TONIGHT is the night as Glasgow’s Community Champions are crowned.

The Grand Final, held in the spectacular surroundings of the City Chambers, rewards the men, women and children who go the extra mile for their communities.

All the heat winners, from the north west, north east and south of the city, will gather to hear who has triumphed across a range of categories.

And tonight’s event, supported by our partners Glasgow City Council, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue, Glasgow Community Planning Partnership and Glasgow Housing Association, is an extra special affair.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the awards, which were set up by the Evening Times and its partners to pay tribute to the unsung heroes working hard in neighbourhoods all over Glasgow.

Since the launch in 2008, the awards have changed format; the host has changed; even the city leadership has changed; and Glasgow itself is a very different place.

But the community spirit and sense of teamwork and support personified by the award winners at this glittering, emotional, joyful event, has remained the same.

And their passion for their city has never wavered.

Remzije Sherifi, who was one of the first Grand Final winners, says she will never forget the moment her name was called out as winner of the Public Service Individual award.

The community activist, who runs the Maryhill Integration Network, had arrived in Glasgow from Kosovo, where she and her young family had to flee for their lives.

She was one of the first female radio journalists in her home city at only 17. She lost her job in 1992, and almost lost her life as the Milosevic regime tightened its grip on the Albanian people who lived there.

Under her guidance and directorship, the Maryhill Integration Network, who operate a programme of activities in health, learning, art and dance to bring communities together, has gone from strength to strength.

She also used her experience as a refugee to help others, newly arrived in the city often from war zones and places of danger, helping them to settle in and overcome the fear and exhaustion many of them felt after their ordeal.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard my name at the Grand Final – it was very emotional for me,” recalls Remzije with a smile.

“There I was, in the City Chambers, such a beautiful building and surrounded by so many incredible people.

“It was very special.”

Remzije, who is now a grandmother, lives in Garnethill with her husband. The couple have three sons, who are now grown up and running their own businesses. Since 2009, she has won a clutch of different awards, including most recently a Saltire Society Outstanding Woman of 2017 title.

“I have been very lucky to win awards for my community work but the Glasgow Community Champions trophy was the first – and the one I feel is most special,” she smiles.

“It told me that here in Glasgow, you can be treated as equal, no matter where you come from, what age you are, what you do for a living.

“I was so excited to win the award – when I won the Saltire award I actually told them in my speech about Community Champions, as it still has such a special place in my heart.

“Glasgow is a special city, in fact – it is my home and my heart belongs here.

“As a parent, I know my sons would never have flourished or even perhaps survived if we had stayed in Kosovo, and I have seen them grow up and do well here, which has been wonderful. It was a second chance for us to come here.”

She smiles: “Winning a Community Champions award is something I will never forget. It gave me the feeling of belonging.”

Some of the biggest cheers on that first Grand Final night went to St Paul’s RC High School, whose community volunteer pupils picked up the Young Community Award.

Headteacher Lisa Pierotti, who picked up the award with pupils Pamela Brogan, Claire Dowling, Evanna Lyons and Kirsty Madden, says she still has a tear in her eye when she looks back at the event.

“It was a wonderful thing to be part of, a really special event,” she adds. “It reinforced the importance of being part of your community, which is very important to all of our pupils. We have kept our community links going over the last 10 years with all kinds of activities, from organising Christmas parties for local primary schools and afternoon teas for pensioners to animal cruelty campaigns and stress reduction mentoring - there is always something going on.”

Over the last 10 years, a host of famous faces have compered the event, from original MC Heather Suttie, to STV presenter Louise White, comedian Libby McArthur and singer Michelle McManus.

The winners themselves have been inspiring heroes – 2016’s Young Award winner Martin Gallacher, for example, the 17-year-old Holyrood Secondary pupil who devotes all of his spare time to helping others despite his own personal heartache and battle with a rare heart condition; and the 2011 ‘champion of champions’ the incomparable 101-year-old Margaret Miller, from Springboig, who was still volunteering after 70 years of helping others.

There have been many moving moments too – emotional tributes to posthumous finalists such as PC Derek McDowell, who patrolled the Greater Pollok area, and Knightswood neighbourhood watch pioneer Jimmy Young, back in 2010;

And there have been plenty of laughs - few people who were there will ever forget last year’s impromptu conga, led by outgoing Lord Provost Sadie Docherty, round the City Chambers’ grand banqueting hall…

Evening Times Editor Graham Shields, who also took part in the conga, sums up why the Glasgow Community Champions Awards have held a special place in the heart of the city for a whole decade.

He explains: “There is no other awards presentation like Glasgow Community Champions.

“It is a joyful, emotional celebration of all that is good about the city and the people who live, work and play here.

“It’s been a real privilege for the Evening Times and their partners, Glasgow City Council, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue, Glasgow Community Planning Partnership and Glasgow Housing Association, to host the event for 10 years and I hope, for many years to come.”

Mr Shields adds: “There are people working hard for the benefit of everyone else in neighbourhoods all over the city. They don’t look for rewards, or even recognition, but the rest of us want to show them how grateful we are for everything we do. They don’t just sit back and wait for others to do the work – they get up and do it themselves, and that is truly amazing and inspiring. I can’t wait for tonight’s celebration – it promises to be another incredible evening.”