This honour – the equivalent to an MBE – is the highest award given to local voluntary groups in the UK, and was accepted on behalf of all BGN volunteers by the chair, John Robertson, and the co-chair, Erica Borgstrom.
The presentation ceremony on July 11 was very well attended by BGN volunteers and clients, who also heard speeches by Cliff Andrews from the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity (BRCC), the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, and Biggleswade’s Mayor Councillor Grant Fage.
A spokesman for BGN said: "Among the many reasons given for BGN receiving the award, the most prominent was the extraordinary effort and dedication demonstrated by volunteers in coping with the Covid-19 lockdowns, when client numbers increased almost sixfold.
"Fortunately, volunteer numbers surged as well, and those present at the ceremony were keen to emphasise that being part of BGN is about more than just helping others – it’s also forming friendships and cooperating with likeminded people that make it so rewarding."
Referring to the wider BRCC network, Cliff Andrews expressed his gratitude, saying that: "The number of new clients supported rose to over 2,300 with a total of 36,500 tasks undertaken, and it is fair to say that Biggleswade Good Neighbours contributed more than its fair share of those tasks.
"[You] are true leaders in the field ... [and] your proactive and can-do attitude to supporting individual clients – and wider community activities such as litter picks, coffee mornings and newsletter distribution – genuinely help people live better lives."
Recently, BGN has started turning its attention to the impact the climate emergency is having on the day-to-day lives of the most vulnerable in the community.
With heat waves becoming more common and increasingly severe, the befriending network set up during the pandemic is coming into its own as a means to check on the welfare of people who "might otherwise slip through the cracks of a crumbling welfare state".
Please help spread the word. Call 07771 104255 if you need assistance or want to volunteer.