April Community Hero Winner

A woman who ensures vulnerable children do not miss out on Christmas has been crowned the next winner of the Maltings Community Awards 2019.

Cindy Reay McLean coordinates a donation project called St Albans Kids in Refuge, where generous locals can gift presents to children in refuges around the county.

Through the scheme, 500 residents have donated a range of gifts to the St Albans and Hertsmere Women’s Refuge and Welwyn Hatfield Women’s Refuge, including flat-screen TVs, PlayStations, and Xboxes.

Cindy also makes sure the vulnerable youngsters have chocolate eggs to enjoy at Easter and quality presents to unwrap at Christmas.

During the festive season, each child is given two gift selection boxes and the refuge receive a large food hamper.

She also liaises with the refuges to keep them topped up throughout the year.

Cindy explained how it all started in 2014: “I was sitting on the couch watching TV, I don’t remember what, and I just thought: ‘I wonder what I could do for children who don’t have a home at Christmas.’”

The 43-year-old, who spent about 20 years in South Africa before moving to St Albans nearly a decade ago, has three other jobs – childminding, running a business called Cindy’s Sand Art, and operating an independent travel agent service.

She said: “I just think someone has to do it. It costs nothing to help and I think of those kids and think, ‘That could be me, it could happen to anyone’.

“I couldn’t do it without everyone else and it is the community really – I just run it. They are the ones who gift and St Albans mums are so generous.”

As the April winner, Cindy receives £100 to spend in any of The Maltings shops and is entered into the Herts Advertiser Community Awards finals in September. She has chosen to spend her prize money in Pandora.

Maltings centre manager Phil Corrigan said meeting Cindy was humbling: “It always amazes me when our winner is almost embarrassed at being recognised as a community hero!

“They don’t like talking about themselves, I guess it just feels so natural to them to be doing good for other people.”

Find out more by joining the St Albans Kids in Refuge Facebook page.

Find out more about the refuges at