Staff and volunteers at Wigan charity The Brick have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
The Brick, which operates across the borough, provides support to people experiencing tough times, whether they are facing homelessness, debt, poverty or hunger.
It has a team of 148 volunteers, who in the last 12 months alone have volunteered for 17,424 hours. They work across a range of services including a food bank, retail, supporting people the charity works with, delivering food parcels and much more.
Louise Green, CEO at The Brick, said: “We recruit our volunteers from the local community and they all have a wide range of valued skills and experience. Some notable skills include social work, counselling, chaplaincy, logistics, marketing, fund-raising and they come from diverse backgrounds too. We especially value people with lived experience of difficulties that resonate with the people we work with.
“To have been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is extremely humbling and is testament to the inspirational work that all of our incredible volunteers do. Quite simply, we couldn’t do what we do without them and I and all of the team at The Brick are delighted that their hard work has been recognised.”
Louise, who has been at The Brick for 10 years, said the charity’s close ties with the community and flexibility made it stand out.
She said: “The charity is really endemic in the community.
“Those people who would normally volunteer face-to-face could do something from home.
“We’ve also been able to bring in new volunteers who weren’t shielding as was the case with our elderly ones.”
And although the pandemic has brought about challenges, Louise said the charity has continued to be in the “face of it” and helping the most vulnerable who now need support more than ever.
She said: “People don’t stop becoming homeless or in food poverty and the pandemic has infact exacerbated this.
“We’ve continued to remain very visible.”
Going forward, Louise said she wanted to do more with the charity’s foodbank and about the housing shortage in the borough.
She added: “We want to progress our foodbank community which won’t be properly possible until after June 21 and also aim to become a registered social provider of housing.
“There’s a real shortage of housing, especially for single people who are the main bulk of our support.“
The award was also welcomed by volunteers with The Brick, who have made a real difference to many people, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
Guy Davidson, 42, from Wigan, said: “I started volunteering two years ago following a breakdown in my relationship. I experienced financial troubles and nearly found myself homeless. I came to The Brick and they gave me advice and food and I now volunteer, driving the van, collecting and delivering furniture, and delivering food parcels to people who need help in our community.
“Volunteering makes me, me again. I give every hour I can to The Brick and I enjoy all the work I do. The Brick saves lives and helps families in crisis. If you need help, the Brick is there for you.”
Jean Groves, 70, from Wigan, said: “I started volunteering at the beginning of the first lockdown, as being retired and living on my own I wanted to be doing something with people and for people. I’ve been volunteering for The Brick ever since.
“I feel that I am doing something useful with my time and it’s for a really good cause. The Brick is much more than a homeless charity, there really is so much going on and the charity supports so many people. The Brick is helping people in Wigan and I’m proud to be a part of that, and to help my town.”
The Brick is one of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities.
It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and recipients are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. Representatives of The Brick will receive the award crystal and certificate from Warren Smith, Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, later this summer.
Two people from The Brick will also attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2022, along with other recipients of this year’s award.