GUISBOROUGH Bridge Association has been presented with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK, following the honour being announced in June.
The Lord Lieutenant for North Yorkshire, Jo Ropner, came to St Nicholas Church Hall in Guisborough to make the official presentation on Tuesday. The Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Graham Henderson, a Guisborough resident, was also present.
Mrs Ropner was welcomed to the hall by chairman of the Bridge trustees, Roland Miller, who outlined the activities of the Bridge Organisation Charity, which was established in 2001 by Guisborough churches and is based at the town’s Methodist Church in Guisborough.
Lord Lieutenant Jo Ropner addressing the audience and volunteers
Mr Miller told the Lord Lieutenant, guests and volunteers, that in 1998 there had been the weekly soup and roll lunch at the Methodist Church Hall, offering food and friendship for the community. As new products were added, the churches in Guisborough got behind the organisation and began a charity in 2001. Since then, it had grown with a variety of projects. In 2019, he recounted how the organisation had grown to involve children and young people, lunches and exercise classes for the elderly, the provision of food and activities for those struggling to make ends meet and supporting parents in bringing up children. There is also the annual Christmas Day lunch for those on their own.
Former Senior Project Development worker Sheila Joselin receives her badge from the Lord Lieutenant
When Covid came along, Mr Miller said they had to change their focus with the food bank operating five days a week, collecting and delivering prescriptions, helping the elderly, and supporting youths and parents. He said that the Bridge then had to start juggling their needs with the availability of staff and volunteers. Rather than coming to the Bridge, they took lunch to the elderly, and rather than having the youth groups, they used the minibus to take youths to the playing fields. Many of the volunteers were unable to join in so they took on new volunteers.
Mr Miller said there is a committee of volunteers as Trustees of the Bridge Organisation, who do all the administration, planning, and finance, supported by 62 volunteers.
Mrs Ropner said that the award of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service was equivalent to an MBE. Mr Henderson said that people want help and so many groups had received support from the Bridge. He congratulated the Bridge and its volunteers for their massive contribution and describe it as a shining light in the community.
Stephen Kielty receiving his Volunteer’s badge from Jo Ropner
Guisborough Bridge is one of 244 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service was created in 2002 and aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups. Recipients are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of the then Queen’s Coronation.
The idea of nominating the Bridge Organisation and its volunteers came from Guisborough and Great Ayton Rotary Club, who sought out three local individuals, Colin Monson, Catriona Stewart and Brian Gleeson to provide statements of commendation and support for the Bridge for this award.