They come from every corner of the city and represent all conceivable fields of community endeavour. 

In terms of age, some boast student cards, others bus passes.

They are men and women who worship at all churches and none and they proudly span the ethnicities and cultures which make a modern city sing. 

But despite their differences, what they share is the belief that the real test of a person isn't what they get but what they give.

That's why when the Covid blitz rained down, they raced, not to shelter, but to help their neighbours.

They are the beating heart of Belfast and we're proud to say they are well-represented on the Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic shortlists for the 24th — and most extraordinary ever —  Aisling Awards.

A full roll call of the Aisling Awards 2020 nominees — published on page 19 — illustrates the generosity and resilience of the people of Belfast but it also flags up how difficult it will be for our Aisling Awards judges to chose a winner in each category.

Among our unsung heroes of the pandemic in these virtual awards which are made possible by the support of premier partner Open University are:

  • West Belfast Partnership Board which distributed iPads and tablets to the less well-off, including refugees and asylum-seekers, to ensure they didn't lose out during the lockdown homeschooling revolution.
  •  Linda Duffy of 174 Trust in North Belfast who refused to bring the shutters down on her Disability Club despite the pressures of the pandemic but continued to provide support to the disabled and their families.
  • Glór na Móna Irish language hub which was at the heart of the remarkable Ar Scáth A Cheile community solidarity initiative.
  • Tennents which shipped 20,000 bottles of Tipperarary Water direct to frontline hospital workers tackling the first coronavirus surge.
  • Singing troupe the Broads who performed from car park to seniors locked down in our care homes
  • O'Donovan Rossa GAC whose members completed a virtual run of 32 county grounds for St John's Ambulance Service.

Compering this year's salute to our Covid heroes will be Lynette Fay and Barra Best of the BBC who will broadcast from the NIAVAC studio in East Belfast.

The good news for nominees who will miss the traditional gala celebration in the Europa Hotel is that we will be delivering celebration hampers with refreshments to homes across Belfast to ensure that, even though apart, we will raise a glass together. 

For full details of this year's Aisling Awards, see this week's papers or visit our website.

Joining Open University to sponsor this year's online extravaganza will be Let's Go Hydro, Staffline, Foras na Gaeilge, TG4, Connected Health, Kennedy Centre and Urban Villages.