Pair given awards in Birthday Honours


Robert Doman

A WOMAN who has devoted her time to helping elderly people has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Derryn Blanchard, from Holywell, receives the British Empire Medal for her services to the elderly, having remained committed to her voluntary role over the past 25 years.

The 75-year-old said she was “shocked and excited” by the news.

She says she enjoys helping people make the most of their twilight years by organising regular trips and events and is regularly inspired by their courage and determination.

“To see them so happy in spite of all their problems and pain is a great thing,” Mrs Blanchard said.

 “I never expected anything like this. The elderly people I help are so brave and determined to enjoy life no matter how ill they might be.”

Mrs Blanchard became a volunteer helper in 1989 with the Holywell Autumn Club, a group set up for the elderly in the area.

By 1993 she was left as the lone volunteer, but undeterred, she moved the club to a more central location the following year where it has flourished under her leadership.

The club now has 40 members up to 96 years of age and Mrs Blanchard spends much of her time contacting them by telephone to check they are able to attend the weekly meetings and organising transport for them.

She also does the book-keeping and makes numerous home and hospital visits while making arrangements for future activities.

Destinations for trips are researched and checked out by Mrs Blanchard who  makes a ‘pre-visit’ at her own expense.

She also shops for hampers for members each Christmas and arranges short breaks in North Wales and the North West.

This year she was invited to attend a Buckingham Palace garden party.

“I didn’t know anything about the BEM until I received a letter from the Cabinet Office,” Mrs Blanchard revealed.

“I was totally shocked and I feel very lucky to receive this for the work I do.

“I am excited by it, but I have had to keep it a secret until now.

“I know there are many other people in Flintshire who do similar things to me and deserve recognition too.

“My husband, Joe, who is also on the committee, helps me out enormously around the house so I can find the time to do all of this.”

Mrs Blanchard’s involvement began when she was approached by volunteers to join the club after she herself had suffered a period of ill health.

The club’s latest venture took place today when Mrs Blanchard took 50 members on a cruise of the River Dee.

“We are a happy group together,” she added.

In Wrexham, a councillor has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to education.

Cllr Carole O’Toole will receive a Member of the British Empire (MBE) award for voluntary service to education and the community in North Wales.

As chairman of governors at Yale College, Cllr O’Toole, who represents Maesydre, led the college through the merger with Deeside College to form one of Wales’s largest and most powerful further education institutions, Coleg Camria.

She was a governor at the Wrexham college for 24 years and spent the last nine years as chair of governors before her retirement in 2012.

Liberal Democrat Cllr O’Toole has been an active member of a wide range of voluntary and community bodies such as Amnesty International since 1977.

Since 2011, she has served as co-chairman of Wrexham Council’s social affairs, health and housing scrutiny committee and she currently sits on the executive board.

Cllr O’Toole said the award was testament to the hard work and dedication of all the teams she had been part of during her time at Yale College.

She  said: “I’m delighted to receive the award and, whenever you’re recognised for achievements, it’s part of a team effort.

“I do feel anyone’s education is crucially important and it was a privilege for me to be involved with Yale College as it was always excellent.

“It was a fantastic college to work with and I had a wonderful team around me, both from the point of view of the governing body, the principalship and the college.

“I think life chances are conditioned by education and absolutely everyone deserves the opportunity to reach their potential.

“A huge part of that is down to education.

“I’d like to thank the teams I worked with for their efforts, within the governing body and the staff at Yale College, it was an honour to be involved with them.”

See full story in the Leader

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