A former prisoner has been named the most inspiring individual in Doncaster’s community and voluntary sector.
A one-time rugby league star who has served a string of jail sentences for violence, Allen Langham has seen his life dramatically turned around since he became a born-again Christian while still behind bars.
So much so that he has returned to his old club, Doncaster Dons, as assistant chaplain, and has also set up a ‘Community Interest Company’ called Steps to Freedom – www.stepstofreedom.co.uk – with the aim of “together putting the heart back into community” specifically by helping families who have fallen on hard times.
Now he has won the ‘most inspiring individual’ category at the Doncaster CVS (Community and Voluntary Services) Awards held at the Keepmoat Stadium on Friday.
Businesswoman Lisa Johnson nominated him for the accolade after watching the tireless way he has gone about helping the needy over the past year.
Managing Director of Jarvis Johnson, specializing in recruitment for the food and drink manufacturing industry, Lisa first heard about Allen last Christmas when he made an appeal for donations of food, clothing and accommodation for the homeless and victims of domestic violence.
“I just really admire what he does. What has really impressed me is the way he galvanizes others to get involved. I think he’s amazing. I’m very busy, what with running a company and having three-year-old twins, but when I heard about another woman with three children and no food in the fridge, I felt I just had to do something to help. And it was his enthusiasm and determination that got me involved.
“I heard about Allen’s background and what a great change he’s made in his life, doing so much more than you would expect of anybody.”
Allen (left) is pictured at the awards with mentor and ex-Barnsley football star Bruce Dyer, who runs a prison outreach ministry called Love Life UK. They first met in a prison chapel in January 2013 and, according to Bruce, Allen’s transformation since then has been “nothing short of a miracle” as, by the grace of God, he is now contributing back to a community he once terrified.
“He was nominated for the award with a project birthed out of simply having a heart to provide for people who had next to nothing as he himself was once homeless, addicted to drugs and in prison, and understands the pain of being at rock bottom.
“Gold and diamonds are found in dirty places and, in Allen, I have found a diamond of a guy!”