Two of Devon’s top volunteer groups have received the Royal seal of approval last week as they were honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
Volunteers for St Luke’s Hospice in Plymouth and Acorn and Squirrels Riding for the Disabled in Exeter were among 187 groups in the UK to receive the prestigious award, the highest honour given to volunteer groups, equivalent in status to the MBE.
The two were nominated by members of the public who have seen the difference that volunteers have made to the lives of others or witnessed the benefits of a group’s work in their community.
The award sets the benchmark for excellence in volunteering and each year celebrates outstanding achievement by groups of volunteers who regularly devote their time to helping others in the community, improving the quality of life and providing opportunity for others.
This year's groups were presented with their award by Devon’s Lord-Lieutenant, David Fursdon, the Queen’s representative in the county, at a special ceremonial event on Thursday 30 July at County Hall in Exeter.
David Fursdon Esq, said: “This is a wonderful achievement by representatives of the voluntary sector in the county. The standards set for these awards are very high and the competition from other groups throughout the country is very strong.
“These awards give national recognition to the marvellous achievements of this year’s award winners and it should give inspiration to all voluntary groups and volunteers in the county.
"I hope seeing these awards encourages others to nominate voluntary groups carrying out crucial work in the County.”
Stuart Elford of St Luke's Hospice, said: “St Luke’s would be unable to operate without the dedication and support of all its volunteers, who selflessly give their time in a number of roles across the organisation.
"With more than 1,000 volunteers it wouldn’t be possible to individually recognise each and every one of them. However, being presented the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is a huge honour that reflects the significant contribution made by them all that allows St Luke’s to deliver exceptional care to people suffering from life limiting illnesses and their families, wherever they may be.
"Accepting this prestigious award on behalf of each and every volunteer also serves as a thank you to the community which holds St Luke’s dear to its heart.”
Sue Veale, from Acorn and Squirrels Riding for the Disabled, said: "Receiving the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is a huge honour for The Acorn and Squirrels Riding for the Disabled Group.
"Without the dedication and loyal support of all our volunteers who give up their time tirelessly each week, we would not be able to provide riding sessions for disabled people who benefit so much from this activity.
"To be honoured in this way has certainly been a source of great encouragement to us all.
The Queens Award for Voluntary Service was created by Her Majesty to mark the occasion of her Golden Jubilee in 2002. Groups must be nominated for the award, for example, by beneficiaries of their work, members of the public, representatives of public bodies, or other voluntary groups.
Full details can be found online at www.direct.gov.uk/thequeensawardforvoluntaryservice