THE good and the great of Worcestershire were celebrating their place on the Queen’s birthday honours list today.
Among them is the founder of an organisation which aims to give children the best chance in life after the pain of family breakdown has been awarded an OBE.
Gordon Lee, chief executive officer of Malachi Community Trust, has been awarded an OBE for services to children.
Mr Lee, aged 68, of Leigh Sinton, near Malvern, set up the charity in 1991 to help young people affected by complex and adverse family circumstances.
The father of three who also raised two step-children knows first-hand the effect of family breakdown, having been raised by a man who was not his biological father, only discovering this in his 20s. He said because of this he understand what it was like to be ‘on the inside’.
After running a building company in the 1980s he had what he called ‘a light bulb moment’ working as a church-based community worker which he said opened his eyes to the difference he could make. The charity runs both local schools contracts and national, Government contracts.
He said of his OBE: “My reaction was total shock. I was in the shower the day the letter arrived. My wife came rushing up the stairs saying ‘you have a letter from the Cabinet Office!’ I feel extremely honoured.”
He said of his work: “It gives them the best chance of getting the best out of their education. If you look at the research evidence children can be heavily disadvantaged if they don’t get a good sound, secure start.”
The organisation now employs between 50 and 60 people, supporting 100 schools in Worcestershire, Birmingham and the South West.
Meanwhile Dr Richard Taylor receives an MBE for services to the community in Worcestershire, especially to Kidderminster Hospital, which he fought to save from being downgraded.
The 79-year-old was the MP for Kidderminster between 2001 and 2010 and a former consultant at the same hospital before that between 1972 and 1995. He was elected on the strength of local concern about the future of that hospital which he fought to save, particularly the A&E which was downgraded.
He remains passionately concern about the future of smaller hospitals like Kidderminster and in retaining their services and financial viability. He is a life president of the locally-based Health Concern and a co-founder of a national political party, National Health Action, which seeks to safeguard the NHS.
Dr Taylor said of his MBE: “It is absolutely lovely. It is recognition that hospitals are desperately important to local people. I have worked hard and am rather pleased to get this recognition. I never dreamed of it. Having been an independent MP I thought I had queered my pitch politically. I am surprised and very pleased.”
He said he believed sometimes these awards were ‘routine’ with certain jobs but he said the ‘beauty of this is it’s nothing like that’. Dr Taylor admitted he had sometimes crossed swords with those in authority in the NHS, including the head of what was then the Worcestershire Health Authority, in defending local health services.
He added: “I think really the proudest achievement is, after two terms as an MP, that I can still walk around Kidderminster and be greeted like a friend. This (the MBE) is just the icing on the cake.”
He intends to stand as an MP for Health Concern in the next general election unless another member of the local party is prepared to fill his shoes.
Also receiving an MBE was Sheenagh Davis, aged 56, for services to children and families.
Mrs Davis set up the HOPE Family Centre in Bromyard in 1999, following years of running nurseries and youth groups in the community.
The centre offers a range of services, including emotional support, help in filling out forms and adult training.
“I’m very humbled and honoured to receive the award,” she said.
“I have to thank my family and the team at HOPE, who are all superb. I couldn’t have done it without them. I think my success is also down to my faith in God which has kept me going. I have done a lot within the community, but it’s a community which I really do love.”
Jean Davidson from Crowle was awarded her MBE for services to the Worcester community.
Chief among Mrs Davidson’s years of community involvement is her work running Dodford Holiday Farm near Bromsgrove, which offers disadvantaged children living in urban areas such as Birmingham the chance to spend a few days in the countryside
Mrs Davidson – who insisted she is “just an ordinary person” – said she had first become involved with running the project in 1956 and only stepped down this year after 58 years and described her personal mantra as “just get on and do it”.
“My interest in working for the underdog really started when I was working as a magistrate,” she said. “I realised how very difficult it is for some people to lead straightforward lives and they do need some help.
“I didn’t have an inkling this could happen.
“It’s very kind of whoever put me forward and I have to thank Her Majesty as well, of course.”
A British Empire Medal - re-introduced to the honours system in 2012 - goes to Philip Sawyer, who lives near Ombersley, for charitable services in Worcestershire.
The 81-year-old said he was “very surprised but delighted” to receive the honour for his work with the Six Masters Charity which is the governing body tasked with running RGS Worcester and 17 almshouse that are split between the school’s Upper Tything site and Infirmary Walk, as well as his fund-raising work for Ombersley Memorial Hall.
The charity was founded in 1561 when the school was granted its first Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I and Mr Sawyer became one of the Six Masters in 1974 and was chairman from 2002 to 2012.
He has given a lifetime of support and professional expertise to many Worcestershire associations, including Honorary Secretary of The Three Choirs Festival, Worcester Warriors Rugby Club, Worcestershire Rowing Club, and governor of Worcestershire NHS Trust.
Other people receiving an honour in Worcestershire today include:
- Sonya Hill, of Kidderminster. The Prince’s Trust force co-ordinator, West Midlands Police - MBE for services to policing and young people in the West Midlands.
- David Yates, of Evesham. Engineer and school volunteer Church Lench CE First School, Evesham - MBE for services to education.
- Julie Cowley, of Bromsgrove. Event co-ordinator, ICC Champions Trophy, Edgbaston - British Empire Medal for services to cricket.
- Elaine Daykin, Redditch. Founder of Special Olympics Redditch - BEM for voluntary service to Disability Sport.