WATCH: Garden party recognises unsung heroes

A special garden party was staged in Alnwick to thank carers and volunteers for their hard work, dedication and commitment.

The event, held at The Alnwick Garden, recognised and honoured the valuable contribution that unsung heroes make to local communities and loved ones.

Carol Malia from BBC Look North is a Deputy Lord Lieutenant. 'Picture by Jane Coltman

Carol Malia from BBC Look North is a Deputy Lord Lieutenant. 'Picture by Jane Coltman

A total of 250 volunteers and carers from across the county were invited to attend the celebrations with their partners or a guest.

It was the second year that the party has taken place and it is thought to be the biggest of its kind in the region.

The Duchess of Northumberland laid on the event in her role as Lord Lieutenant of the county and she took the time to speak to the guests.

She said: “Ever since the Queen came to Alnwick in 2011 and saw the huge numbers of volunteers and carers in Northumberland, I have been keen to continue to recognise and celebrate the enormous contribution that so many people make to our communities.

The Duchess of Northumberland. Picture by Jane Coltman

The Duchess of Northumberland. Picture by Jane Coltman

“There are so many extremely generous and extraordinary individuals in Northumberland who give up their time, selflessly, to help others in need. This is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to them.”

A number of volunteers and carers from north Northumberland were invited to the party.

This included representatives from the Stephen Carey Fund; a namesake campaign set up in memory of the 21-year-old who died while playing football in 2012.

The group, which was the Gazette’s Jam Jar Army beneficiary last year, has raised tens of thousands of pounds and installed life-saving public-access defibrillators around the county.

Fund communications manager and trustee David Wilson, who attended the party with Stephen’s mother Joy Bowman, said: “It was special to be invited. It is not what we are about, but it is good to be recognised. A lot of the people at the party are unsung heroes and is amazing to find out that people are proud of you.”

Gemma Little, from Amble, has raised thousands of pounds for the Alzheimer’s Society in honour of her late mother Anne, who suffered from dementia. The 31-year-old, who became her mum’s carer at a very young age,said it was nice to be invited to the party. She added that her fund-raising efforts were all for a good cause. Longhoughton’s Elaine Foreman, of Alnwick and District Flower Club, was delighted to attend the celebrations for her blooming good efforts and felt the party was a fitting way for unsung heroes, in particular carers, to be recognised.

Stephen Colver has been involved in the Scout movement for nearly 30 years and has spent more than a decade helping out at Alnwick. The 46-year-old is the town’s current Group Scout Leader and he said it was nice to be invited to the garden party and nice to receive ‘a little thanks’ for volunteering.

As part of the event, the Duchess presented Northumbria Army Cadet Force, The Phoenix Theatre Group, in Blyth, and Tynedale Hospice at Home with the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. The groups received a certificate, signed by The Queen, and an exclusive commemorative crystal.

The Duchess said: “These groups are all very deserving recipients of the Queen’s Award. They have provided sustained and vital help to so many individuals, groups and charities and are held in the very highest esteem within their communities. Their hard work and dedication is an inspiration to us all.”

Fittingly, the event followed National Carers Week 2015, which ended on June 14 and aimed to raise awareness of the UK’s six million unpaid carers, as well as celebrating the incredible contribution they make.

The garden party was supported by Greggs plc, Ramside Estates, The Banks Group, The Barbour Foundation, Bellway Plc, Mr Duncan Davidson, Four Housing, Galliford Try, Partnerships North, Isos Housing, Jo Malone, Justerini & Brooks, Kiehl’s (Fenwick, Newcastle), Lycetts Insurance Brokers, Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, Mackays, Potts Print (UK) Ltd, Sir Robert McAlpine, Sodexo, The WA Handley Trust, Ward Hadaway Solicitors and Wyevale Garden Centres.