The village of Sleights is living proof that size does not have to be a barrier to creating a vibrant and thriving community in a rural location.
Although the community is diminutive, with a population of less than 2,000, the opportunities and support available for residents is not only extensive but has been growing as a result of the kindness and friendship shown by residents towards their neighbours.
While the coronavirus pandemic of the last year has galvanised residents in all communities to do more for their neighbours, that mindset was already well established in Sleights, with a strong network of organisations to provide formal support.
That is backed up a community where, of those asked, two out of three were involved in formal volunteering before the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
That may be an impressive figure, but the recent growth in numbers volunteering is equally noteworthy – up by more than half in the 12 months between 2018 and 2019.
A result of those levels of community involvement has been that three out of four said they felt there were interesting activities open to them, which they could both get to and afford to take part in.
Although small, the village has a range of businesses that provide natural gathering points for residents, as well as the convenience of local facilities.
Sleights also has other advantages to offer, such as the village medical practice, which has evolved into an informal community ‘hub’ rather than just providing the obvious role as a GPs’ surgery.
It provides a focal point for those needing help with issues from flooding queries to bus timetables, as well as supporting other organisations by promoting their activities and events.
When the pandemic struck, a network of Community Support Organisations was set up across North Yorkshire by the County Council to help to ensure assistance and support was available at grass roots level for those who needed it.
The Revival North Yorkshire organisation was already operating in Sleights before the health emergency and took on the CSO role, which continues, and it is hoped the body will work long into the future to help improve opportunities in the village.
Some individuals stand out within their communities. In Sleights, Graham Storer is among them.
He has been instrumental in the success of the Men’s Shed initiative, providing a focus for those who might otherwise succumb to social isolation and loneliness.
But his contribution to the village has not stopped there and his name is synonymous with youth work, providing opportunities for the younger generations, as well as other efforts to promote community well-being.
County Councillor Clive Pearson, who represents the area, said: “Sleights is a wonderful example of a caring community where residents work for the benefit of the whole village.
“Different people do different things, of course, but the result is a real sense of community where residents always have somewhere to turn, whatever their needs.”