The winner has been chosen for a competition launched by a local artist as part of the We Art Our Heroes initiative.
Mel Shand called on local residents to nominate their friends or family members who have made a difference during lockdown.
She planned to select one lucky person from the entries to draw a portrait of and, after much deliberation, Jane Galloway came out top and was selected out of all the nominations.
And Mel has since drawn a portrait of the 62-year-old, which will be posted to her in the coming weeks.
Jane, has been volunteering for Re-engage, a charity set up to help alleviate loneliness in older people, for just over five years, and was nominated by her friend Evelyn Fletcher, who is known as Lyn, from St Cyrus.
Jane is co-ordinator for two Re-engage groups in Laurencekirk groups but still found the time to volunteer for the Covid-19 St Cyrus group during the pandemic to help make sure everyone in the village was looked after.
Mel said: “Jane stood out straight away. Firstly, the submission by her friend Lyn Fletcher was very detailed and specific and as an artist, I found that immediately inspiring.
“Lyn mentioned the afternoon teas that Jane baked for the elderly in her community through the charity Re-engage.
“The fact that she continued, even though it was not possible to have a face-to-face, and found a creative way around still giving them treats during a time when treats were quite hard to come back.
“And Lyn also pointed out that Jane set up a table so they wouldn’t need to bend so low – that’s so very thoughtful.”
Jane is delighted with the portrait and said: “I absolutely love the portrait. It’s fresh and vibrant. I’m very into wildlife, so was immediately drawn to the bird above me and all of the beautiful flowers. Every time I look at it, I discover something new.”
And Jane added: “I’ve never really thought of myself as a hero so, again, it’s an absolute honour to have won Mel’s competition.”
“When it came to creating her portrait, I had a wee look on Facebook and immediately found a photo of Jane that she’s used as a profile picture,” Mel added.
“I joked at the beginning that attractive people are always a bit harder to portray as there’s certain jeopardy to achieving a likeness and being flattering.
“I was pretty certain that she must have liked the picture and it was very bright with a gorgeous picture hat – obviously dressed for a special occasion.
“This was very fitting for what I had in mind as I wanted to surprise Jane with a finished piece and Lyn’s description was very evocative of a party, so I could immediately imagine an afternoon tea with bright cheery colours and fine bone China with Jane at the very centre of it all.”
The competition was launched as part of the Evening Express and Press and Journal’s We Art Our Heroes campaign, a major art project that will create a lasting legacy to all frontline workers.
Re-engage is dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people through regular face-to-face interaction.
Jane’s role as part of the charity has involved organising regular tea parties for local residents, something that hasn’t been possible during the pandemic.
Jane, who has three children, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs, has instead stopped by their doorsteps.
Speaking on what she admires most about volunteering, she said: “What I love most is the smiles and laughter I see when I pick the guests up to go out for tea. Everyone gets dressed up and eats lots of cake.
“It’s lovely to meet new people some of whom have become good friends.
“I am the group co-ordinator for both of the Laurencekirk groups. It’s a large group with 17 guests, so is usually split into two as not many hosts can cater for that amount.
“Our last tea was held in February 2020 – kindly hosted by the Glenesk Hotel in Edzell. I think it is safe to say we are all looking forward to going there again once we are allowed.
“Obviously, this last year has been very difficult for a lot but I’ve still received those wonderful smiles whenever I’ve turned up on their doorsteps. On my return home, I always have a warm feeling inside.”
Lyn, 70, has known Jane since 2018, after meeting her in a local cafe on a recruitment drive.
“Although I have known Jane for a relatively short time, I was struck by her warmth and friendly generous nature when we met,” Lyn said.
“I spotted Mel’s competition through my Facebook page and thought this an opportunity to say a thank you on behalf of the guests and other volunteers.
“Jane is so inspiring. She has done so much for the older guests during this pandemic, some have families living locally but others are alone.
“Jane enjoys cooking and supplies meals regularly to a few of the housebound. These meals were plated up, put in her car, and delivered to their doorstep along with other treats.
“She did a bit of shopping too, collected prescriptions or food from the food bank, and went the extra mile to help as much as she could while still having to be careful and follow the Covid-19 rules.
“As volunteers, she encouraged us to pick up the phone and contact those we knew best.
“I was really delighted to hear that Jane had won Mel’s competition, and so was the reEngage area leader Jean Malcolm.
“Jane was amazed, but pleasantly so when she heard the news! A big thanks to Mel and the local newspapers for making this happen.”
On the competition and the We Art Our Heroes campaign as a whole, Jane said: “I hadn’t heard about the competition, it was a complete surprise. A huge thank you to anyone that nominated me, you’ve made me feel quite overwhelmed.
“There are so many people that have gone the extra mile this last year so to be nominated is a huge honour.
“It’s fantastic that an artist of Mel’s calibre and standing in the community launched the competition to nominate lockdown heroes. It’s humbling for me to be noticed for my small contribution.
“And I believe the We Art Our Heroes initiative has brought out not only the best of our communities but has forged lifelong bonds that will be around a long time after the pandemic is over.
“It sounds rather old fashioned but I’m proud to be part of a community that cares, and it’s people like Mel that have helped to recognise and highlight that throughout the north-east of Scotland.
“I haven’t seen the portrait yet, it’s very exciting. I’m looking forward to hanging it up and having it as a reminder of a year we will never forget.”
Mel added: “My hope is that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
“From my own experience, people like Jane will never have set out to do what they do on a regular basis to be officially recognised or even prize-worthy.
“But thanks to this competition, Jane and all the other submissions have had someone just stop for a moment and take the trouble to make a submission on their behalf and let them all – as they are all worthy- be recognised as someone’s hero.”
The Evening Express and Press and Journal will feature all the entries for the We Art Our Heroes campaign in special supplements and online galleries starting on Monday, March 22 – one year on from the start of the first lockdown.