AN "ANGEL" whose cafe provides sanctuary for the lonely elderly and hospital staff has been Essex' unsung hero of 2018.

Julie Taylor, who runs the "special" cafe at St Peters Hospital in Spital Road, Maldon was given the award at this year's Pride of Essex awards at Anglia Ruskin University.

Mrs Taylor said: "I am so proud to have been nominated and to win was amazing.

"St Peters Hospital is such a wonderful place to work and there is so much support from such a great community, including help and support from my staff, my volunteers and Provide, who are the service providers.

"We have so many customers from all walks of life these people are amazing."

Mrs Taylor's community cafe has been celebrated for the way it supports everyone who visits it, whether they are just buying a cup of tea or if they are rough sleeper in need of somewhere warm to sit and get some food.

She receives donations from the public and Maldon's Tesco branch.

The products are then bagged up and taken to the elderly who don't have enough food at home.

Olivia Sjollema, who was one of a number of people to nominate Mrs Taylor, said: "Julie Taylor’s community café at St Peters Hospital is a friendly and safe place where vulnerable folk can feel welcome.

"She provides essential support for hard up families and pensioners.

"I was inspired by her passion to start a collection myself at the Anglia Ruskin University."

Mrs Taylor was hugely appreciative of everyone who had shown her support during the awards and said she was "honoured" to be commended.

She said: "Thank you to everyone involved in the Pride of Essex, it was a fantastic evening.

"I feel so honoured to have been among so many wonderful people who do so much good throughout Essex, well done to each of you."