for them."

The £15k grant for the roof will help with the final stages of the £350,000 project.

Julie said: "We raised around £30,000 ourselves and the rest came from a number of organisations and grants, as well as private donations, for which we are most grateful.

"David Gifford, our former Rector who retired last November, was instrumental in raising funding."

Broadcaster Huw Edwards, vice president of the NCT, said: "I'm delighted that St Mary's in Port Glasgow is being helped with this grant.

"This is an important church and the funding will help secure the future of this much-used building."

The NCT added: "The UK's historic churches and chapels are a vital part of our national heritage and have done so much to help local people during the Covid-19 lockdown.

"But to survive, many need to carry out urgent repairs and install modern facilities.

"The cost of this work is far beyond what most congregations can pay for themselves."

Pic: Julie Tarrant and fellow church volunteer Pauline Laverty