Meet the Doncaster people who are being celebrated in the Queen's annual honours

Kind-hearted Doncaster folk have gone above and beyond to help those in their communities during the Covid-19 pandemic, and now three deserving people from the borough are being celebrated through the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

By Laura Andrew
Saturday, 10th October 2020, 7:43 am

This year the Queen's honours list is paying special tribute to those who have made a difference in their communities during the pandemic.

Bridget Clark, a retired postmistress, has made the list due to her tireless efforts with the Finningley Community Spirit Group.

She is receiving a British Empire Medal (BEM) for her hands on service to the Finningley community.

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There are three Doncaster people on the Queens Honours List this year.

Bridget, who is 71, said: “It’s really humbling to be on the honours list.

“But I want to be clear that this is not just for me.

“It belongs to all the people I have worked alongside with and the volunteers just as much as it does to me.”

Bridget set up the group in an effort to reduce loneliness and isolation in her hometown.

Bridget Clark is receiving a BEM for her work with the Finningley Community Spirit group.

She worked at a postmistress for 36 years and says that it opened her eyes to just how many people needed help.

“The world isn’t what it used to be when I was a child,” she continued.

“I remember the days when my mum would tell me to go and check on the elderly ladies on my way to the corner shop.

Samantha Sidall and her team at ECO.

“Now-a-days we’re all so busy that the community spirit is lost.”

The group had been up and running for years by the time that March of 2020 brought the unwelcome side effects of the pandemic.

Bridget used her already existing connections within her town to set up care packages to those in need.

She has supported over 75 residents with 450 food parcels, hygiene essentials and treats.

Matt Smith is receiving an CBE for his work with Key Fund.

Bridget said: “It has really kept a lot of them going.

“Everyone has really needed a boost during this time and it’s lovely to see smiles on their faces.”

Bridget is looking forward to attending the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in the future and says she is going out for a socially distanced celebration with her family to mark the occasion.

Samantha Louise Sidall will be receiving an MBE for her role within the Edlington Community Organisation (ECO).

As Project Lead she has spearheaded their response to Covid-19 and has helped over 900 people in Edlington with emergency food parcels, care packages and activity packs.

Samantha, aged 31, said: “It was really unexpected that I made the honours list but I’m really proud.

“I’ve been a volunteer at ECO for 16 years and have slowly worked my way up the ranks.

“It’s been a massive team effort these last six months and the dedication of my team has been exceptional.”

Samantha and her team have contacted 160 vulnerable households daily to check in on the elderly and the isolated within Finningley.

They have received over £100,000 in donations of food, cleaning supplies and toiletries to distribute.

“It’s really nice to be recognised for our work and it proves that we have been making a difference,” she continued.

“We sometimes focus on the negativity here but it makes me proud to see the community work being done.”

Her team has also provided support to another seven community groups to extend their outreach to an additional 946 people, totalling their estimated contributed volunteering hours at 523 including evenings and weekends.

Many of the volunteers that now work alongside Samantha were once a recipient of ECO services and are now passionate about giving back to the community.

Samantha says her team is now gearing up to provide even more care to the Edlington community with the threat of a second wave bringing fresh issues and putting more people into vulnerable situations.

Matt Smith from Wheatley is receiving a CBE for services to Social Investment.

Matt the CEO of Key Fund is being honoured for his work providing flexible finance to support those who may traditionally be excluded from mainstream finance.

Matt, aged 42, said: “It’s humbling to be personally acknowledged with a CBE for my work.

“It’s also a fantastic recognition of the role Key Fund has played over 20 years, helping to support organisations working in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the UK.

“However, the real honours should go to the passionate social entrepreneurs and community activists that we have supported, who do the most amazing things every day.”

Key Fund was formed in 1999 in response to the collapse of the coal and steel industries in South Yorkshire, and now operates across the North and the Midlands.

Matt joined the Key Fund in 2002 when he was 24 years old, initially as a Grants and Loans Officer, rising to the position of CEO in 2015.

“I should also acknowledge the remarkable team and directors that I have the pleasure to work with, who make Key Fund what it is - they aren’t just doing a job, they really put their heart into this work because they see how it can change lives,” he continued.

Over the last 20 years, Key Fund has supported over 2,500 social and community enterprises, enabling 1,315 new jobs, safeguarding 2,094 jobs and creating 519 new businesses, all working to tackle deep-rooted challenges, from homelessness and NEETs to mental ill-health and the environmental crisis.

Matt said: “Covid-19 has brought huge challenges, but the sector has shown its ability to respond and be fleet of foot.

“Social investment is a movement that’s never been so vital or needed offering hope, regeneration and recovery, especially to those even more at risk of falling through the cracks in society with the fall-out of the pandemic.”

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