Luton Irish Forum volunteers honoured with Queen’s Award
More than 50 hard-working volunteers at Luton Irish Forum were honoured with The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service last week.
The Queen's Award is the highest honour given in the UK for volunteering, the equivalent of an MBE to an individual.
Volunteers at Luton Irish Forum (LIF) have thrown themselves into community work during the Covid pandemic, helping thousands of local people who attended events at the forum.
On Friday, July 23, Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire Helen Nellis presented the award to LIF volunteers on behalf of Her Majesty .
The volunteers were nominated by Lord Bill McKenzie, a great friend and supporter of LIF.
HM Lord Lieutenant paid tribute to the work of LIF and its volunteers in the Irish community and praised the “sheer joy and warmth it gives across all the diverse communities in Luton.”
In 2020, LIF volunteers gave more than 3,300 hours of their time helping the most vulnerable and those at risk of social isolation. Highlights included an online St Patrick's Day celebration, delivering 50 complimentary Christmas dinners, plus bacon and cabbage meals at St Patrick’s, a befriending service and online bingo and get-togethers.
After lockdown and Covid restrictions, the presentation was a joyous occasion, with an opportunity for members to catch up and share news. In a summer where the weather has been unreliable, everyone was treated to sunshine, a buffet lunch and toe-tapping live music from Brian Burke, John Devine, Annette Hannigan and friends from Comhaltas.
Noelette Hanley, LIF Chief Executive Officer said, “Volunteers have been at the heart of Luton Irish Forum since local Irish people got together nearly 25 years ago to support each other and the Irish community in and around Luton.
"Today our volunteers are as just as vital to what we do in supporting the wider population with a welfare service, social, cultural, volunteering and employment skills opportunities.
“The world has changed, but what hasn’t is the commitment and hard work of our volunteers. I am inspired by them every day. They volunteer with massive smiles on their faces and continual good humour that you can see lifting the spirits of our members – and this is especially welcome in these difficult times.”
The presentation event was attended by a number of guests including Lord and Lady McKenzie, Deputy Lord Lieutenants of Bedfordshire Dr Robert Oakley, Reverend Lloyd Denny and Professor Gurch Randhawa, The High Sheriff of Bedfordshire Eric Masih, First Secretary of Irish Community & Cultural section in The Embassy of Ireland Isobel O’Connor, Luton Mayor Cllr Mahmood Hussain, Leader of Luton Borough Council Hazel Simmons, Luton South MP Rachel Hopkins, Luton North MP Sarah Owen, and Irish Youth Foundation’s Head of Fundraising & Development Donna Duffy.