DISABLED swimmers have hailed one of their most dedicated volunteers by nominating her for a Community Pride award.

Noreen Astbury, 67, has worked tirelessly for the New Earswick Disabled Swimming Club for 20 years - despite suffering from the painful spinal condition spondylosis.

Now her quiet energy and enthusiasm have been brought into the spotlight by club member Daphne Doran, who has put her forward for the Volunteer of the Year category in our awards - backed last week by the Duke of York.

The swimming club has nearly 100 members with illnesses ranging from Parkinson's disease to learning difficulties, and runs two one-hour sessions each week at New Earswick swimming pool.

Club volunteers are on hand to help members into the water and to act as lifeguards.

Noreen explained: "There's something wrong with everybody who comes to the pool. We encourage people with disabilities to swim and exercise in warm water.

"The club gives them confidence - they meet other people.

"Doing exercises in warm water uses all your muscles - it's very relaxing.

"If you go into an open pool you get looked at - people gawp at you. It's embarrassing and it makes you feel uncomfortable."

As club secretary, Noreen is in charge of taking members' names as they arrive at the pool with their carers, and arranges all the group's social events.

Daphne said in her supporting statement: "Noreen puts in so much work - nothing is too much trouble.

"She chats to everyone at the desk, encourages and helps them with whatever they need.

"She visits any members who are ill at home or in hospital and takes some of them shopping."

The Evening Press is searching for community heroes - people whose unstinting efforts to help those around them or improve their environment make a real difference.

These people ask for no reward - and that's why we need you to let us know who deserves recognition.

We also want to hear about businesses that demonstrate outstanding customer care and schools doing worthwhile projects in the community.

To nominate your community heroes, study the entry form carefully and fill in the category you think is most suitable for the person, group or school you want to see recognised.

You will need to include a supporting statement giving reasons for your nomination on no more than two sides of A4.

The deadline for all entries is July 15.

Our judges will select three finalists in each category, and winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on October 20.

We still need sponsors for our awards.

For more information on sponsoring an award category, phone Nigel Briggs at the Evening Press, on 01904 567168, or email nigel.briggs@ycp.co.uk.

Updated: 10:56 Monday, June 20, 2005