Selfless volunteers deserve our recognition

BAD NEWS usually crowds out the good. So I was immensely cheered to see this paper’s coverage of brilliant new initiatives on the charitable and volunteering fronts.

I particularly enjoyed last week’s report about the Billingshurst Community Partnership and the announcement that it has been chosen as one of 130 winners of The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

In my role as Minister with responsibility for the voluntary and charitable sector I attend award ceremonies from time to time, and often hand out an award. I’m constantly uplifted by the immense variety of activity, and always make the point that those who win the awards are merely the tip of an astonishingly large iceberg.

These are selfless volunteers who give their time and talents quietly. They don’t seek any reward or recognition, which makes it more pleasing when they receive it.

Billingshurst Community Partnership is dedicated to delivering projects that help to enhance the well-being of people of all ages and conditions in Billingshurst and its surroundings, with special emphasis on the environment. Do dip into their stunning website and see if you would like to join in with your time and talents.

All MPs recognise the value of the voluntary and community sector. At the same time we can’t forget the funding environment for these organisations continues to be difficult and many will feel very exposed to the reduction in public expenditure required to get the deficit under control.

So it was good to get a most welcome letter this week from Sainsbury’s, whose Horsham store I re-opened last November. It concerns the progress of their fundraising activities on behalf of their sponsored local charity, Sussex Search and Rescue, which is the primary volunteer resource used by Sussex Police in the search and rescue of vulnerable missing people.

In just one year, the store has raised £5,140 through a variety of initiatives including cake sales, quizzes and raffles. Across the country no less than £1million has been raised for local charities in communities where these partnerships are set up.

Which reminds me that the 2011 Powder Byrne Junior and Open Tennis Trophy is open for entries if any energetic young people feel inspired to follow in the footsteps of Rhys and Julie Hanger from Horsham who won the Mixed Doubles National Final in 2010.

And Wimbledon is underway. Will St Swithin be kind to us this Wimbledon? I know the gardens and farms are thirsty for rain. But just at night please!