Queens Award for Voluntary Service Ceremony at Felsham Hall Barn

Yesterday marked another special occasion for the Rural Coffee Caravan as we were officially presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award given to local Volunteer groups across the UK, recognising outstanding work in their communities. Over seventy people including staff, Volunteers, trustees and representatives from partner agencies gathered at Felsham Hall Barn, Bury St Edmunds, which we were kindly allowed to use by Mr. and Mrs. Michael Shallow. The barn itself looked magnificent with bunting hanging from the beams, beautiful fruit and flower table arrangements and exquisite music provided by Xenia and her harp!

The ceremony began with a formal welcome to Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant – Clare, Countess of Euston from our patron Mr Stephen Miles and Mrs Karin Norman-Butler, followed by a short procession and then the Lord Lieutenant’s Secretary, Sue Bennitt giving the formal announcement of the award. Lady Euston said a few words about the history of the charity before presenting the crystal award to our wonderful Founder Sally, and the certificate to CEO Ann, who, along with Deputy Lieutenant Mrs Judith Shallows, all shared in giving their thanks to all the Volunteers that make the charity the wonderful organisation that it is.

Sally expressed our appreciation to Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant and invited her to cut the ‘Coffee Caravan cake which featured a miniature ‘Coffee Caravan caravan from the logo, crafted in icing, created by Debbie Lock of Little Barn Cakes. This ended the Ceremony and the Tea Party commenced, with many of our Volunteers having tea and coffee poured for them for a change! There was a lovely spread of sandwiches to dig into but of course, no ‘Coffee Caravan event is complete without a supply of cake, of which there was plenty, all thanks to the hard work and preparation of Diana and Elaine. Also, many thanks to Heather for loaning us the largest blue and white china tea set ever, for the event.

It was wonderful to watch so many Volunteers meeting and sharing stories of how the Rural Coffee Caravan has not only changed their lives but the lives of those around them, and chatting about what being a ‘Coffee Caravan Volunteer means to them. Sally made sure all Volunteers would have a memento of the occasion, visiting each table and handing them a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service enamel pin badge which each Volunteer can wear with pride.

As the event ended, our Volunteers once again proved why they deserve so much recognition, without being asked those remaining ‘rolled up their sleeves’ and pitched in with the mammoth task of clearing up, all working together to clear tables, wash up and put everything away!

This charity really would not exist without each and every Volunteer: amongst them all the caravan tow-ers and maintainers, tea pourers, cake bakers and friendly conversation makers, washer-uppers, knitters, sewers, website creators and updaters, poster and flyer distributors, village co-ordinators, funding bid supporters, table and chair ‘luggers’ & event setter-uppers, social media sharers & ‘word of mouth forwarders’ and we take this opportunity again to thank and praise all of them for all that they do!

(Photos courtesy of Annette Dunning and Andrea Pittock)