A community shop manager in Oxfordshire hailed as a community hero has been honoured with a High Sheriff Award at a ceremony held on Monday 29 February.

Maralynn Smith (pictured above, second from the left) has been recognised for the outstanding contribution she has made to her community in her capacity as manager of Islip Village Shop, not only being a constant source of support to residents but transforming the shop into a thriving and vital hub of the village.

Islip Village Shop has been operating since 2000 under community ownership. When it first opened 15 years ago its offer was limited, opening for just a few hours each afternoon and stocking basic goods. Although manned by dedicated volunteers, there was no expectation that it would make a profit; the community were making ends meet to provide some sense of what had been lost when the last village shop closed.

However, when Maralynn took the reigns as manager she breathed new life into it, and into the community, making sure the shop stocked every essential as well as locally sourced produce and even luxury items. It opens every day and for the past decade has made enough profit that it now reinvests back into other community projects, from youth clubs and sports facilities to social events for the over 60s.

When village residents are unwell or otherwise housebound, Maralynn makes sure to check daily that they have everything they want and need, makes special purchases when needed, delivers items, and even drops everything to take patients to hospital. In 2015 Maralynn was a finalist in Plunkett Foundation’s Unsung Hero Award, in which judges commended her dedication to the community.

Henrietta Leyser of Islip Village Shop committee said: “By any standards Maralynn’s contribution to our village has been outstanding. She has transformed the shop so that it is now perfectly possible to live well on its produce; no-one need ever venture out in snow, nor fear getting too old to go shopping – Maralynn will organise a delivery. Nothing is ever too much for her. Thanks to her the shop’s future is now secure.”

Speaking at the awards ceremony, incumbent High Sheriff Tom Birch Reynardson said: "It's an enormous privilege for me to be here, giving awards to some very special people.

"I am enormously grateful to everyone in the county for the huge efforts they make to make our society a more civilised one."

Islip Village Shop is one of 24 community-owned shops in Oxfordshire, and 337 across the United Kingdom. They are sustainable, democratic forms of businesses that succeed where commercial ventures have failed. In a climate that sees around 400 commercial village shops close each year, community-owned shops not only represent a better form of business, they directly respond to some of the key challenges facing rural communities today such as lack of services and isolation.

To find out more about Islip Village Shop click here.