The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything else

At the beginning of 2020 many of us were vowing to go to the gym seven times a week to burn off the extra mince pies consumed over Christmas, or promising ourselves we would learn a new skill. Instead, many of us faced heartbreak at the loss of loved ones, challenges in keeping businesses going and mental health struggles – sometimes all three and more. But the year also taught us about community spirit, hope and that New Year’s resolutions like being kind to one another are often more important than losing a few extra few pounds on the scales.

No stranger to challenges, the town of Llanelli has faced its fair share of struggles, but it is also an example of a community pulling together during the darkest of days. Here are some examples of brilliant things that happened in Llanelli in 2020: We smiled at our community heroes

Three-year-old Theo Jenkins of Llanelli with his toy delivery truck

Along with healthcare workers, everyday people proved to be heroes during 2020.

Normal people showing little acts of kindness were celebrated more than ever before and helped raise people’s spirits during the difficult year. Even the youngest amongst us wanted to show our appreciation, including three-year-old Theo Jenkins who used his Christmas present to put a smile on others’ faces, delivering food to frontline workers. Get stories like this straight to your inbox with our newsletters.

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything else

Theo from Llanelli along with his parents used his toy ‘Home Bargains’ truck to make his deliveries at a local ambulance station and care home.

His mum Fran said: “We got the idea because he said that he wanted to make people smile. “We’re just so proud that he cheered people up, they really deserve it.” Another to put a smile on people’s faces was 24-year-old Ffion from Furnace who has garnered millions of views and fans around the world, including in Australia and the US after dressing up as characters and providing viewers with little videos of inspiration.

Every day during the first lockdown, Ffion could be found sat in front of a camera dressed head to toe as a Christmas tree, weightlifter or Nessa from Gavin and Stacey. Now Ffion is recognised in the streets of Llanelli and people have been thanking her for brightening up their day with her pearls of wisdom.

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseFfion’s personal favourite character – Nessa from Gavin and Stacey

Ffion said: “The pandemic has been really hard but I have made sure to stay in contact with my friends and family to make sure that they are ok and I hope that I’ve made people smile.” You definitely have, Ffion.

The woman who helped cheer people up during lockdown:

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Celyn Mathews from Llanelli also spent her lockdown putting smiles on others’ faces by growing sunflowers from seeds and leaving them on people’s doorsteps. The young girl also set up a book exchange on her garden wall as a way to raise money for local food banks and the Welsh Air Ambulance. The town got a pop of colour

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseSteve Jenkins known as ‘Jenks’ was furloughed from his job and started painting pieces brightening up Llanelli

While rainbows hung in nearly every home window, somewhere else that was given a well needed pop of colour was Llanelli.

Dad-of-three Steve Jenkins was often spotted creating beautiful tributes to NHS staff, rainbows in unlikely places and homages to some of Llanelli’s most recognisable features. Steve, who goes by the name ‘Jenks,’ was commended by the community for adding a touch of colour to the town centre when it was most needed. We celebrated carers and healthcare workers

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseJordan said that all the carers had worked exceptionally hard under the circumstances

2020 was the year of the NHS and the year that we celebrated our amazing carers and health care workers for the incredible work that they do.

And there was no shortage of amazing people in Llanelli to commend, including 24-year-old dad Jordan Williams. The carer, who works at Ty Mair in Felinfoel, made an incredible sacrifice by missing the first months of his son’s life.

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseJordan was named a ‘care home hero’ after moving in to Ty Mair in Llanelli and being separated from his family

In order to continue caring for residents during the pandemic, Jordan moved into a room in the care home in Felinfoel in March, just weeks after his second son Jacob was born. “I love my job, the residents here aren’t just residents to me, they are like my family so I wanted to keep my kids safe while I could still help the residents here through the pandemic,” said Jordan.

More local businesses opened up in the town

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseInside the newly-opened Hwyl Coffi business in Llanelli

Despite being an incredibly testing time for businesses, the town centre has seen a number of amazing, new local businesses open up over 2020. Bombay Bites, an Indian restaurant in the centre of the town, opened on March, 9 – just weeks before the pandemic and lockdown was announced. Two new cafes also opened up in the middle of the town centre including Mizpah in Vaughan Street and Hwyl on Market Street.

