THE Galashiels Blind Club has won a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
Lord Lieutenant of Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale, Captain Gerald Maitland-Carew, presented the club’s volunteer organiser Maureen Stewart with the framed award certificate and commemorative crystal at Scottish Borders Council’s headquarters in Newtown St Boswells on Tuesday evening.
He said: “This is a very special occasion. It gives me the greatest pleasure to present this to Mrs Stewart and her team. The award is richly deserved.”
He told TheSouthern afterwards: “The Galashiels Blind Club is an outstanding group that does so much for people who have lost their sight or are partially sighted, bringing them together. There is great comradeship and communication and they make friends: it’s a big part of their lives.”
The group originally came from Edinburgh, part of the Visually Impaired for South-East Scotland (VISES) club at which Mrs Stewart volunteered 21 years ago. Three years on the Borders group hived off and the then regional council asked Mrs Stewart to run it on a volunteer basis.
“It was a craft club, but I’m not very good at crafts, so I changed it into a social club,” admitted Mrs Stewart.
Members – currently about 16 – have speakers and quizzes and play bingo, dominoes and have beetle drives, and the 10 or so volunteers help when the club meets every Tuesday afternoon in Galashiels’ Langlee Centre.
Last year member Joan Cremieu-Javel, 96, heard an item on the Borders Talking Newspaper about the Queen’s Award and decided to enter the club.
Mrs Stewart helped her fill in the form: “It went off and I really wasn’t expecting it to go any further: it was more of a surprise to me than anybody else that we did go forward!”
Asked what she thinks is special about the group, she said: “We are very friendly and the members all get on very well together and they all support each other.”
The club is one of 112 UK volunteer groups to receive the Queen’s Award in her diamond jubilee year.
The honour, volunteer groups’ equivalent of an MBE, was created by the Queen to mark her Golden Jubilee in 2002.
Captain Maitland-Carew, who co-wrote the report on the local group, said: “I am delighted that Galashiels Blind Club received this prestigious honour. Voluntary groups in Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale continue to play a pivotal role in the community and many individuals’ lives. Recognising their influence is vital and I want this lieutenancy to express gratitude to these groups by nominating as many as possible for The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the MBE for volunteer groups and highest honour in the voluntary sector.”