Midlands volunteer groups recognised by the Queen in awards
Volunteers across the region have seen their work recognised in the Queen’s Awards for Voluntary Servicey.
A residential centre for young people, a group working with disabled people and the largest Gurdwara in western Europe are among 20 organisations from the West Midlands being honoured in this year’s awards.
The awards recognise the exceptional service by the charities within their communities and the volunteers for their outstanding contributions.
The Birch Thompson Memorial Fund, based in Wolverhampton, Dudley Voices for Change and Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick all receive the accolade.
Two volunteers from each award recipient will be invited to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021.
The organisations will receive their awards from the Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE later this year.
The Birch Thompson Memorial Fund was formed in 1981 in tribute to Colton Hills teachers Graham Birch and John Thompson, who both died in 1980.
The trust helps many young people from the multicultural and deprived areas of Wolverhampton with mentoring and an opportunity for small breaks away from home in the Gelliwig centre in Porthmadog in Wales.
The charity’s founder, Keith Berry MBE has been a driving force for the last 38 years.
He said: "I am delighted that the work of many hundreds of volunteers, some no longer with us, over the last 40 years has been recognised.
"The unbroken chain of volunteer teachers, youth club leaders, trustees and other key providers with their goodwill is a magnificent tribute to the two men who gave their lives serving children.
"The current trustees are determined to reach out to individuals and groups providing holidays and residential experiences for needy individuals and groups."
Wolverhampton had two award recipients, with Stratton Street Methodist Church Community Centre being rewarded for its work tackling issues of isolation, loneliness, boredom, anti-social behaviour, unemployment, education, nutrition, physical and mental well-being in its local community.
Dudley has one of the largest numbers of award recipients in the region, with four award winners.
Alongside Dudley Voices For Choice were heritage charity Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust, restoration and preservation group St John’s Church Preservation Group and adult employment and training charity Top Church Training: The Connect Project.
Dudley Voices For Choice gives people with learning disabilities and autism a voice on how life experiences can be improved by smashing down perceptions by making communities safe and facilities accessible
The organisation uses the experiences of these people to improve the world, advising councils, medical staff and many other organisations on changes that can be made to improve quality of life for many disadvantaged people.
Project manager Sarah Offley said it was a great honour to be recognised by the Queen and spoke of the meaning for the charity.
She said: "It validates everything we do as a charity and it's a really big thrill for the people that we're working alongside.
"Nearly all of our volunteers have learning disabilities or have autism, so for them to be recognised shows their work is such a valuable part of the charity..
"I'm very proud of the charity and it's just so overwhelming to receive an award such as this."
Established in 1961, the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick is one of the oldest and largest in the United Kingdom which voluntarily provides a range of services for the community.
More than 200 volunteers work to run the Gurdwara, with the Langar kitchen preparing 10,000 meals per week for anyone of any faith who walks through the doors.
The Gurdwara has been a pillar of the community for many years, providing food and help services to vulnerable people and engaging in public campaigns such as clearing up the Smethwick canal path.
Gurdwara president Jaswinder Singh said the award was recognition of the work by all the volunteers at the Gurdwara.
He said: "The Gurdwara provides a high standard of diverse services to meet the needs of the local community.
"On behalf of the management committee, I want to say a huge thank you to all involved since the establishment of Guru Nanak Gurdwara.
"Their work has helped to make it so welcoming, engaging and impactful for the diverse communities we serve in the name of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.”
The number of nominations and awards has steadily increased since the awards were introduced in 2002, with 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups nationally receiving the award this year.
Arts charity Black Country Touring in West Bromwich trains and supports volunteers to share the joys of having the arts as part of their lives with others in their community.
Co-artistic director Frances Land said the award was a real boost during lockdown. She said: "Our incredible team has included 251 volunteers and we are delighted that our work has been recognised. It’s a real tribute to the hard work and commitment our volunteers bring to the community."
Jen Bradley, general manager for Stourbridge-based adult learning disability charity Discover U, spoke about how proud everyone at the charity would be to receive the award.
She said: "We are delighted to be acknowledged in this way and for our work to be given this accolade.
"Everyone is going to be so proud at the centre because the volunteers, members and staff put in so much work and it reflects in our family mentality.
Walsall saw one charity receive an award, with dementia charity Walsall Link Line being rewarded for its support for sufferers and their families through care and therapy.
Other award winners from around the region included Bewdley-based charity St George's Hall Volunteers, which runs activities at the hall and perinatal mental health service Acacia Family Support in Sutton Coldfield.
Birmingham-based charities had the most recipients in the region with five through community projects Fox Hollies Community Association and Ladywood Community Project, community clean-up charities Handsworth Helping Hands and Soho Road Business Improvement District CIC and garden of sanctuary Martineau Gardens.
Finally, Coventry charities had two recipients and Solihull one, with children's shoes charity Coventry Children's Boot Fund and volunteer co-ordinators EnV Coventry CIC - Coventry Ambassador Programme and sight-loss charity Solihull Borough Talking Newspapers all being rewarded for their work in the community.