Winslow Big Society Group receives highest honour from The Queen

Winslow’s Big Society Group has been awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
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The Queen’s Award is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

The Winslow Big Society Group is one of 244 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year.

Chair Vron Corben said: “We’re absolutely delighted. I personally knew quite a while ago, but it was very hard to keep it a secret, I must say.”

Friendship Lunch run by Winslow Big Society GroupFriendship Lunch run by Winslow Big Society Group
Friendship Lunch run by Winslow Big Society Group

Created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities.

Representatives of Winslow Big Society Group will receive the award crystal and certificate this summer from the Lord-Lieutenant of Bucks, Countess Howe.

Then in May next year, two representatives from the group will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace, along with other recipients of this year’s award.

Run entirely by volunteers, Winslow Big Society Group was set up in 2012 to identify and help to plug the gaps in services and provision in the Winslow community.

Hard of Hearing Group run by Winslow Big Society GroupHard of Hearing Group run by Winslow Big Society Group
Hard of Hearing Group run by Winslow Big Society Group

Over the years, it has set up a wide range of groups and services aimed at promoting health and social inclusion and helping vulnerable residents.

They include a low-cost Community Car Scheme, staffed by volunteer drivers, to take people to GP and hospital appointments; Telephone Support Volunteers who chat with someone on the phone once a week; Gentle Walks; a Hard of Hearing Group; Friendship Lunches and smaller Afternoon Teas.

Vron said: “We have had things that go up and down. In fact, the Family Drop-in at one time we were thinking of closing because we weren’t getting to the families we needed and it wasn’t really achieving very much.

“And then we had Covid, and it was one of our success stories after Covid.

"All these Covid mums with Covid children, especially if they were first babies, who had spent the whole of their introduction to parenthood completely isolated, with children who were scared of everyone because they had never met another child.

"And so for them the drop-in was a really good way forward. And of course, once it’s established, then they tell all their friends, and then you’re on to a winner.

"So our problem now is we’re really too big for the space we’ve got at the library, so we’re having to look at that at the moment.”

A new development since Covid has been an increase in one-to-schemes, including a an Accompaniment Service for people who are too anxious to get out of the house post pandemic, where residents are matched with a volunteer to help build their confidence over a limited time period.

“We’ve had people who couldn’t get beyond their front door, people who just wanted to be able to get down their drive,” said Vron.

“The lady who couldn’t get down her drive now comes into Winslow to do her own shopping.”

And Vron paid tribute to the Big Society Group’s 120 volunteers and the “brilliant” committee members.

“They are just absolutely amazing people, they all go the extra mile, they all absolutely unbelievable at what they do,” she said.

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