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseJason and Viktoria also run the Ship Aground in Pembrey

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Owned by couple Viktoria and Jason Cross, Hwyl, opened during the week that the alcohol ban was imposed and all hospitality businesses were asked to close by 6pm.

But despite the closing of non-essential businesses, the new businesses are still offering Llanelli locals something new in the town centre which will hopefully improve footfall in the future. Hwyl owner Jason said: “The call was there, you go to Swansea or Carmarthen and there’s loads of nice places to have a drink, a cocktail or something to eat and Llanelli didn’t have anything like that – we really wanted to give it to people and get people coming back into the town.” We supported local businesses

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseLlanelli Market with social distancing guidelines in place

Along with new businesses, many of us realised the importance of supporting local businesses in Llanelli during a very challenging year.

Travel restrictions have meant that more of us have been visiting our local corner shops, ordering from local restaurants and Llanelli market. Hopefully, this support for independent and local businesses as well as the town centre will continue long after the pandemic. We created entire field hospitals from scratch

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseThe new-look field hospital at Llanelli Leisure Centre, now known as Ysbyty Enfys Llanelli

It was a shocking sight to see community centres where locals have gone to watch sports, events and played games being filled with hospital beds in order to support local health services.

The project was one we never wanted to be necessary and thankfully most beds at the four field hospitals in Carmarthenshire have remained empty, although they have been used to an extent.

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseA food stall area is turned into a bay for beds at Parc y Scarlets

But the installation of 600 hospital beds in four huge venues over the course of just three weeks by a group of volunteers was an incredible feat. The four field hospitals dubbed ‘Ysbyty Enfys,’ was proof of how quickly the community pulled together when it was needed. We took part in and supported Black Lives Matter protests

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseBlack Lives Matter protests took place during the summer of 2020 in Llanelli The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseBlack Lives Matter protests took place all around the world including in Llanelli

The death of George Floyd during his arrest by police sparked international outcry and waves of Black Lives Matter protests around the world and in Wales, including in the small corner of Llanelli.

The movement which challenges white privilege and educates people on equality will be one of 2020’s most historic moments. The small town of Llanelli held protests organised by group, Stand up to Racism, and educated people on what needs to happen in Wales to achieve true equality. We supported the vulnerable

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseA number of well known Scarlets players lent a hand in providing essentials to vulnerable people

Along with community groups being formed to support the vulnerable and more donations to food banks a number of neighbours were checking in with each other more in 2020.

We also saw a number of rival grassroots rugby clubs at the heart of their community work together to help deliver care packages to the elderly and vulnerable as part of the Scarlets Community Foundation. With people self-isolating and the vulnerable and elderly finding it increasingly difficult to get essentials, hundreds of essential packages were delivered by rugby players across the region. Scarlets Community fund manager Caroline Newman said: “The clubs in the region have been amazing, they have jumped on board and it just shows how much of a vital part they are to the communities in the area.”

“We’ve had messages from grown men saying that seeing these boys doing something so worthwhile and helping others is making them really proud to be from the area.” We still celebrated Christmas Watch as a massive convoy of vehicles covered in Christmas lights is driven around Llanelli:

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Although the annual Christmas Carnival was not able to go ahead, local businesses in Llanelli decided to join forces to put together their own parade to make the community smile.

A huge convoy of around 30 vehicles made up of taxis, vans, and bin lorries bedecked with Christmas decorations and playing festive music snaked through the streets of Llanelli, much to the surprise of residents.

The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseLocal businesses took part in the convoy The brilliant things that still happened in Llanelli in 2020 despite everything elseAround 30 vehicles beeped their horns and played Christmas music during the parade

The parade was organised to cheer people up and give children a chance to see Santa Claus pass by, in a way that was safe. “They wanted to end the year giving something back to their community and the children, who have missed out seeing the Town Carnival,” said a spokesperson for the organisers. “The idea was to not create a gathering, but to take the Christmas Convoy to them in the community.

With the reaction from people it was surely needed, after the year we have all had.”

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