Newton and Earlestown Community Group Awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

02 Jun 2021


In recognition of their work done both during the Coronavirus pandemic and in the wider community, Newton and Earlestown Community Group have been awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service; the MBE for volunteer groups. This is the is the highest national award given to local volunteer groups across the UK. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, and is awarded for life.

Marie Ablitt, Chair, said: After a very rigorous selection process we are delighted and honoured to announce that Newton and Earlestown Community Group have been awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. The QAVS is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK, and is the equivalent of an MBE.

We’d like to dedicate this award to all our hardworking volunteers who give their time and effort freely, without demanding thanks or recognition. We could not do what we do without you.”

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is for exceptional groups of volunteers who are making a positive impact in their community and benefiting others through their work. Recipients are groups of volunteers who have taken the initiative to create, lead and drive forward the work of their organisation and are doing this in a way that is truly distinctive and excellent.

The selection process involves several stages of scrutiny, including a face-to-face assessment with a group of Deputy Lieutenants looking at the exceptional impact the group has had in the community, and is aimed to provide recognition for volunteers who have taken the initiative to create, lead and drive forward the work of their organisation in a way that is truly distinctive and excellent.

Newton and Earlestown Community Group is a non-profit organisation which was set up by likeminded people with a mission to foster community spirit and put pride back into the town. They have a core committee group coming from a wide range of professional and academic backgrounds, as well as several regular volunteers and a wide pool of ad-hoc volunteers who they can call upon for different projects.

The group’s key strength is in mobilising community support for a cause, and supporting with publicity, logistics, and using an action-focussed approach to raise awareness and address an emerging issue.

NECG are well known for running the biggest free family event in the North West, Newton Town Show, but the work of the group is much wider than this.

The group’s core committee members include individuals with a wide range of experience and expertise and a wealth of local knowledge and contacts, meaning they are able to adapt and flex to accommodate any situation which emerges. The group also has a good sense of local needs and priorities, and are able to set up events and campaigns which fit in with the public mood meaning we have a tremendous response from the public.

Community Group members responded to the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, working with other organisations to establish a food-poverty emergency foodbank delivery process. Raising over £10,000 in donations and grants the group were able to keep those in need supplied with food and other essentials whilst they were unable to access shopping and other services. Over the lockdown period NECG was able to support over 2000 local families.

To celebrate VE Day the group arranged a scarecrow competition and were absolutely overwhelmed by the fantastic response from the whole community. Well over 700 families took part, and the group were delighted to be able to ask local champion Johnny Vegas to choose the lucky winners and present the prizes.

At the start of spring, before coronavirus restrictions took hold, the grouptook advantage of the clear dry weather to hold a free event building bat and bird nesting boxes, as well as bird feed balls. Hundreds of families took part, under the guidance of the fantastic Mesnes Park Rangers, and made a variety of bat and bird boxes for use in the garden. These will provide an excellent boost to local wildlife, and it was good to put some up around the local bug hotels, which are going strong!

As Easter approached Newton and Earlestown Community Group wanted to find a way to cheer up children who were in lockdown and hadn’t been able to see their friends and family. With some brilliant help from Tesco and Aldi they were able to obtain 2500 Easter eggs, and deliver one to every primary school-aged child in Newton-le-Willows. A fantastic army of delivery drivers gave up their Easter Monday to make this project a roaring success!

As lockdown restrictions were changed and a partial return to normality seemed to be on the horizon, the group anticipated another pinch point for many families would be the purchasing of new uniforms for children returning to school or starting school for the first time. Yet again the fantastic Newton-le-Willows community exceeded all expectations and donated well over 2 tonnes of surplus uniform items. Collaborating with Wargrave Emmanuel church the group were able to set up a well organised uniform bank, taking orders from over 200 families for uniform for around 350 sets of uniform. Those in specific need were identified by working with schools very closely in the first instance, ensuring that help was provided to the most vulnerable families in the first instance before opening the bank up for self-referrals in the second phase, with an open visit facilitated when COVID restrictions allowed. The uniform bank is an ongoing project, and the group estimate to have provided uniform plus shoes and coats to local families to the value of over £13,500 so far through this project.

Newton and Earlestown Community Group would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has volunteered to support the group over the past 9 years.