22-year-old Danielle Pointon is celebrating this week, having been awarded a national award for her voluntary work with young people across the region. A remarkable achievement for this young lady who was previously a gang member and often in-trouble.

The Best Young Person Award, party of Diversity in Housing awards, was aimed at those 30 or under who have worked to create a more diverse and inclusive community and was hosted by 24Housing.

As a youngster Danielle loved football and her dedication to the game paid off with a scholarship from Port Vale FC. However, a knee injury dashed Danielle’s hopes of a full-time playing career and frustrated, she became alcohol-dependent and on top of that she was later diagnosed with a chronic heart-condition.

To find herself, she took the positive step to reconnect with her dad, who she hadn’t seen since she was two, only to discover he had recently died. Deep depression followed.

Despite these terrible setbacks, Danielle’s survival instincts kicked-in and she started volunteering in the community and was introduced to Sporting Communities, a local not-for-profit organisation, where she took part in activities that helped break the cycle of her gang life, addictions and depression.

Danielle’s natural positivity returned and she realised supporting others was a career she wanted.

She joined Aspire Housing Youth Forum and raised awareness of financial support services available to young people and highlighted the dangers of loan sharks. She supported single-parent groups and also re-established an old allotment and grew vegetables for foodbanks to distribute.

Now, as an Aspire Housing customer forum member, Danielle’s willingness and endeavour is an inspiration, and she gives a young persons’ perspective to the team that helps shape policy-changes.

Danielle also volunteers for Respect Chesterton, which encourages younger people to connect with them and brings the community together through year-round events. Her ideas have been instrumental in the success and positive customer engagement at these events. A great example being: the Christmas Lantern Parade, where Danielle got local scout groups and schoolchildren directly involved.

Danielle has also worked with young adults with learning difficulties; helping them get involved in craft projects, through an organisation called Elite.

Most recently, Danielle has worked with the Alice Charity, helping vulnerable families by working at a foodbank and pointing them in the right direction for money advice and employment opportunities. Soon she’ll start administrating a new contract to deliver environmental improvements to an area that has successfully attracted heritage lottery funding.

Sharon Battiste, Customer Engagement Advisor at Aspire Housing, speaks for everyone lucky enough to meet Danielle:

“Despite her serious heart-condition, Danielle selflessly never says no, she’s always encouraging and involved in so many different areas of our communities - she’s really quite amazing. We are all absolutely delighted Danielle has been recognised with this award”.

Danielle was shortlisted for the national award alongside another two outstanding young people contributing towards their communities, but it was Danielle that stood out to the panel and who received the award at a ceremony hosted at Aston Villa FC last week.

Danielle commented, “I am very proud to win this award. It is a positive for myself and for Chesterton. I have had some troubling times and this is a real positive outcome. I feel like I’ve really achieved something for the community and for myself.”

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