Members of the Ballymoney Branch Royal British Legion have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
The Ballymoney Branch of the Royal British Legion is committed to supporting ex service personnel and local communities in the Ballymoney area to prevent social isolation through shared activities and cross-community integration.
The organisation has been recognised for the work which its 30 volunteers are doing in providing advice and services to challenge issues such as loneliness within the local community.
They promote the physical and mental well being of individuals many of whom live in areas of social deprivation. Comradeship is encouraged as well as actively encouraging opportunities for social integration.
Each year the Branch reaches out to and supports over 900 people in the Ballymoney area and assists, in partnership with Council, in the delivery of a number of community related programmes.
The Branch premises are used by a wide range of organisations in the Ballymoney area. Local members have also been involved with the Gurkha welfare Trust to build houses in Nepal.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by exceptional volunteer groups across the UK who are making a positive impact on the lives of others and to the benefit of their local communities.
The awards were, and still are, regarded as the equivalent of the MBE in the voluntary sector.
The prestigious honour was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation. The citation pertaining to the award for Ballymoney Branch Royal British Legion which is listed today in a special edition of The London Gazette reads “Volunteers meeting welfare needs of Armed Forces Veterans and Families in local communities”.
Subject to official guidelines relating to the Coronavirus pandemic representatives of Ballymoney Branch Royal British Legion hope to receive the award from Mr David McCorkell, Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim later this year.
Two volunteers from the Branch will hopefully attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s award.
Branch Chairman Mark McLaughlin stated “I am delighted that the work of our volunteers has been recognised with this prestigious award and it is testament to their commitment and passion in helping others.
“This has been demonstrated further during recent months when our volunteers came together to deliver food parcels and provide a telephone befriending service to those severely affected by the lockdown associated with the Coronavirus Pandemic.
“I am extremely proud of each person who gives up their time to help others often in sad and difficult circumstances. I know that last year 22 awards came to Northern Ireland with many, many voluntary groups carrying out wonderful work and for us to receive a reward this year is a huge honour for us.
“It is also my understanding that we are the first Royal British Legion Branch to have received the award. For me, having given thirty three years active service to the Royal British Legion, volunteering with some of the best people and as the Branch approaches it’s Centenary anniversary, to receive this reward really is the icing on the cake and I am so proud.
“Unfortunately due to the Coronavirus pandemic we may not be able to celebrate in the way we would have wished to but we will mark this occasion appropriately. I wish to thank the person/s in our community who felt that the work of our volunteers should be recognised and rewarded and for taking the time to complete the nomination process.
“I also wish to thank all those who were involved in the assessment process”.
The Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim, Mr David McCorkell, has expressed his congratulations to the successful organisations.
“I am delighted that three organisations from County Antrim have been granted the QAVS in 2020.
“The award is a wonderful achievement and it recognises the commitment and dedication of volunteers who make such an important contribution to their local communities.
“The importance of volunteering to civic life has never been more important than at the present time and I am delighted that so many volunteer groups across the County have been actively engaged in supporting their local communities during the present pandemic.
“I look forward to meeting the volunteers from each of the three successful organisations at their individual award ceremonies which will hopefully be organised in a few months’ time.“