The oldest and biggest Gurdwara in Europe has been given a royal seal of approval for its incredible charity efforts.
Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick is one of 19 charitable organisations in the West Midlands to receive a prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
The iconic Sikh temple is at the heart of the community, normally preparing 10,000 meals every week for those in need, while also hosting a local nursery group in its playgrounds.
Established in 1958, it is the flagship of Gurdwara in the UK, and listed by Historic England as one of the top 10 places of faith and belief. Its 200 volunteers, aged 12 to 85, provide food, spiritual support and fundraising.
It recently raised funds to erect a 10ft bronze statue of a Sikh soldier to commemorate the Sikh contribution to the war effort in the First World War.
Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick’s president, Jaswinder Singh said he was delighted. “It serves as great recognition of the amazing work of all the volunteers (Sevadaars) at Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick.”
They were among 19 recipients in the West Midlands, covering organisations based in Birmingham, Dudley, Smethwick, Stourbridge, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Warley, Wednesbury, Solihull, Kenilworth and Coventry.
The Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE – the Queen’s regional representative – said: “Through the activities of the West Midlands Lieutenancy, I come across many people providing amazing support and giving their time to help others. It is heart-warming to see so many of these organisations gain the recognition they deserve.
“I am so grateful for everything they do and am thrilled that we can praise their efforts through the QAVS Honour.
“As well as thanking these special charities, of course we are all aware how West Midlands’ people are making such an effort to support each other during the Covid-19 pandemic. I do hope we will receive nominations this year so that in 2021, we will be recognising the many heroic voluntary organisations.”
Fox Hollies Community Association, Acocks Green, Birmingham
Fox Hollies Community Association has run its community centre for over 30 years, supported by 80 volunteers.
There are activities for the very young, including pre schoolers, a lunch club popular with people living alone, and a group for the elderly, alongside a youth group and environmental centre.
Around 1,200 people use the centre each week and the volunteers receive training and relevant qualifications in child care, first aid, food hygiene and dementia.
Handsworth Helping Hands
The volunteer group really gets its hands dirty to clean up and make Handsworth clean, tidy and a great place to live.
Run by seven dedicated committee members and backed by 500 volunteers on its Facebook site, the charity clears dumped waste, recycles rubbish, does gardening for people unable to to do their own, and check in with vulnerable residents.
The sense of community support extends to organised litter picking days for kids. The volunteers use their “can do” attitude to tackle a wide range of jobs in the community.
Linda Baddeley, from the group, said: “Being nominated for the QAVS was a great surprise and hearing that we’d been selected to receive the award was an even greater one. Our Handsworth Helping Hands committee volunteers, all ‘elders’, get a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction from doing what we can to help the local community and to improve the local environment. Getting the QAVS is the icing on the cake!”
Acacia Family Support – Sutton Coldfield
The project helps over 500 families affected by perinatal mental health, including anxiety and post natal depression. This includes supporting fathers.
Many of the volunteers have previously received support themselves before wanting to help others, undergoing rigorous training first.
Vicki Hook, Acacia’s Business Director, said: “Our volunteers are the beating heart of our charity and quite simply, there would be no Acacia without them. They walk alongside our families offering hope and reassurance.
“Each and every one of them deserves this very special award and recognition.”
She said the charity has also been adopted by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham after they were left facing financial uncertainty due to the loss of fundraising opportunities and appeals through the pandemic – so this was a double dose of good news. Donate HERE
Ladywood Community Project
The project, in the heart of Ladywood, supports a range of schemes to help relieve poverty and social isolation.
Last year the project supported 3,672 people seeking advice and benefits – including children.
They run the Wrigglers playgroup to support parents, hosts drop in sessions and advise on completing forms and bills. They also host an annual Christmas party and affordable holiday outings for local families.
Martineau Gardens, Birmingham
Martineau Gardens is a community garden and charity with a focus on therapeutic horticulture. It is a renowned garden of sanctuary that has been used as a model for improving mental health, both for its 80 volunteers who tend the gardens and its thousands of visitors.
Soho Road Business Improvement District CIC, Birmingham
The area has undergone an incredible transformation thanks to volunteers from Soho Road Bid.
Activities have included creating a garden in High Street, supporting homeless people into safe accommodation, helping dozens of people into work and paying for training.
The group’s chairman Bob Balu said today: “We are delighted to receive such a prestigious award. This recognition means the world to the BID Board and pays tribute to all of our volunteers as it shows that the work we do is appreciated within our community and nationally.
“We are also honoured to be the only Business Improvement District to receive the award in 2020 and possibly in the history of the awards. We would also like to thank all of the partner organisations that support us including Birmingham Council’s Cleaner Greener Streets and other departments, West Midlands Combined Authority, Birmingham and Solihull LEP, West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service, Kier Highways to name just a few.”
