Mary and Sheila are honoured for being ‘good neighbours’

Mary Beard and Shirley Foster
Mary Beard and Shirley Foster

Two inspirational women from Linslade who have made a difference in their local community for the last four decades have been recognised with a national honour.

Mary Beard and Sheila Foster have been given a British Citizen Award for their services to the community.

The British Citizen Awards (BCAs) were launched in January 2015, to recognise exceptional individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society. BCAs are awarded twice annually, and recognise ‘everyday’ people whose achievements may otherwise be overlooked.

Mary and Sheila have been raising funds for their local community since 1977, when they held their first fundraising coffee morning to help a neighbour have a dialysis machine at home. Every month since then, they have organised a coffee morning and have held other fundraising events including raffles and bring-and-buy stalls, with all the money raised has been used locally to support the community in many different ways. Special events are also held, including garden parties, a Christmas fair, theatre trips, Royal occasions, other visits and also two holidays each year within the UK.

They soon became known as the Golden Riddy Good Neighbours, after the street they both lived on.

Over the years, their efforts spread from raising funds in local streets to the rest of the town, and more residents became involved so they renamed themselves the Golden Riddy Good Neighbours and Friends.

Ten years ago, the Lord Lieutenant approved a visit to the Queen’s Garden Party in recognition of the community spirit engagement by the pair.

Mary and Sheila will be amongst 30 medallists who will be honoured at a prestigious ceremony on July 6, at the Palace of Westminster. All BCA recipients have positively impacted on society undertaking various activities in support of a number of causes. Each will receive a Medal of Honour, inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’. Medallists are also invited to use the initials BCA after their name.

Mary and Sheila were nominated for a BCA by Raymond Nibbs, who said: “Every community needs leaders to bring them together and these two ladies have been doing this for nearly 40 years.”

Speaking about her nomination, Mary said: “I was a bit shocked when I first found out about the award, and was obviously very honoured that Ray nominated us. A part of me also thinks ‘why us’, as I am part of a lot of groups and I see a lot of people doing a lot of things for others.”

Sheila added: “The coffee mornings are a great social gathering and our thanks go to those who open their homes for them. The day trips became the start of the holidays, which were short breaks and are now a week long, visiting many different places in the UK - to many we are known as recycled teenagers! I’d like to say thanks to those who support us and also to Ray, and Margaret, for this nomination.”

The awards are in partnership with customer experience management company, InMoment, and are supported by the world’s largest optical retailer, Specsavers; one of the largest property and leisure management, development and regeneration companies in the UK, Places for People; leading ethical law firm Irwin Mitchell; the UK and Europe’s leading palletised freight distribution company, Pall-Ex, owned by BCAs patron Hilary Devey; and specialist marketing, PR and communications agency, Lime Marketing – who each had representatives at the assessment day and will be presenting the awards in July.