A LADY AT THE CENTRE OF HER COMMUNITY has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for her voluntary work.

Maureen Wallwork from Washington was presented with her medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, Mrs Susan Whitfield OBE in the Mayor’s Parlour at Sunderland Civic Centre.

The British Empire is awarded to people in recognition for outstanding services to their country, community, profession and walk of life. (Nominations for Honours are welcome with further information at www.gov.uk.honours)

Mrs Wallwork was awarded her BEM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List earlier this year, and as is the right of all recipients, chose to have it presented amongst friends, family and colleagues in her home city.

Maureen, 66, is known for her tireless voluntary work in Washington, from setting up luncheon clubs and social events/activities for elderly and vulnerable people to stop social isolation to setting up a community café, organising a foodbank in her local church and fundraising for youth groups.

Maureen who lives in Blackfell said: “I am very honoured to be awarded the British Empire Medal, and proud receive it on behalf of myself, my family, my friends and the community and the charities that I work with who are all so supportive.

“I’m delighted that some of them have been able to join me today, and that my main charities such as Age UK, The Friends of Sulgrave and the Royal British Legion are also here share in the occasion.

“My first reaction when I got the letter telling me I was being awarded the medal was that it must an April Fool, so I got my husband John to read it for me just to make sure.”

Maureen added: “He said how proud of me he was which was when it all started to sink-in but we weren’t allowed to tell anyone else until the Honours List was announced so had to keep it a secret for weeks.”

Maureen and her husband John have four children Tracey, Jill, John and Caroline and four grandchildren Abbie,19, Mollie,15, Joseph,11, and Aidan,2.

The Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Doris MacKnight said: “Maureen is a great example for us all, and credit to the people of her local community and city of Sunderland.

“She is a great ambassador for volunteers and the voluntary sector. Without people like Maureen life would not be the same for so many people who need our help and support.”

Maureen works at the ASDA store Washington where she became the Community Liaison Officer.

The store’s deputy manager Paul Brayson said: “This is fantastic news and so well deserved. Myself, the store manager Mike McNamara and all of the colleagues are really proud of Maureen.

“She does a fantastic job in her role as community champion and does an awful lot of community work in her spare time too. She helps such a wide range of people – the young, the elderly, and the needy in our community.

“She’s really passionate about her role. It’s not just a job, it’s more of a vocation for her and she really drives the store’s presence in the local community.”

Maureen said: “My role at the store is all about going out into the community and showing people that you care. I love my job and I love everybody I work with.

“My colleagues in the store are so supportive of me – without that support I wouldn’t be able to do half of what I do.

“I’d also like to say a very big thank you to my family. My husband John is very patient and drives me all over the place as I don’t drive!”