Aberdeen children’s charity Charlie House has been honoured by The Queen as Platinum Jubilee celebrations begin.
The organisation was established by Aberdeen mum Tracy Johnstone in 2011, and since then it has helped countless families with seriously ill children.
Staff and volunteers got the bunting out at their Balmoral House base in the west end this week to celebrate the royal recognition.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest prize a local voluntary group can receive in the UK – and equivalent to an MBE.
With the sun beating down on the tangerine-clad group, Charlie House volunteers revealed just what the honour means to them.
Charlie House delighted to get Queen’s blessing amid Platinum Jubilee
Kay Sowerby began helping out five years ago following a chance encounter with Charlie House mums at the Celebrate Aberdeen parade down Union Street.
The recently retired oil and gas chemist told us she was inspired when she learned about Charlie House’s aim to build a specialist care centre in the city.
She said: “I myself don’t have kids, and when I met these mums I was amazed by what they were doing, and what they have to do, for their children.
“I learned what Charlie House is all about, it’s an amazing charity.”
Kay has since climbed Machu Picchu for the cause, and helped fundraise when lockdown put a halt to the charity’s usual activities.
Charlie House is one of 244 groups receiving the royal recognition as the Platinum Jubilee long weekend gets under way.
It will receive the award crystal and certificate from Aberdeen’s Lord Provost later this summer.
And volunteers will swap their orange shirts for their gladrags when they attend a garden party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in July 2023.
‘We don’t do what we do to get awards’
Charlie House was nominated for the accolade by a mystery supporter.
Royal representatives then visited to confirm it would be a worthy recipient.
And though flattered by the recognition, Tracy won’t be resting on her laurels.
She said: “We don’t do what we do to get awards, but it’s always nice when our hard work gets recognised.
“Now we are back with our full calendar of events, and fundraising for the Big Build Project, it’s very full-on.
“The centre is absolutely essential for families, and that is our focus.”
Charlie House volunteers ‘went above and beyond’
Joan Cowie, volunteer and information co-ordinator at Charlie House, explained how its volunteers have risen to meet to major challenges.
She said: “Despite reduced opportunities during lockdown, our volunteers worked really hard.
“They donated nearly 4,000 hours last year alone by delivering online activities to families, recording online tutorials and working remotely.
“They went above and beyond to provide invaluable support to the families, many of whom experienced long periods in isolation, shielding their vulnerable children.”
You can learn about volunteering here.
Also among the 22 Scottish groups given the royal award are the Buckie Boys Brigade and the Gordonstoun fire service.
The Cromar Future Group also receive honour
Meanwhile, Deeside charity The Cromar Future Group has also received an award.
Volunteers organise after-school science and weekly youth clubs, talks, climate change workshops and an annual family science festival.
Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire, Philip Manson, said: “The Cromar Future Group is not tackling what might arguably be described as the ‘normal’ aspects of community life that others tend to focus on.
“They are, as their name suggests, absolutely focused on the future – both of our nation and of the young people that make up the rural communities that they serve.
“The impact of the lack of Stem skills and understanding cannot be overstated and the key to a sustainable solution is to spark interest, and even excitement, in these subjects at an early age.”
You can learn more about Cromar Future Group here.