Shropshire's Covid and community heroes recognised in New Year's Honours List

After another year of pandemic frustration the New Year’s Honour’s list has provided a bit of welcome cheer with recognition for some of the county’s most selfless and dedicated residents.

Chrissie Simmons, from Pontesbury, has been awarded and MBE in the New Years Honours list
Chrissie Simmons, from Pontesbury, has been awarded and MBE in the New Years Honours list

Among those named by The Queen were several who have been awarded the MBE, including 89-year-old Selby Martin from Shrewsbury, Condover College housekeeper and health and safety co-ordinator Chrissie Simmons, Market Drayton professor Anthony Ward, planning expert Sue Manns, and Olympic equestrian star Oliver Townend.

British Empire Medals have also been awarded to Karen Sawbridge, chairman of Bridgnorth Rugby Club, Reverend Keith Osmund Smith from Telford, Rabinder Singh Dhami, a prevention manager at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, Nesta Hill for charitable services in Bishop’s Castle, and Reverend Wayne Davies from Ludlow for services to the community – particularly during Covid.

Olympic equestrian star Oliver Townend has also been honoured

Matthew Lanham, from Whitchurch receives the OBE for his services to people affected by neuro muscular conditions, in his role as the Chief Executive of the Neuro Muscular Centre in Winsford.

Former Shropshire resident Mark Lloyd, who is the chief executive of the Local Government Association, receives the CBE for services to local government and charity.

While the reasons behind their recognition may differ the common theme is one of a dedication to improving the lives of others.

Chrissie Simmons, 61, from Pontesbury, was honoured for her work keeping adults with learning disabilities safe during the pandemic.

As the reality of the Covid crisis became clear she set up rigorous cleaning and testing procedures across the college’s sites.

It has meant that to date none of its extremely vulnerable students have died from Covid – a task made all the more difficult due to them falling into a category where people are 30 times more likely to die from Covid compared to others their age.

Chrissie Simmons, from Pontesbury, has been honoured for her work keeping adults with learning disabilities safe during the pandemic

She has also put her own skills to use, helping make equipment as shortages at the beginning of the pandemic made it extremely difficult to get hold of PPE

Although incredibly modest about her role Mrs Simmons said that her colleagues had been vital in protecting their students.

She said: “Everyone on the teams in the houses have been brilliant. Everyone has pulled together as a team and I am so proud of them.”

Mrs Sawbridge, 56, from Bridgnorth, has been instrumental in the town’s rugby club’s development as a key part of the community.

The club has grown into one of the town’s most important voluntary organisations, and has more than 300 youngsters taking part in its junior sessions.

Karen Sawbridge has also overseen a transformation in the club’s finances, generating vital income through the purchase of the club’s marquee – something that has also become key for a number of groups across the town.

Karen Sawbridge, chairman of Bridgnorth Rugby Club, will be receiving the British Empire Medal

It has proved vital throughout the pandemic, providing a venue for a number organisations such as the U3A to keep operating in a safe manner – with no overheads.

She said: “I am thrilled but I was also a bit bemused, I never expected my efforts to be recognised in this way and that is not why we do what we do. We just do it because it is the right thing to do and there is no greater feeling in life than helping others and seeing the fruit of your labours.”

She added: “It is the whole team effort. I am thrilled with it all but we have a wonderful wonderful team of people who work hard and we enjoy it, it is not about one person, it is about everyone at the club, they are brilliant, the players, the committee, everyone.”

Professor Anthony Ward, 71, who works at Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership Trust, was honoured for his services to “rehabilitation medicine and disabled people”.

He spoke of his pride and surprise at the award, initially thinking the letter informing him was from the tax-man instead.

Professor Anthony Ward, from Market Drayton, has been made an MBE

Professor Ward’s career has focussed on developing expertise in managing disability among people with neurological and musculoskeletal conditions, and his methods are taught in countries across the world.

He founded the North Staffordshire Rehabilitation Centre (NSRC) at the Haywood Hospital in Stoke in 1988.

At the time he was the sole consultant in rehabilitation medicine in the West Midlands, and set about developing the specialty to a stage where there are now 350 medical specialists in the UK.

He has also been the President of the British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine, as well as holding the same post with the Union of European Medical Specialists in his field.

He said it was an honour to be recognised, adding: “I feel pride but I think it is the pride in getting our centre and our part of the world recognised.

“I have worked with some wonderful people. Obviously my first thoughts go to my wife and my family who stuck by my work and supported me in that but also my colleagues. I have terrific respect for them and I hope it is a reflection of their work with people with disabilities in our area.”

Selby Martin, a former diplomat and language teacher is recognised for his services to the community.

The 89-year-old has dedicated his time to voluntary and charitable organisations and is currently chairman and trustee of the Shropshire Branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

Selby Martin 89 is on the New Year's Honours List for his services to the community

His achievements include working to save the site of the Battle of Shrewsbury from development

Mr Martin’s work helped ensure that the historic site of the 1403 battle was saved, leading to the creation of a visitor attraction.

He has also helped rescue, preserve and develop the former Conduit Head at Nobold, leading to an economic and tourism success to the south of Shrewsbury.

Mr Martin said he was “surprised and flattered to have been put forward for an MBE, but delighted.”

Sue Manns, from Church Stretton, meanwhile receives the MBE for her services to planning.

The 65-year-old runs Sue Mann Associates, and has served as President of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

She said she was honoured to receive the recognition, and is committed to getting more people engaged with the process of town planning.

Sue Manns from Church Stretton will be receiving an MBE for services to planning

She said: “If you think of some of the great spaces in the world many were planned and if you get it right it makes such a difference.”

She added: “When you are planning for people you need to engage with them, share what your thoughts are with people and get a diversity of people to respond. What we tend to do is hear from the same people all the time which is great but through them we need to reach out to the diversity of society because everyone is different, we all use spaces in different ways and we need to design them to be inclusive and to work for as many people as possible.”

Reverend Wayne Davies, 50, who is based in Ludlow as part of the Hereford Diocese, and has worked as an intergenerational missioner for the Ludlow area for several years, said he was overwhelmed at the honour but paid tribute to those people who have not been recognised.

He said: “When the letter came through first we thought it was a scam, why would I be getting a letter from the government?

He added: “For me it was overwhelming just to be nominated but there is that sense of being undeserving really.

“It is a difficult one when you know others are doing amazing work it brings it into perspective.

“Through the pandemic we just did the same as everyone else, just reached out to help people. To me it seems like everyday standard stuff.”

Reverend Keith Osmund Smith has been given a British Empire Medal in the New Year's Honours List

The Lord-Lieutenant of Shropshire, Anna Turner, said she was delighted to see the recognition for county residents who had helped make other people’s lives better.

She said: “It brings me a huge amount of pleasure to see that we have so many people in Shropshire that have been recognised by Her Majesty for the outstanding work they have achieved.

“These medals are only given to a small proportion of people who have either achieved something exceptional in public life or selflessly made life better for others.”

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