Charity volunteers from Essex feature in New Year's Honours list

Donald Smith

Reverend Donald Smith outside his church in Essex - Credit: Donald Smith

Community heroes from Essex are among those who have been rewarded for their efforts in the New Year's Honours for 2022, particularly for helping those who have struggled during the pandemic.

Reverend Donald Smith, from Frinton-on-Sea, has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community, particularly during tougher times in the pandemic.

Donald Smith

Reverend Don, as he's known, took up the reins as rector of St Mary’s in June 2008 - Credit: Donald Smith

He developed a project to supply food and prescriptions to all local residents and ensured funds were raised for those financially impacted.

Food and medical prescriptions were delivered to 129 people with a total of 338 individual deliveries.

For those who were lonely and isolated, he set up a separate service for wellbeing calls to be made multiple times a week.

He also brought together four primary schools and other stakeholders to provide meals for the 320 eligible children, shortly before the government U-turn.

He said: "I feel very honoured to be on the list and to receive a British Empire Medal, it's very encouraging.

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"But there are a lots of people involved over the past couple of years in putting together a scheme to help people who might be isolated during the pandemic."

Dennis Barnett becomes a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to vulnerable people in Essex.

The Colchester man has volunteered with the Open Road Charity (Drug and Alcohol Recovery) for the past 12 years, primarily through his role as lead volunteer for the SOS Bus project in Colchester town centre every Friday and Saturday night.

This entails long shifts providing a safe haven for vulnerable people who may have been attacked, sexually assaulted, intoxicated or under the influence of drugs - his team of 68 volunteers are trained to deal with any eventuality.

Over the course of its existence, more than 213,360 people have received some form of help, this help has also saved upwards of £300,000 for Essex Police Force, the Ambulance Service and A&E.

Dennis said: "I'm still sort of reeling after a month of knowing, it's still not quite real.

"You do what you do because you want to do it, not because you want someone to reward you."

When not ‘manning’ the bus, he finds time to deliver essential items to many vulnerable groups in the area and is actively involved in supporting the local women’s refuge particularly during the challenging times of Covid.

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