TWO men at the forefront of Coleford’s community response to lockdown have been honoured.
Town mayor Cllr Nick Penny and Coleford fire station commander Roger Pickett are among five people from the Forest and Wye Valley named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List which was published last Friday (June 11).
Also honoured were librarian Jill Barker of Newent, civil servant Simon Hall of Longhope and retired colonel Ali Brown of Ross-on-Wye.
Cllr Penny and Mr Pickett were both awarded the British Empire Medal for their services to the community – and each said the honour also recognised everyone who stepped up to help over the last 12 months.
Mr Pickett said: I’m involved with voluntary groups so I know how much work they have done – they are the unsung heroes, the ones who have dug in and helped neighbours.
Cllr Penny said: “I’m very much accepting this on behalf of the community because I feel it was all the volunteers coming together that made the difference in supporting people in need.
“I played a significant part but by no means was I the only person involved.”
Mr Pickett’s skills in community safety and dementia awareness were particularly useful where there were concerns about the welfare of individuals – and the fire service uniform and car were reassuring for many people who he visited.
He said: “I was using my skills to find people who were not responding – when it first hit I was working for the district council as a dementia enabler.
“I was going around fetching and carrying and when the voluntary groups had an awkward one, I was there.
“Having the correct PPE (personal protective equipment) and the fire service uniform and car, I was welcomed straight in to sort things out.”
Mr Pickett, who is also president of Berry Hill rugby club, has also been driving ambulances since the pandemic struck.
He said: “The fire service releases me a couple of nights a week and I drive front line ambulances and paramedics and that can be anyhwere in Gloucestershire.”
Cllr Penny led the strategic response of Coleford Town Council to the emergency as well as joining volunteers to help with things such as collecting prescriptions.
He said: “The community naturally looked towards local councils to lead on efforts like this but we had no briefing, nobody knew what the need was going to be so.”
Cllr Penny said more than 500 prescriptions were delivered while other assistance included getting shopping and walking dogs.
He said the council also diverted money that had been earmarked for events such as the Coleford Music Festival which had to be cancelled.
He said: “We were quickly able to donate £2,000 to Mid Wyedean Churches to support Coleford community meals via Cafe 16 and the like.”
Jill Barker received the British Empire Medal for her role in developing library services in Gloucestershire.
In 2016, working with Create Gloucestershire, she secured funding for a three-year project to bring art and culture to audiences that wouldn’t normally engage and explore how libraries could become a truly public space.
Former soldier Simon Hall has been awarded an OBE for services to international trade and public service.
He is deputy director for transition planning at the Department for International Trade (DIT).
In 2017 he became the director for exports and investment for the Midlands Engine region by the DIT.
Retired colonel Ali Brown of Ross also received an OBE for her work for veterans in recognition of her work with the Women’s Royal Army Corps Association (WRACA).
The association is a small charity founded in 1919 which exists solely to support former female army personnel including financial help and bringing together former comrades.
Ali spent 26 years in the army from 1984 and rose to the rank of Colonel during which time the service transformed its attitudes to women.
For the last seven years she has been the association’s vice-president and Chair of trustees and implemented a programme of change to ensure its services remain relevant to members.
For more information on the association visit https://wracassociation.org
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