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Big turnout as church project presented with King's Award for Voluntary Service

From L-R: The Venerable Rick Simpson (Archdeacon of Auckland), The Revd Carol Harris, Mrs Sue Snowden (Lord Lieutenant of Durham), Paula Nelson (Project Manager) and Jessica Buckton (Lord Lieutenant's Cadet for County Durham)

On Thursday 18 April, members of the local community in Shildon gathered together to celebrate as Shildon Alive was presented with the King’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Shildon Alive, a community-based initiative set up by St. John’s Church ten years ago, supports families and individuals in crisis. Out of the 63 wards in County Durham, Shildon and the areas around it have the highest levels of poverty. According to their website, over 41% of children in the area live in absolute poverty.

The Hub based at 91-95 Church Street Shildon makes fresh meals out of surplus supermarket food. There’s a paid menu for those who can afford it, while food is available on a donation basis to vulnerable adults and free meals are available to school-age children.

The project also runs a food bank, a credit union and provides support for people facing issues such as financial poverty and unemployment. This includes help with benefit claims, housing matters and small grants for household goods, rent arrears and utilities.

Volunteers also include drivers who distribute meals on wheels, while the catering team provides opportunities for young people to work with food, grow in confidence and potentially lead to careers in the industry.

Project Manager, Paula Nelson said : “Volunteers are the driving force behind the project. Understanding how a community works and getting to know your community are the two most vital things when running a community project. It’s about building relationships.

“There’s always challenges but people know where Shildon Alive is and they know we’re there to help them.

“I love volunteering for Shildon Alive. You can see the volunteers are buzzing. I feel very overwhelmed and proud.”

The Revd Carol Harris was licensed as Priest in Charge at St John’s during Covid and is Chair of Shildon Alive. Speaking on the day of the award presentation, she describes how Shildon Alive transforms lives: “It gives people confidence, it gives people hope and a way of moving forward.

“Shildon is such a community where people look out for each other and Shildon Alive does that with the love of God at the centre. Everyone is precious and loved by God.

“People often feel that everything’s been taken away – the supermarkets went, so much was taken out of Shildon whereas everyone is proud that Shildon Alive is here for Shildon and belongs to the community."

Previously known as The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, this is the first time the King’s Award has been presented, in the name of His Majesty King Charles III.

The King’s Award for Voluntary Service is the equivalent of the MBE for voluntary organisations. Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer expressed her gratitude to the 262 organisations across the UK which have received the award this year.

“Each year, millions of volunteers give up their time to provide care and support, and this award recognises those truly making a difference to the lives of others across the United Kingdom. It’s brilliant to see the King continue the legacy of Her Late Majesty and reward those who support their local communities with kindness and compassion.”

The king’s representative, His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Durham, Mrs Sue Snowden, presented the award to project manager, Paula Nelson, on behalf of the project.  

Sue Snowdon, His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of County Durham said: “I am delighted to congratulate Shildon Alive on this wonderful recognition by His Majesty the King. They are a shining example of a community group making an extensive and crucial difference to families and individuals.”

The Revd Carol Harris said: “It’s such an honour to have the Lord Lieutenant here – such a prestigious award to have been awarded.”

You can read the introduction given by the Venerable Rick Simpson, Archdeacon of Auckland, during the award service here

To find out more about Shildon Alive, visit their website

First published on: 18th April 2024
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