MORE than 50 volunteers with the Luton Irish Forum (LIF) past and present have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
The Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Helen Nellis, as the Queen’s representative, presented the prestigious award on July 23, in recognition of the contribution of LIF volunteers to the local community.
The volunteers were nominated by Lord Bill McKenzie, a long-term friend and supporter of the charity.
“This is a matter of great pride that the Irish Forum in Luton, for over 20 years, has been engaging with local communities and assisting the Irish in Luton,” said Thomas Scanlon, Chair of the LIF Trustees.
The QAVS is for volunteer-led organisations and is the highest award given in the UK for volunteering, the equivalent of an MBE to an individual.
During the presentation the 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 3300 hours of their time, helping the most vulnerable and those at risk of social isolation.
Highlights included an online St Patricks celebration, delivering 50 complimentary Christmas dinners, plus bacon and cabbage meals at St Patrick’s, a befriending service, online get-togethers and even bingo online and by phone.
After lockdown and Covid restrictions, their award 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.”
She added: “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 distinguished guests, notably, Lord and Lady McKenzie, Deputy Lord Lieutenants of Bedfordshire Dr Robert Oakley OBE DL, Reverend Lloyd Denny DL and Professor Gurch Randhawa DL, 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.
For further information about the LIF or how you could join their award-winning volunteer team call 01582 720 447 or email [email protected].