Dozens of Yorkshire voluntary groups given recognition by the Queen in latest awards
Now, in a year where it has rarely mattered more, that vitality and vigour of volunteer efforts is to be honoured in thanks from the Queen.
Dozens of groups in Yorkshire are today recognised with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the most prestigious celebration of such enterprise across the UK.
Among volunteer leaders, having held onto the knowledge in anticipation of today's announcement, there have been joyous smiles of secret celebration.
"I haven't told anybody yet, but I know they will all go absolutely bonkers," said June Perkin, founder of The Growing Zone, a community allotment in the village of Kippax.
The project, created from five derelict allotments, supports children and adults, including some with disabilities and learning needs.
Here they can learn about the land, grow vegetables, flowers and fruit, and enjoy a safe and happy space supported by friendly volunteers.
"It's difficult to describe what this will mean to everybody," said Ms Perkin. "It will raise the roof when they hear. It's going to put smiles on the faces of so many families."
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) is the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK, honoured by each county's Royal representatives, the Lord Lieutenants.
It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee with nominees announced today, on the anniversary of the Queen's Coronation.
Nationwide, some 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups have been recognised and, across Yorkshire, it demonstrates a thriving and vibrant volunteering community, from homeless charity Happy Days in Kirklees and Calderdale to Dementia Forward in North Yorkshire.
Ruddi's Retreat in Huddersfield, providing respite breaks for young families following cancer treatment, has been recognised after a decade of service, and today says they couldn't be prouder.
"It pays tribute to the hard work and commitment of the whole of the team and the wonderful volunteers that have assisted us over the years," said founder Ali Waterworth.
Andy's Man Club, a mental health charity which has helped thousands of men nationwide, was set up after the sudden loss of young father Andy Roberts to suicide, at the age of 23.
His mother Elaine and brother-in-law Luke Ambler launched talking sessions in Halifax to break the stigma around male suicide, and to create a safe space for men to talk.
All they had ever hoped, said Mr Ambler, was to prevent a single family from experiencing the pain they had, but now over 750 men visit one of 50 clubs every week, supported by 250 volunteers.
"We want to keep helping men and this award only motivates us further to keep going from strength to strength and keep helping that one man in their hour of need," he said.
And at a small conservation area, set up behind Cambrai Lines in Catterick Garrison in 1992, a nature reserve is thriving.
An estimated 740,000 people have visited Foxglove Covert, which has been sustained through 65,000 hours of volunteer labour over the past four years alone.
Volunteer Roger Suddaby said there was a sense of pride and pleasure at today's acknowledgement.
"It's one of the things that's kept us going this past year," he said. "Volunteers get as much out of it as they give. We look at it as giving back to the community, but at the same time enjoying ourselves in such a beautiful place."
A once derelict museum gifted a new lease of life by volunteers to become one of the district's most celebrated attractions is also among those to receive Royal recognition.
The Calderdale Industrial Museum Association, honouring the area's wool making and engineering history, only reopened in 2017 and now has additional cause for celebration.
Not only has it been awarded the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service but the association has agreed to lease the building, neighbouring Halifax's famed Piece Hall, until at least 2027.
“This national award and local agreement recognises the hard work put in by our members and supporters over many years, for which we are immensely grateful,” said chairman, Tim Kirker.
“Apart from the security which the lease provides, it will open up more opportunities for fundraising."
The museum aims to record, preserve and display the story of how Calderdale has developed from the industry of its past, and was named a 2020 Traveller's Choice Winner by Tripadvisor.
Awards assessors credited the team's "tremendous achievements" and said volunteers should be proud of their work within communities. Calderdale Council leader, Coun Tim Swift, praised the energy, commitment and enthusiasm of the team, while Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire Christine Harris, lauded volunteers' "stoic determination" to rise above adversity.
The museum, in Square Road, provides a safe haven for many retired and often lonely or vulnerable people, with charities referring clients including asylum seekers.
It has 130 registered volunteers, including accountants, librarians, plumbers, teachers, nurses and insurance workers.
Among other things, the museum records the history of the Mackintosh toffee factory, Percy Shaw’s reflecting road studs, Crossley Carpets, the Shibden Valley coal mines, Butlers, Stirk and Asquith machine tools and engineering firms as well as the former Halifax Building Society.
Roger Swift and his wife, Pauline, have been actively involved for six years.
The former print engineer has family links to the museum - his father, Raymond, built some of the brick bases beneath many of the heavy machines and Mr Swift has been helping to restore the waterwheel and fulling stocks, as well as doing a variety of other jobs.
“Halifax has such a wealth of industrial industry and I want the next generation to understand how that came about," he said.
There has been a record number of awards across West Yorkshire in particular, with some 19 groups to be honoured by the Queen's representative in the county, Lord Lieutenant Ed Anderson.
There has been a flood of nominations this year with the result being the highest ever nominations, second highest in the whole of the UK.
Two volunteers from each group are also invited to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace next year.
“I am delighted that so many West Yorkshire groups have been recognised in this year’s awards," said Mr Anderson. "As we carried out our assessments last autumn, we were very impressed by the commitment of all these groups to working tirelessly for their local communities."