It's a second royal honour for Leighton Linslade Homeless Service volunteers in the space of six months, following the award of a British Empire Medal to Rosie George for services to the community during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rosie, 64, was named in the Queen' s New Year's Honours List for her work with the homeless service and the Black Horse shelter, following on from manager Paul Latimer receiving the same accolade in the Birthday Honours last summer.
At the time of receiving his own BEM, Paul in an interview with the LBO (here) thanked all the volunteers but said staff member, volunteer and education co-ordinator Rosie was worthy of a special mention, adding that she "deserves a medal too!".
On that wish coming to pass, Rosie said: "It's a tremendous honour to be recognised with a British Empire Medal and when I received the letter in November I was completely overwhelmed.
"Paul, with whom I worked and who was the driving force throughout the lockdown of 2020 in ensuring that the Black Horse shelter and foodbank worked to support people both living in the shelter and in the local community, received notice of his BEM in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.
"I did not expect that this would be followed up with me being recognised in the New Year's List. I know he was quite vocal in his insistence that I deserved one too - not sure if the Queen heard him, but I am truly honoured to have received the award."
Rosie said the core belief of the homeless service charity was that people deserve support when in trouble.
She said: "My role during COVID lockdowns involved quite a lot of time in the kitchen - which I loved and spending time with people living in the shelter, taking lots and lots of photographs of people doing all sorts of things to help keep the Black Horse running.
"It was a time I will never forget. I learned a great deal about people and how, despite all sorts of difficulties which is incurred through homelessness and addictive behaviour, there is so much good to be found in people who can be so harshly judged.
"Having recorded the period of lockdown in the Black Horse, it was good to be able to help individuals recognise their progress through display boards that depicted all that they had achieved. And in August they all organised my birthday party which involved decorating the shelter and all the food that I like - even if they didn't. It was such a lovely surprise and a birthday I won't forget."
Leighton Linslade Homeless Service closed the Black Horse shelter in March 2021. This was because many homeless people had been provided with accommodation as a result of increased funding from central government and therefore running the shelter was no longer cost effective. However, the team vowed to remain at the heart of the community, as they will continue to run its foodbank service and are also looking at new ways to support townsfolk.
She added: "Paul and I realised the importance of keeping people safe and worked together with the support of others, to ensure that people were protected. The accommodation part of the charity's service has ended but our link with the homelessness sector has not - we will always support those organisations that work with people who become homeless.
"The charity has run the community foodbank for some years and continues to run with support from all parts of the community and dedicated volunteers. My role now involves coordinating the foodbank, but we remain in contact with the outreach team and others who are directly involved in supporting people who face homelessness and all that is involved in helping people become part of the wider community rather than remain apart from it.
"Paul has worked tirelessly within the homelessness sector and all that I was able to achieve was through his support and training. My background is in education and whilst some aspects of teaching has proved useful, watching, and learning from Paul was an education. We made a good team, and it is wonderful that we have been honoured with the award of British Empire Medals. It would be great if we could receive our medals in a joint ceremony."
Rosie added that she was delighted to see that Carol Lister from Cheddington, who, along with Gail Steed, had also received a New Year's Honour (as reported here).
She said: "Carol is amazing and has been and continues to be an enormous support to the charity's food bank. So many people have supported the work of Black Horse House and continue to do so. Cheddington village is extraordinary in its generosity, but Carol has visited us so many times, always cheerful, always supportive."