Royal seal of approval as three Lancaster district voluntary groups are awarded prestigious honour

Three voluntary groups which help people across the district in very different ways have been awarded a top honour by Buckingham Palace for their work.

BaySAR volunteers at the headquarters of the team at Milnthorpe.
BaySAR volunteers at the headquarters of the team at Milnthorpe.

The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities.

It was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of the Queen's coronation, and is seen as the MBE for volunteer groups.

Winners of the award were announced today, Wednesday, with Bay Search and Rescue, Beyond Radio and Lancashire Youth Challenge all being honoured.

Lancashire Youth Challenge on one of their annual challenges pre-pandemic, supported by volunteers, which has helped them to win The Queen's Award.

Bay Search and Rescue has been awarded the QAVS for its lifesaving work on the treacherous sands of the bay and elsewhere in the UK.

For more than 20 years Bay Search and Rescue has been involved in every major coastal incident around Morecambe Bay, including the search in 2004 for 22 missing Chinese cockle pickers who were later sadly found to have drowned.

The charity has been involved in many life-threatening floods along with snow and wildfire incidents across the north west and have provided national flood support to DEFRA.

BaySAR support all emergency services and have memorandums of understanding with both Cumbria and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Services.

Beyond Radio, a group of volunteers based in Lancaster, has been honoured with The Queens Award for Voluntary Service.

The team is renowned for its ability to travel to areas when no one else can, using Hagglund Tracked Amphibious Rescue vehicle's, boats and four-wheel drive vehicles.

During Storm Desmond the team travelled hundreds of miles across fields and fells to reach communities cut off by the fast-flowing flood water.

In June 2018, BaySAR's Hagglunds were tasked to assist in one of the country's biggest and most protracted wildfires on Winter Hill near Bolton.

The team was in attendance for 10 days, which is the longest continuous incident in the team's history.

Lancashire Youth Challenge's young people and staff on a pre-pandemic Coniston Challenge, one of the many activities supported by volunteers which has helped them to win The Queen's Award.

Chair of Bay Search and Rescue, Steve Stebbings, said: "We are all so proud and honoured to receive such prestigious recognition for our charity.

"For more than 20 years Bay Search and Rescue have been providing specialist life-saving services for our communities in the most extreme conditions in support of our statutory services.

"The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service represents a wonderful accolade for our selfless and committed volunteers.

"May I offer my heartfelt thanks to all who support us."

Beyond Radio, a group of volunteers based in Lancaster, has been honoured with The Queens Award for Voluntary Service.

Lancashire Youth Challenge (LYC) has achieved the award in recognition of the outstanding work its volunteers have done to benefit their local community.

LYC is a dynamic charity which enables young people to build confidence and resilience via an exciting year-round programme of personal development and wellbeing workshops, creative arts activities, community impact projects, cultural education events and outdoor expeditions.

Volunteers established LYC in 2015 and, although it now has two paid staff members, it still depends on volunteers to help with activities and sit on its trustee board.

“Over the past six years, we have been reliant on the dedication of more than 50 volunteers whose commitment has enhanced the lives of so many young people,” said LYC chief executive, Guy Christiansen.

“We are very grateful to all our volunteers and thrilled that their hard work has been recognised with the Queen’s Award.”

Among one of the most dedicated of LYC’s volunteers is Ken Calland, the mini-bus driver who gives up his time to help transport young people to activities including the annual challenge which in past summers has taken place in Scotland, Northumberland, the Lake District and Yorkshire.

Many of LYC’s volunteers provide pastoral support to young people participating in weekly sessions focusing on their physical and emotional wellbeing, creative and life skills, and community impact.

Some are peer mentors including Joshua Lightbown, who benefited from LYC himself and is now a trustee.

Despite the pandemic restricting many of LYC’s activities in the past year, the charity adapted by providing online sessions, again supported by volunteers, and distributed laptops and digital tablets to those young people without access to the necessary technology.

Among LYC’s recent successes have been leading a creative and cultural education programme entitled Our Place In The World in partnership with Lancaster University and Culture COOP; a digital arts festival with More Music; and a visual art project with Stanley’s Youth & Community Centre in Morecambe.

And its young people have already begun another community impact project in partnership with Lancaster’s Fork to Fork, a food growing project run by people with support needs, and are planning their summer challenge involving climbing Scafell, canoeing Windermere, caving, abseiling and wild camping.

Beyond Radio, a group of volunteers based in Lancaster, is a community radio station broadcasting on FM, and is the only local radio station covering Lancaster, Morecambe and Carnforth.

Launching full time in 2016, the station has grown to become a much-respected community resource, providing a platform that celebrates and promotes the area's broad, diverse cultural mix.

Local community groups and charities regularly feature on-air to ensure a louder voice in the local community and to provide listers with information that is relevant to them and their needs.

Steve Normyle, managing director of Beyond Radio, said: “We are honoured to have been awarded what we consider to be the pinnacle of recognition for the hard work of our incredible team.

“Giving local people a service that keeps them informed, entertained and engaged on the things that matter most to them, is at the heart of everything that we do.

"Our team of volunteers are the beating heart of what it means to be a community radio station, and today’s recognition is truly wonderful.

“In a year like no other, the role of all volunteers has never felt so critical. Without the dedication of volunteers across this country, in roles of shapes and sizes, we simply would not be able to live the lives that we do. Volunteers are the backbone of our nation and we are proud to play our tiny part.”

The three groups are among 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the Queen’s Award this year.

Representatives will receive the award crystal and certificate from Lord Shuttleworth, Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire, later this year and two volunteers will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2022.