A "godsend" hairdresser turned food bank champ is encouraging islanders to play their part to help those in need, warning much island poverty is “hidden”, as he accepted the TMF Lockdown Hero crown.
Dominic Basilio, who secured more than 60% of the public vote, leapt into action for the community after finding himself out of work due to the pandemic.
Instead of spending lockdown at home, he spent 12 weeks volunteering at the Salvation Army’s food bank, using his organisational skills to ensure the charity could meet the huge community demands put on it by the pandemic.
But not only did he help get a system in place for sorting thousands of groceries for struggling families, he went the extra mile by adding a personal touch to each delivery, ranging from colouring books to sweets and puzzles – each adapted to the children’s interests.
Pictured: Dominic has been at the Salvation Army every day the food bank has been opened over the last 12 weeks.
Dom was nominated by the manager of the Salvation Army café and charity shop, Ian Houillebecq, who praised the selfless commitment of the “incredible” stylist.
“We are so fortunate to have him as a volunteer… He is the kind of guy you are just privileged to know. He never complains, he just gets on with it. He was a godsend to us.”
When Express told Dominic he had officially been crowned the top TMF Lockdown Hero, the chatty hairdresser was nearly lost for words – but said he would celebrate with a “little victory dance”.
He noted that he “didn’t do it for the recognition”, but noted that, “at the end of a bad situation [lockdown], it is such a nice thing… I have never won anything in my life!”
Although Dominic is now “thrilled” to back in the salon as lockdown restrictions have eased – despite it being “absolute madness” – his dedication to the Salvation Army continues.
Pictured: Dominic worked with other volunteers to help pack thousands of bags.
He is still in near-daily contact with the food bank team, and is making the most of his flexible working arrangements to continue volunteering each Thursday – one of the busiest days of the week.
Speaking about the final day of his months-long stint, he explained: “When the food bank was all done and running efficiently, it was probably one of the only times I was super proud. It had been a struggle getting it all together and fine-tuned. On my last day, I was exhausted, but I was sad to leave.”
Reflecting on his overall volunteering experience, Dominic said it had been sad and eye-opening, but that he was happy to have played a part in helping vulnerable islanders.
While he had previously wanted to help at a Salvation Army soup kitchen, Dominic said he had been inspired to volunteer after responding to an appeal for donations at the beginning of lockdown and was concerned at what he saw.
Pictured: Dominic helped source colouring books, games, puzzles as well as sweets for local children.
“I went on my break with bags of food. When I got there, it was so mobbed. I’ve never seen so many people going there to get food and I felt really sorry. They seemed embarrassed and uncomfortable,” he recalled.
“I was in absolute shock how many people needed help... It is really scary how many people are struggling over here, you just don’t see it.”
With Dominic’s TMF Lockdown Hero crown also comes a £500 cash prize.
But, rather than treating himself, the community star has pledged to spend it on arts and crafts gear for the Salvation Army to distribute to families.
Pictured: Dominic says he is going to spend his £500 on art supplies.
“Not to sound like a cheese ball, but I think I’m going to take that money and clear the Entertainer’s shelves of arts and crafts and use them for the food parcels! Honestly, it was an absolute hunt [for arts and crafts supplies] every week. I kept posting on Facebook asking for them. Seeing as I’ve won a cash prize for Salvation Army, it’s only fitting that it goes on that,” he said, later joking that he will be returning to the food bank with a sack of gifts “like Santa”.
Dominic said he hopes that the community spirit shown during lockdown will continue, recommending that islanders try volunteering either at the Salvation Army or elsewhere.
"I would 100% recommend anyone to do it with any spare time they’ve got. It’s constant all year round, not just for the pandemic. They work so hard behind the scenes. I’ve left, but it’s far from over."
Michaela Harrison-Gray, Head of Trusts and Corporate at TMF Group, described Dominic as “such a worthy winner of this award”.
“His commitment to helping others - as well as personalising care packages, particularly for the children - shows you the sort of person he is. We are delighted to be able to award Dom for the part he has played in supporting the community during the pandemic.”
Pictured: Michaela Harrison-Gray, Director, Head of Trusts and Corporate at TMF Jersey.
Meanwhile, Karen Spurr and Eliana Zammataro-Cowsill are runners-up in the contest, and will each receive £250.
They were chosen as finalists by a panel of judges from scores of nominations.
Inspired by her frontline family members, nimble-fingered Karen taught herself how to sew cloth masks, going on to make hundreds for schools - including special ones to assist with lipreading.
She also created dozens of laundry bags for hospital staff to securely store their uniforms and prevent the spread of infection.
Pictured: Mask maker extraordinaire Karen Spurr.
Mum-of-two Eliana made ‘support local’ her mantra.
Throughout lockdown, she raised funds for charities, supported local businesses, and shared random acts of kindness with friends, family and the wider community.
Cengiz Somay, Managing Director of TMF Group in the Channel Islands, added: “We’d like to thank all those that have nominated, and voted for, their favourite lockdown hero.
"The number of entrants was impressive and demonstrates the community spirit across both islands."
Pictured: 'Genuine Jersey' mum, Eliana Eliana Zammataro-Cowsill.
“It’s great to see so many incredible gestures of kindness during such difficult times," he added.
Pictured top - left: Dominic captured on camera working at the food bank by Dasa Wharton.
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