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Community figures in Suffolk awarded Queen's honours

Various community heroes have been recognised with awards in the Queen's honours list announced on Friday. People received BEM's and OBE's and MBE's for different types of work they have been involved in supporting their villages and towns.

Sarah Rush, 79, of Barnham, is set to receive a British Empire Medal (BEM) for her fund-raising work, charity events and support to her neighbourhood over the years.

Mrs Rush said: "I'm absolutely delighted, I'm really humbled by it."

One of the contributing factors to Mrs Rush receiving the medal was her support to the families who lost sons, fathers and husbands in the Paris air crash in 1974.

Mrs Rush said: "It was a devastating time for Bury St Edmunds we lost 18 rugby men in the Paris air disaster."

She helped to organise the memorial service at the corn exchange in Bury.

Mrs Rush and her late husband were closely involved in the rugby club before and after the disaster, which greatly affected Barnham and Bury.

Mrs Rush, who has been a member of St Gregory's Church since 1968 and a warden for 40 years, is actively involved in fundraising and has helped to raise £43,000 for the restoration of a 14th century tower.

"It is gratifying to be given this, I can't express that enough," she said. "I was amazed, you wonder what the cabinet office is writing to you about, I was really amazed."

Mrs Rush said her three children were absolutely delighted.

She has also been a local collector for the annual Red Cross and Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for the last 20 years.

As well as voluntary events and fundraising Mrs Rush is also the president of Bury flower club and a trustee of the Rackham Trust. The trust supports charities such as the Samaritans, asthma and Norfolk Young Farmers, as well as mental, disability, medical and educational charities.

For the last 30 years she has also been the linchpin of the Barnham fete committee.

Gary Avis. Picture: Daniel Jones.
Gary Avis. Picture: Daniel Jones.

Gary Avis, 48, is set to receive a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his charity work in Suffolk, helping to launch a new arts and culture fund, and for his services to dance and ballet.

Gary, who has been dancing with the Royal Ballet for 24 years, said: "I'm absolutely thrilled, I'm extremely honoured and I will be accepting the honour on behalf of Suffolk."

Mr Avis helped launch the arts and culture fund for the Suffolk Community Foundation in September 2015.

In 2016, he raised £105,000 for the fund by holding two sell-out gala performances, hosted at Ipswich Regent, which starred Anton du Beke from Strictly Come Dancing and various other talented ballet dancer colleagues from The Royal Ballet.

Gary said that the aim with the arts and culture fund was to get as many young people into culture and the arts as possible.

"In Ipswich, where I grew up there wasn't many places to get involved with dance which is why I wanted to give back to Suffolk with the Suffolk Community Foundation," he said.

Gary has been dancing for 29 years and is the Royal Ballet's ballet master and principal character artist as well as being involved with DanceEast as a trustee and board member.

He also co-founded a company in Japan called K Ballet.

Commenting on why he became involved in the charity work, he said: "I want to give back to Suffolk, I feel you should never forget where you come from, it's very much about keeping Suffolk involved with art and culture and allowing people to gain confidence and improve their health.

"I supported the community at quite a busy time in the schedule, it's nice to be recognised for Suffolk, it's not necessarily just about me."

Gary, who is currently appearing in Swan Lake with the Royal Ballet, thanked all the volunteers for their work on the arts and culture fund at Suffolk Community Foundation.

Gary Avis in The Nutcracker. Photo: Bill Cooper
Gary Avis in The Nutcracker. Photo: Bill Cooper

Linda Howe, 64, from Honington is also set to receive a BEM award, for her services in the community, in particular the construction of a community hall in Honington, her home town.

Mrs Howe worked tirelessly for the Honington and Sapiston village hall to be built which was a seven year project, involving securing funding, planning permission and other various arrangements for its construction.

She secured most of the funding from the lottery grant trust which is a stage by stage process and not only involves organisation before the hall was built but also involves staying in touch after the funding has been granted.

Mrs Howe said: "We managed to secure half a million pound from the big lottery fund, the work didn't stop when the hall was built."

On being recognised for her work, she said: "I'm very pleased. I'm pleased for myself and also pleased for the community, it was a strong community effort."

The hall has recently had air conditioning installed and has been put to great use by the neighbourhood and surrounding villages. It is used for fund-raising events, leisure activities, plays, films, celebrations, weddings, lunches, dinners, concerts, shows, lectures, conferences, meetings, markets and auctions.

Mrs Howe's work hasn't concluded as she is still actively trying to improve the already outstanding community hall by ensuring the range of activities offered encourage all members of the neighbourhood to make best use of it.

She said: "At the moment we are trying to get licensed to hold weddings and naming ceremonies, we have secured funding for this, we currently hold wedding receptions and it would be nice to be able to hold the full thing in the hall."

Linda Howe (2446110)
Linda Howe (2446110)

Founder and owner of Warren Services based in Thetford, Richard Bridgman has been awarded an OBE award in the Queen's honours list.

He has been recognised for the award due to his services to apprenticeships for young people.

Richard said: "I'm over the moon, I never set out to get an award. To be given it out of the blue is fantastic."

Mr Bridgman, 70, of Bury St Edmunds, tirelessly promotes apprenticeships and the benefits of giving people the opportunity to gain a degree without incurring any debt.

His engineering company has trained many apprentices over the 28 years of its existence, many of whom still have a full time role at the company.

Mr Bridgman said: "I like to consider myself a modest person and have always tried to put others first, especially young people, but I am delighted and very proud of this award.

"I believe I have worked hard outside my business to champion high quality training for young people. To be recognised for this with an OBE is just fantastic and a great honour."

He has worked with West Suffolk College in a range of areas and is currently supporting the college's bid to be a new Institute of Technology, a Department for Education programme to create 10 institutes nationwide, which Mr Bridgman believes is essential for the region.

He said: "Manufacturing in the UK has a great future but we must work to keep training standards high and give people of all backgrounds a chance to prove themselves."

Richard Bridgman with higher level apprentices at Warren Services (2446966)
Richard Bridgman with higher level apprentices at Warren Services (2446966)

Another community hero, Margaret Baxter, was awarded a BEM for her services to people with sight impairment in Stowmarket.

Mrs Baxter, 95, from Needham Market has been awarded the medal for her work at Stowmarket Talking Newspapers.

She said: "I've been doing the recordings for over 30 years now, I'm not sure how I've carried on as I only have one eye now."

The recordings are to enable people with sight impairments to be able to hear their local news. The publications available include the Bury Free Press, East Anglian Daily Times and Evening Star. The recordings are released fortnightly and reach around 89 people in the area. It is a free service for people who are registered.

Mrs Baxter said: "The recordings are for people who read newspapers and articles.

"I have no idea who put me forward, I've known for three months and was not able to tell anyone, not even my family.

"It's a lovely thing as both of my daughters are back from Australia and America, where they live."

The recordings are sent out on memory disc.

Mrs Baxter said: "I feel humbled because you think automatically about all the people who have done so much work, the reason I've been awarded is really on behalf of other people."

Mrs Baxter's interest in helping the visually impaired stemmed from when she lived in Zimbawe for 33 years when she and her husband helped people in the area.

Margaret Baxter (2487914)
Margaret Baxter (2487914)

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