Dedicated volunteers working for two Bedfordshire charities are celebrating after being honoured the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS), the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
The QAVS is a unique UK national honour created by Her Majesty the Queen to recognise the outstanding contributions that groups of volunteers make to local communities.
It has an equivalent status for voluntary groups as the MBE has for individuals.
This year Autism Bedfordshire and the nearby Keech Hospice Care were both given the prestigious award.
Autism Bedfordshire has worked in the area for nearly 30 years, providing services to autistic people to help build their confidence, self-esteem and social skills.
The charity’s services have even been adapted to continue to help those in need and meet ever-changing demands, supporting autistic adults, children and their families during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lainey Montgomery, Chair of Autism Bedfordshire said: “We are so honoured to be awarded.
“My fellow volunteers are truly amazing and make this charity what it is by supporting and empowering autistic people across Bedfordshire to have better lives, better futures.
“We are eternally grateful and overjoyed to celebrate this achievement”
Emma Reade, CEO of Autism Bedfordshire, added a message to the volunteers who work with them: “Thank you. Thank you to all our staff and volunteers for resilience, dedication and using your skills to support autistic peoples’ lives – and their support networks.
“We are immensely proud of YOU our team for how quickly you have adapted our offer, to meet the significant demand for our services and support.
“It is overwhelming how tirelessly and innovatively you have all worked to collectively provide frequent online services and specialist support.
Meanwhile, volunteers at Keech Hospice Care were also recognised for the care they have given to 2,400 adults and children (over 1,600 patients and 700 relatives) in 2018/19 alone.
Liz Searle, CEO of Keech Hospice Care, said she’s delighted the charity’s volunteers and their dedication have been recognised.
“Without our 1,475 volunteers, we simply wouldn’t be here,” said Liz. “They’re the backbone of Keech Hospice Care and always go above and beyond.
“This award is a fantastic tribute to all their hard work and commitment, without which we would struggle to deliver services.”
“From 13 years old to 90 years young, our wonderful volunteers fulfil 111 different roles and bring multiple skills which – as a charity – we simply could not afford.
“From ensuring our 34 shops can remain open and lifeguarding so patients can use our hydrotherapy pool to catering, fundraising, voice banking and bereavement – the list is endless.
“For nearly 30 years, our volunteers have made Keech Hospice Care what it is today.”
At 16 years old, Fabia Chowdhury, is one of Keech Hospice Care’s youngest volunteers. “To get this award is brilliant and a total surprise,” said Fabia.
“I did work experience at one of Keech Hospice Care’s charity shops two years ago and I loved it so much, I’ve volunteered at the weekends ever since. I feel part of a family and the people I work with are amazing.”
Representatives of both charities will receive the award from Helen Nellis, Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire later this summer.
Two volunteers from Autism Bedfordshire and Keech Hospic Care will also attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.