A KIND-HEARTED Bankie who gave up his job to set up a “lifeline” charity for vulnerable people has been named the 2018 Citizen of the Year.

Jim McLaren, founder of Golden Friendships, claimed the top accolade during a ceremony at Clydebank Town Hall in which local heroes were honoured as part of the 2018 Provost’s Civic Awards.

The accolades reward people who have gone above and beyond to make a difference in their community, ranging from dedicated volunteers and fundraisers to talented arts, culture and sporting achievers.

Jim runs a group which provides fun activities for the over 60s, individuals and families affected by mental or physical difficulties, and people in care homes. The man who “made people smile again” was also named winner of the Community/Voluntary Individual Champion category.

Jim, who left his job as a taxi driver last year to launch the club, told the Post: “I think the award shows what we’re doing is worthwhile and something that’s needed in the community. We’ve seen so many people grow in confidence. It’s wonderful. It’s amazing.

“I hate taking credit – I set it up but everybody’s jumped on board, and it’s all about the ‘we’ and the team. It’s all the people helping us. I couldn’t do it without their help.

“I’ll just keep singing and dancing and hopefully people will join in.”

In a touching speech on the awards night, Jim claimed the award was “an absolute honour”, and praised all who contribute to groups in their community.

And Provost William Hendrie said he and the judging panel were “bowled over by Jim’s dedication and selflessness”.

The provost added: “He demonstrates an inspirational level of commitment to improving the lives of so many people here in West Dunbartonshire and we were blown away by the stories his community told about him.”

Andy Gallagher, who coaches at Disability Futsal Club in Clydebank, was crowned Sports Champion.

An overwhelmed Andy told the Post: “It means everything to be honest – it means the world.

“I’ve only been doing it for a year – it means that I’ve done something.

“I haven’t really thought about it much yet but hopefully it’ll spur the club onto bigger and better things, to get more opportunities and more people coming in.”

Kevin Crawford, who set up Clydebank Disability Group, was named as a runner-up of the Community/Voluntary Individual Champion category.

When Jim won his award he praised Kevin as an a source of encouragement and reiterated “there’s no ‘i’ in team”.

In response, Kevin said: “The most heart-felt bit of the evening was when Jim stood up and said what he said – that’s really what we do and for him to say that was really nice.”

In other categories, Dumbarton District MS Group, which also serves Bankies, was named Community/Voluntary Team Champion.

Dana Louise Dolan, 12, from Dumbarton, was crowned Arts and Culture Champion for her achievements in Highland dancing, while singer Ross Anderson and Allan Rutherford, of Awestruck Academy, were named runners up.

“It really means a lot,” Allan told the Post. “I’ve put so much hard work into Awestruck, to be recognised is a bonus. The evening was all about community.”

And this year’s Youth Champion was Bonhill Primary School pupil Harry Crossan, aged eight, who saved his two-year-old sister Evie’s life when she choked on a chocolate button, remembering vital life-saving skills he’d learned at school.

Provost Hendrie added: “Everyone on our shortlist has done something fantastic within our community and demonstrated values and commitment that are an inspiration to us all.

“I’m delighted I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many of them and properly recognise their effort and hard work. It’s one of the most humbling roles and I want to thank them all for the dedication, time, and commitment they have invested.”