Medal honour for caring Julie
She has dedicated more than 25 years to helping others.
And now Julie Duffy, head of the What? Centre, has been honoured with the British Empire Medal for her efforts to change the lives of thousands of young people.
A crowd of friends and family gathered in the Mayor's Parlour at Dudley Council House to watch Julie Duffy receive the prestigious accolade from The Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands, Paul Sabapathy CBE.
The 58-year-old from Wordsley has been the chief executive of The What? Centre in Stourbridge for 26 years and has transformed the organisation from a small advice centre to a large counselling and advice service that receives referrals from doctors across the borough.
It currently provides help to around 160 young people aged between 13 -25, giving advice and help on abuse, eating disorders, bereavement, relationship problems, sexual health, homelessness and many other topics.
Mrs Duffy, who was named in the Queen's New Year's Honours list, said: "I still can't believe that I have been given the medal. I didn't know that I had been nominated until I got the letter in the post informing me that I was being honoured. I was in shock and disbelief at being given such recognition.
"It means so much to receive this honour in Dudley. I can't think of another place I would rather be presented with the British Empire Medal. I see this, however, as recognition for everyone at the What? Centre and everyone that I have ever volunteered with."
Three years ago the centre in Coventry Street faced closure following the withdrawal of a £47,000 annual grant but, thanks to the hard work of Julie and her team, it was saved with money from grants and set its self up as a social enterprise.
The mother of two added: "It feels really good to be here after what we went through. At the time I was studying for my master in business administration and out of my experience of that our organisation carried out a creative problem solving.
"Having come through it all I don't think we will ever be in that position again and we are stronger for it."
The British Empire Medal recognises exceptional service worthy of recognition by the Crown, including people who engage in voluntary work and contribute to their local community.
The Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands, Paul Sabapathy CBE, who is the Queen's representative in Dudley, said: ""Julie is an outstanding pillar of the community, who has devoted a lifetime to supporting the local community.
"I am delighted to recognise her contribution on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. Julie's contribution is an excellent example of the Council's 'love your community' campaign which encourages residents to participate and celebrate where they live.
"On behalf of everyone in Dudley can I thank and congratulate Julie for all that she has done over many years for the citizens of Dudley."
One of her daughter's Laura, 33, added: "We are all very proud of her I can't think of anyone more deserving as my mother. She has done so much for The What? Centre and the young people of the borough."
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