Chatty Gina Long was struck dumb with shock when she opened a white envelope a few weeks ago without noticing it said ‘On Her Majesty’s Service’.
She had opened the post at her home in Fornham St Martin while taking a break from organising this year’s record breaking Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Online Auction, and was shocked to learn she was being awarded an MBE for her 40 years of charity work.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more shocked,” she admitted. “I’m rarely speechless but I was overwhelmed with shock.
“The auction was four days away and I was quite tired and I just couldn’t take it in. I just kept crying for the next three days!
“I’ve worked for so many charities over the years and all the people I’ve met along the way are incredible people all doing their own thing. This award represents everyone I’ve worked with and my family who’ve supported me.
“It’s sounds clichéd to say I’m humbled, but I am.”
The 53 year-old started raising money at the age of 13 when she began fund raising for a special needs school.
In her mid-20s she organised a local ball for the National Childbirth Trust and went on to volunteer for The Prince’s Trust from 1998 to 2008, including two years as the chair of its Suffolk fundraising committee.
In 1999 a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer which made her determined to raise money and awareness by founding Breakthrough Suffolk, which has so far raised nearly £1 million.
She started the Sir Bobby’s Online Auction and Ball in 2011, named after former Ipswich Town manager Bobby Robson, which has raised £875,500.
For the past 18 months she has chaired East Anglian Children’s Hospices’ special events committee.
Gina also organises and hosts the annual Classic Sports Cars by the Lake event for St Nicholas Hospice Care which has raised £150,000 in six years.
She is among 472 people to be awarded the MBE in this year’s New Year’s Honours out of 1,196 awards granted to people ranging in age from 13-year-old Jonjo Heuerman who gets the BEM for having raised more than £200,000 for the Bobby Moore Fund at Cancer Research UK to 99-year-old Dorothy Start for more than half-a-century of community work in Friern Barnet, Hertfordshire.
East Anglian honour recipients include Adrian Smith, from Thetford, who is deputy director of the National Offender Management Service in the East of England and gets a CBE for services to HM Prison Service.
An OBE goes to Needham Market Football Club’s goalkeeping coach Nathan Munson, from Colchester, who is an Essex police officer seconded to the Home Office and has been awarded it ‘for services to counter-terrorism’.
Nationally, a BEM has gone to Richard Tyler who was in charge of the Red Cross Team during the Shoreham Airshow disaster.
There are also a host of awards made to medical and research staff involved in the battle against Ebola as well as a knighthood to champion jockey AP McCoy and damehood for Barbara Windsor for services to charity and to entertainment.