A charity that supports visually impaired people across the Harrogate district has received the highest honour for voluntary groups in the UK.
Vision Support Harrogate District has been given the King’s Award for Voluntary Services, the equivalent of an MBE that recognises the country’s most inspiring volunteer-led groups.
Tanya Stimpson, the charity’s director of services, said everyone was “delighted and overwhelmed” to receive the award.
“Such a prestigious award recognises the dedication of our charity’s volunteers and the positive impact they have on our community. Some have been with us for 20, 30 and even 40 years. They give so freely their skills and experience, time, friendship and support; without them our charity would not exist.”
Vision Support Harrogate District offers practical services as well as emotional support, friendship and kindness to help visually impaired people live a full and independent life.
Among its long-serving volunteers is Ann Routledge, 85, who described the King’s Award as “wonderful news”.
“It just means everything to us. We are the only charity in the district for visually impaired people and this award is about recognising how much work we do.”
Vision Support Harrogate District helps people develop new skills and take part in a range of social and wellbeing activities, both at a drop-in centre in Harrogate as well as satellite meetings in Ripon and Pateley Bridge. It also offers a helpline, telephone befriending service and home visits.
Helen McGrath joined as a member when she lost her sight suddenly nine years ago at the age of 42. She now volunteers for the charity, using her experience to help others. She said:
“I’d be lost without this place. What they have done for me is immeasurable.
“It’s very hard to be told you’re losing your sight; you can feel like your life has come to an end. But coming here made me feel like my life had restarted on a much more positive path.”
Val Pilkington, 75, worked at the charity before becoming a full-time volunteer along with her husband Steven when she retired around ten years ago. She said:
“Support is the big word; the members and the volunteers all support each other. It’s just like a family, everybody pulls together and it’s very rewarding indeed.”
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“Throughout Vision Support Harrogate District’s 102 years of service, volunteers have led the charity and provide lifelong educational, social and wellbeing services and activities to those in our community who have sight loss. We will display this award with pride, remembering devoted volunteers past and present.”
Sculptures made by members of Vision Support Harrogate District will form part of an art exhibition at St Peter’s Church from November 21 to 26.