THIS year's Citizens of the Year in Benarty are the volunteers who run the highly successful Community Shop in Ballingry.

Benarty Community Council hosted the annual award ceremony of the Ann McCallum, Benarty Citizen of the Year Trophy, at the Community Centre.

The trophy was first awarded back in 2000 and is named in honour of a late local woman, Ann McCallum, who campaigned vigorously and successfully through the 1980's to ban the sale of Skoal Bandits chewing tobacco pouches, which were a known carcinogen, causing oral cancer, especially in youths, who the tobacco was marketed at.

In Ann's name, the trophy is awarded to a local Benarty Citizen or group who have made a remarkable contribution to life in the villages of Glencraig, Crosshill, Lochore and Ballingry and to celebrate their achievement, throughout the year the winners are invited to special occasions, new openings and to be the VIP guests opening the world famous Benarty Gala in June.

This year the worthy winners of the title of 2019 Benarty Citizens of the Year are The Benarty Community Shop Volunteers.

"The Shop," as it has become known locally is a thriving community hub at Benarty Square, providing a hearty dose of Benarty banter from the moment you walk through the door and all shoppers are warmly welcomed to stay a while and chat, catch up with the local news and browse the shelves and hanging rails for the many bargains on offer.

Community Council chairman Tom Kinnaird said: "It all began in 2016 with an idea followed by discussions and eventually a plan came into being.

"The Benarty Community Forum members worked on securing a tenancy in the former Costcutters store, in Benarty Square, and then the call went out for help to turn the idea into reality. The people of this community responded in typical Benarty fashion and the mammoth task of converting a dilapidated old premises into a vibrant and colourful new space got underway.

"In the summer of 2017, the then Citizen of the Year, Wattie Moodie, and Junior Citizen of the Year, Lucy Graham, took the scissors and cut the ribbon at the grand opening to great applause, and from that day to now, it has been a roaring success".

He added: "Driving the shop forward are the people of Benarty who donate extremely generously into the shop, providing the clothes, shoes, sportsware, household goods, toys, games, books, and a whole list of other items too many to list. The army of volunteers then go to work, and it is hard work, sorting everything, checking sizes, ironing, tagging and placing the goods out for display, and it's all done with a smile.

"Vast amounts of hours are spent, all voluntarily towards a goal, to provide a lift to our own deprived community.

"As the third birthday of the shop approaches, many of the founding members are still there. Many have moved on having gained new skills and work experience leading to-full time employment elsewhere, and that's a great thing too".

On announcement of the award, members of the community have responded in their droves with words of support and congratulations.

The work being done by the volunteers is recognised and everyone is extremely thankful that Benarty is blessed with so many kind hearted and generous people who are willing to give so much of their time and themselves to help make a difference.

The Benarty Community Shop has won other accolades and the volunteers are seen as a shining example of what the communities of the four villages really are.