A lifetime dedicated to the Ottery community
- Credit: Josefina Gori
Josefina Gori writes on behalf of Ottery St Mary Friends of Phyllis Baxter Action Group.
A lot has been said of councillors recognised for their work in their community but not too much we know of the work they have undertaken as individuals before, during and after the time they were in office.
One of these is Cllr Elli Pang who is serving in OSM TC for already 9 years and probably the first non UK councillor for Ottery.
Soon after moving to Ottery about 35 years ago from ‘up Surrey’, Elli became first involved in the local development trust, a government sponsored initiative, and arising from this in community projects that she either initiated or joined and eventually, becoming a Councillor.
Her work was acknowledged in 2018 when Elli received an award from the League of Mercy in recognition of her voluntary and long-term work and involvement in the community.
Without being asked, she was nominated by a number of highly respected members of the public.
This, with particular reference to the Ottery St Mary and District Later Life Forum (LLF) and her successful initiative to get a skatepark for Ottery, an entirely community-led, supported and delivered project.
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Also for her work in the field of health and care (NHS) and has been for many years, Chairman of the Ottery St. Mary and District Health and Care Forum, her work as chairman of the Forum, one of seven Forums across East Devon, included retention of Ottery’s Community Hospital.
So we got in touch with Elli with the intention of asking her more about the beginning and work of the LLF – now in its 20th year - that has provided, with just a handful of its loyal and hardworking team support, entertainment and friendship fun, and activities for over 50s.
We asked Elli why she successfully instigated that Ottery should have a Skatepark. She said that young people who dream of becoming world champion skateboarders were being forced to skateparks outside Ottery so a solution needed to be found.
She added: “The need for a skatepark was amplified as skateboarders were endangering themselves riding on pavements and roads and even down the church steps having waxed these for faster descent.
"The danger of ‘run-away skateboards’ hitting pedestrians or escaping into the road and into cars did, of course, lead to the police and common sense to the (mostly) boys being warned by the police and angry members of the public, that their boards would be seized."
Elli eventually managed to find others with whom to start the work to get a Skatepark for Ottery.
Two years later Devon County Council gave them a site in Ottery. They put together a plan and were awarded a £37k grant from Devon Youth Bank and then started to fundraise in earnest, at the Carnival, at the annual Pixie Day with amazing support from Ottery residents and community groups.
Finally in 2014, the then Mayor of Ottery, Cllr Glyn Dobson formally opened the park.
It had taken 10 years of sustained work and also support of the town council to achieve this.
The skatepark, the fruits of their effort, is the legacy passed on to the current generation of aspiring skate/BMX/scooter champions that now has a great place to enjoy the sport. Long may it remain.
We didn’t have time to ask Elli what attracted her to Ottery but we are convinced that many in town are pleased that this lady who came to the UK from Austria in 1952 to 'learn English which she still hopes to do and who has proudly achieved settled status to remain in the UK' continues with her community aimed work.