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Meet the team: Julie

Julie engages with local communities, working to enable residents to help themselves and lead a better, healthier lifestyle. The work involves setting up community groups and schemes, as well as working with existing ones to help facilitate their ideas and efforts to improve the quality of life for local people.

Julie (far left), pictured supporting the people of Weymouth through the Keep in Touch initiative.

“I started my career in banking, working for Barclays bank. I became head cashier, then moved on to become a personal banker. I enjoyed this role as it involved working directly with people, building relationships, and helping them with problems.”

After leaving to start a family, Julie decided to set up her own business running a market garden and contract growing. After having 2 more children, Julie decided to change careers, taking on a new position with Crewkerne Town Council, Somerset County Council and South Somerset Council. In this role, Julie worked to develop Community One Stop Shops. These are locations where residents can go to find any council information they need.

An opportunity became available for a Community Development Officer with Weymouth and Portland Borough Council in 2002. Having returned to Weymouth, Julie decided to move to the role as it gave her greater involvement and the chance to really make a difference in the community, with less time managing a large team:

“It freed up my time and energy to focus on the elements of my job I really love – working to improve the lives of those in our community. My work is always community focussed – our community will usually know what they want, my job is to understand how we can facilitate and support them to achieve this.”

Since taking on the role, Julie has worked on a staggering number of projects to benefit the lives of residents. From a Community Orchard and Remembrance area in Littlemoor, to the beloved beach scene mosaic at Greenhill Gardens, made in collaboration with Waterside Weymouth Community Forum and with the help of volunteers from all backgrounds.

When coronavirus hit last year, Julie was fast to react. The Keep in Touch scheme was up and running within 2 weeks, along with help from partners including Cllr Gill Taylor. Over 2,000 local people benefitted from the scheme, which offered prescription collection and delivery plus food deliveries to vulnerable people.

Since then, the project has evolved and now works to address social isolation in these difficult times. Residents can join for free and choose to have a weekly chat over the phone with volunteers and other members, or to receive a letter from a pen pal.

At the end of last year Julie, in partnership with Jackie Dukes and Neil Biles, was pivotal in bringing some much needed festive magic to Weymouth with Drive in Nativity events. Around 1050 people attended the events, which adhered to the coronavirus guidelines at the time. The feedback was fantastic. One resident at the event commented:

“We loved it; it was brilliant. Our car was very noisy with hearty singing! Well done to everyone concerned, from the sponsors to the event organisers, well done Weymouth community!”

Despite changing coronavirus restrictions making community engagement difficult, Julie’s hard work has meant schemes such as Let’s Make It, have offered support for around 4,830 residents in 2020 alone.

Julie has risen to the challenges presented in 2020 in an inspiring way and says she is feeling positive about future projects in the pipeline for 2021:

“Anything can be achieved if you put in the effort. You’ll always get something back and people will always be there to get involved and help.”

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