An Exmouth woman was nominated for recognition at a well-attended ceremony in Exeter to mark International Women’s Day.

The two events, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, were hosted by Councillor Caroline Chugg, chair of Devon County Council, and each of the invited women had been nominated by their communities.

It follows Cllr Chugg’s pledge, made in her inauguration speech last May, to recognise ‘women who have achieved’.

The events celebrated those women who have gone beyond the call of duty to help others, who have made a difference in their communities or achieved excellence in their field of expertise.

Claire Austin from Exmouth was nominated after she set up a Facebook group called Exmouth Friends in Need.

She was one of 150 women nominated by the communities for the event. Clarie’s group helps families and people struggling with money, food and housing. It was set up three months ago and it now has 3,100 members.

As a result, she has given up her job to help local people full time.

She said: “I have always wanted to help people I see struggling and it all started with a Facebook collection for the homeless. Then I collected 70 donated coats for people in (the migrant camp) Calais.

“After that I wanted to help those people closer to home and the level of poverty in Exmouth is really quite frightening.

“So many are struggling, I mean really struggling and some don’t have enough to eat. The foodbank can help with non-perishable goods, but many are waiting for their first Universal Credit payment.

“Six to eight weeks is a long time to go out without fresh food. So, I started collecting donated meat, fruit and vegetables and now I’m an official referrer for Exmouth Food Bank.”

Claire also opened ‘Claire’s Clinic’ where she works with Citizens Advice to help residents, many with mental health issues, who struggle to fill in forms and make applications.

She added: “With 1,000 new members a month I didn’t expect it to get so big.

“It was such a lovely surprise to be nominated, first I knew of when I received the phone call inviting me.”