Birmingham City Council leader Cllr Ian Ward added: “This award speaks volumes about Soho Road BID and its importance to the local community. At their best, Business Improvement Districts are about so much more than business interests, they’re about a sense of place, local pride and community. The Soho Road BID team clearly understand this, and the award is richly deserved recognition for a lot of hard work.”
Birch Thompson Memorial Fund, Wolverhampton
From its Gelliwig centre in Wolverhampton, the Birch Thompson Memorial Fund helps many young people from deprived areas of Wolverhampton with mentoring and an opportunity for small breaks away from home in Wales.
The charity has taken asylum-seekers, refugees, people with learning difficulties and others for mini holidays to experience nature, the countryside and the sea.
The breaks, educational and leisure activities are carried out by a dedicated team of volunteers, who share the vision of the charity’s founder, Keith Berry MBE, who has been a driving force for the last 38 years.
Black Country Touring – Smethwick, Sandwell
Black Country Touring brings the best theatre, dance and cinema to the heart of communities in the Black Country and tells local stories through unique, creative productions.
Last year 217 performances took place across 33 venues, some with unusual settings. For example, one production set up a makeshift “seaside” in a car park with caravans and served up Fish and Chips to the audience.
One of their recent productions, “Back In Ten”, involved local people who work in and manage cafes, hairdressers, South Asian fabric and Caribbean food shops, who had no previous encounters with the arts.
Some 6,446 people attended their productions across the year and 48% travelled less than two miles to get there.
They also work with schools and with deaf and disabled people.
The volunteers, who cover all roles including selling refreshments, feel the organisation reflects its community and offers social contact for many people who would be lonely.
Co-Artistic Director, Frances Land, said the award was a real boost – “particularly as we struggle to adapt to lockdown and social distancing, when the community venues we work with are closed.”
She added: “It’s a real tribute to the hard work and commitment our volunteers bring to the community.”
Coventry Children’s Boot Fund – Coventry
The Fund provides around 500 pairs of shoes in the Coventry area to new immigrants, refugees, children of evicted families who have lost their possessions and very poor families barely surviving on benefits.
A coordinated team of eight volunteers provide the service, working with a specialist shoe retailer.
Discover U – Stourbridge
Discover U, based in Wollaston, provides skills to people with learning and physical difficulties to help them into employment and runs a cafe based in a former bakery building in the High Street.
The Tea Room serves up cakes while the workshops on-site craft and skill sessions, including painting, woodwork, sewing and gardening.
Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust
Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust ensures the canal and tunnel is preserved. The trust builds and maintains canal boats, guides school visits, hosts a chit-chat club to tackle loneliness and maintains the canal and its towpaths. Some 97,000 people visited in 2018.
Dudley Voices For Choice
Dudley Voices For Choice empowers people with learning disabilities and autism to share their experiences and bring about improvements, advising councils, health organisations and medical staff on how they can best make changes to improve the quality of life for many disadvantaged people. It also runs a cafe and meeting place.
EnV Coventry CIC
EnV Coventry manages events, trains volunteers and supports community activities around the city, including Coventry Sports Week, an international Tag Rugby event, Youth Festival, The Davis Cup at the Ricoh Centre, school games and the Coventry Festival of Motoring.
EnV also runs the Coventry Ambassador and Coventry Young Ambassador programmes that provide leadership and other skills.
Solihull Borough Talking Newspapers
A source of news and support for people with disabilities, visual impairments and other conditions, the talking newspaper is put together by long serving volunteers.
For information of how to get your copy, check out the Solihull website here.
St John’s Church Preservation Group – Dudley
This landmark building was saved and restored, with support from English Heritage. It is now an emblem of community spirit in the Black Country, and includes a drop- in cafe, jumble sales, and a Nature Reserve in the grounds.
Stratton Street Methodist Church Community Centre (SSMCC) – Wolverhampton
This charity tackles issues of isolation, loneliness, boredom, anti-social behaviour, unemployment, education, nutrition, physical and mental well-being in heart-warming ways, galvanising local residents to turn their deprived area into a community gem.
Food is provided through the Surf “n” Snack shop, Breakfast Club, Lunch and Holiday Clubs; food parcels are delivered to those in need; along with Stay n Play and Youth Action clubs, junior football and dance classes. There is also a clothes and furniture scheme.
Top Church Training: The Connect Project – Dudley
A scheme that helps under 35s to find employment, and dignity, through training, practical skills, work placements, mentoring and by running an allotment.
Their help stretches across Dudley, Halesowen and the Black Country.
Walsall Link Line
Walsall Link Line supports people with dementia and their families, helping over 500 people providing therapy, a dementia cafe, befriending visits, weekly calls and carer support.
Details on how to nominate any organisation for an award can be found on the West Midlands Lieutenancy website HERE