Inspiring Business by Sharing Success

Colleague Box owner Natalie is inspired to do more after hearing tales of local football heroes

Colleague Box owner Natalie is inspired to do more after hearing tales of local football heroes

Sport fan and business owner Natalie Bamford says that she has been inspired to do more after hearing stories of incredible volunteers working in football across the city and county.

Natalie, who founded corporate gifting company Colleague Box with husband Adam four years ago, teamed up with Derbyshire FA to launch the Unsung Hero Award scheme for the 2023/24 season. Every month, worthy winners were presented with a Taste of Derbyshire gift box that was curated at Colleague Box’s Derby headquarters featuring goodies from local suppliers.

Winners have included Anne Nowak, club liaison officer for the Chesterfield Sunday League who received her award during the half-time break at Chesterfield FC’s National League defeat of Oxford City in March, and Alfreton Town stalwart Jeff Clarke.

Jeff has helped out at Alfreton for more than 40 years, assisting with everything from ground maintenance to working on the turnstiles.

Natalie is hoping that the scheme will be adopted by more football associations looking to reward their grassroots heroes, and other businesses who rely on the support of their volunteers, as the UK celebrates National Volunteers Week (June 3-9).

She said:

“It has been an absolute joy reading through the nominations for the Unsung Hero Award scheme and creating gift boxes for the winners.

“There are hundreds of people across Derby and Derbyshire who are giving up their spare time to help others and it would be great to see the Unsung Hero Award adopted by other football associations across the UK.

“As a football fan and football mum, I’m well aware of the endless hours that volunteers give up so that clubs can function and matches can be played, and I’m in awe of their commitment and dedication.”

Others to receive an Unsung Hero Award include Duffield Dynamo’s Welfare Officer Kate Mercer who was nominated by several parents from within the club for her warm, kind and caring attitude, and for being ‘the glue that keeps the club together’. 

Natalie, who is a volunteer on the board at Derwent Stepping Stones Nursery – which is part of the YMCA Derbyshire – added:

“Volunteering provides physical and mental rewards. It also promotes a sense of community and Colleague Box is proud to have played a small part in celebrating local heroes with the Unsung Heroes Award.”

Tom Crabtree, from Derbyshire FA, said:

“The Unsung Hero campaign is something we’re extremely proud of at Derbyshire FA, and we couldn’t have accomplished our vision without the wholehearted co-operation and boundless enthusiasm of the remarkable individuals at Colleague Box.

“Within grassroots football in Derbyshire resides thousands of volunteers, selflessly dedicating their evenings and weekends to the beautiful game and the betterment of their community. Amidst their tireless efforts, many of these individuals remain unseen, their contributions unacknowledged. Our Unsung Hero campaign aimed to address this, and its impact has been profound.

“From a stalwart Youth Coach whose unwavering dedication spans 45 years of service to the same club, to a vigilant Club Welfare Officer tirelessly championing a safe and inclusive environment for players, to a dynamic duo who, through their community football club, have revitalised a small corner of Derby city. Our campaign has cast a spotlight on an array of grassroots heroes, each greatly deserving of recognition.”

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