Three Buckinghamshire residents receive royal recognition for their community work

Three Buckinghamshire residents who have tirelessly devoted their lives to helping others in their local community have had their achievements formally recognised by the Crown as they are awarded British Empire Medals.

The three individuals were presented with their medals at a special ceremony hosted by HM Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, at Missenden Abbey, Great Missenden on Thursday (16 May). The ceremony was also attended by a number of Buckinghamshire’s Deputy Lieutenants who read the citations. Trio Healthcare kindly sponsored the event and the guests were all met on arrival by a Guard of Honour provided by Bucks Fire and Rescue.

The British Empire Medal is awarded for civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown and was first created in 1922. The three individuals who received medals were:Mrs Alison Rae, Mrs Joyce Rutter and Mrs Jennifer Woolveridge.

Alison Rae has been a volunteer and supporter at the Marlow Opportunity Playgroup for 37 years. Marlow Opportunity Playgroup was first set up in Marlow in the 1970s as part of the Red Cross, but is now based in Wooburn Green. It is a specialist playgroup for children under five years of age with complex and profound needs. They provide a unique service to the South Bucks/Northeast Berks area. It has received Outstanding ratings by Ofsted in 2011 and again in 2015. The playgroup is so successful that there is now a waiting list for children wanting to attend.

Reading her citation, Deputy Lieutenant Mr Allan Westray said: “Alison has recently retired from some of her duties with the playgroup, but she continues her support through fundraising events and still visits regularly to see the children and staff. Alison has clearly touched the lives of very many families and really helped to raise the awareness of children with special needs.”

The Leader of Marlow Opportunity Playgroup, Jane Gibbons said “Alison is a wonderful, warm and characterful lady. She has a real fondness for the charity and holds it very dear to her heart, having seen it grow and flourish over time. She has directly helped hundreds of children and their families over many years. Alison loves all children, but the children who attend the playgroup are particularly special to her. She has become very attached to many of the children and loves to hear of their progress”.

Another champion is Joyce Rutter from Aylesbury who is not new to accolades and award ceremonies. In 2015, her commitment to volunteering for Cancer Research UK earned her the prestigious Flame of Hope Award as National ‘Shop Volunteer of the Year’. This is awarded for outstanding support and dedication to their shop, an ability to work with, and lead fellow volunteers, and a willingness to tackle anything that comes along.

Reading her citation Deputy Lieutenant Carolyn Cumming said “Courage is a quality Joyce has needed on more than one occasion in her life. Joyce left Yorkshire when she was a child and continued her schooling in Essex where she excelled in mathematics. In 1970, she arrived in Aylesbury as a single mum with responsibility for four young boys and had to find work. Luckily, she had experience in office work and as she herself explains, “had a good head for figures”. She took a job at Askeys, which was to prove long-lasting, but in 1979 she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Thanks to the work of Cancer Research, the survival rates for breast cancer have been vastly improved so it is perhaps easy to forget just how much lower were the chances of surviving it back in 1979. Happily, Joyce did. She returned to work and only retired from Askeys at the age of 70 in 2000.

“Her voluntary help has not been confined solely to shop based activities. Cancer Research UK reaches out nationally with such high profile events as Race for Life and Wear it Pink, the latter specifically for Breast Cancer. Both involve extra voluntary hours, be it out and about collecting or turning the street pink! Needless to say, Joyce lends her support and expertise on all of these occasions.”

Gerrards Cross resident Jennifer Woolveridge has worked tirelessly for both her electorate and the residents of South Bucks. During her time as a councillor she made a real difference to the lives of many people in the district whilst acting as the council’s Health and Housing Portfolio Holder. Furthermore her excellent work supporting the Padstones charity since her initial days as a founder board member have been outstanding. She has the unique skill and ability to motivate and work with people from all sectors of the community and to challenge organisations and individuals to take action.

Reading Jennifer’s citation, Deputy Lieutenant, The Countess Howe, said: “No matter how many causes Jennifer supports she always seems to have more time to offer to help others. She is a stalwart of the community of Gerrards Cross and has enriched its community life over many decades.”

Speaking after the ceremony, Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher said: “The British Empire Medal is only awarded to the most exemplary candidates and these three residents embody everything it represents. They have tirelessly devoted their lives to helping others in their local communities in a variety of different ways. The one thing they have in common is their dedication and commitment. On behalf of HM The Queen, I heartily applaud each and every one of them – well done!”