An HIV charity has received a prestigious award for its work in the community.
Brighton-based group Lunch Positive was awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service at a special ceremony, attended by the His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex, Andrew Blackman.
The award, the highest given to volunteer-led groups - equivalent to an MBE, was achieved in June - prior to the death of the Queen in September.
The citation for the award included commentary on the range and scope of Lunch Positive’s support in the community, its impact for people living with HIV and the community focus and uniqueness of the charity and its work.
The ceremony, which took place on December 2, was attended by the charity’s volunteers and members, who were all moved by the significance and importance of the award.
Gary Pargeter, the charity’s director, said: “We are overjoyed to receive this highest award for volunteer-led groups in the country.
“It stands as an amazing testament to the hundreds of thousands of hours given by our volunteers since Lunch Positive formed 13 years ago, and above all the exceptional quality of their leadership and work.
“Our organisation is ‘by and for’ people living with HIV and we are proud to have been formed, led and support provided by people living with HIV for others in the community.”
Alongside its HIV lunch club, the charity also provides a food bank and outreach, a befriending project, advice and information giving, a well-being programme, peer support activities for those living with HIV and support groups across Sussex.
The charity has also recently launched a Tuesday warm hub as part of a recent cost-of-living project, which aims to help the most vulnerable during winter.
Mr Pargeter praised the charity’s “fantastic volunteers” and said: “The difference they make to the lives of others is outstanding.”
Lunch Positive has its roots in another organisation, Open Door, which was founded in the 1980s as a place of sanctuary for people living with and affected by HIV.
However, after the organisation was forced to close due to a lack of funding in 2008, Mr Pargeter teamed up with volunteers to continue the charity’s work through Lunch Positive.