Some of Northamptonshire’s selfless volunteers and community stalwarts have been recognised in the New Year’s Honours list.
The former headteacher of a Kettering special school and an ex-Rowell Fair bailiff are among those in the county who receive MBEs.
And an OBE is awarded to David Reynolds, chairman of the North Northants Development Company and member of the Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, honoured for services to agriculture and to the community.
The Pytchley 73-year-old, who is also on the board of Camgrain and is a former county high sheriff, said: “It’s amazing. I had a letter a few weeks ago and I had no inkling of it until then.
“It’s a tremendous honour, I am absolutely delighted. I am just thrilled to have it.”
Debbie Withers, who retired in the summer after 23 years at Wren Spinney Special School in Kettering, has been made an MBE for services to education.
Mrs Withers, 63, who was headteacher at the Westover Road school for 14 years, said: “It was complete disbelief when I got the letter. I read it and I thought, ‘This has got to be a joke’. To get recognition for something you do and enjoy is just a double bonus.
“I hadn’t imagined I would ever be in a situation where I would ever be considered. The whole thing has just felt surreal and such an honour.”
Mrs Withers, who also won the inspiring a generation gong at this year’s Pride in Northamptonshire awards, said the MBE would benefit Wren Spinney.
She added: “It gives people the chance to learn about the school and what we are trying to do with young people who have special educational needs.”
Also made an MBE is Beverley Williams, from Thrapston, who founded the Social Worker of the Year Awards in 2006.
A practising social worker, Ms Williams, 53, has overseen the awards’ subsequent growth, and formed the charity Social Work Awards in 2011.
She said: “I didn’t expect it in a million years. When I read the letter I couldn’t stop screaming. I don’t think it’s really sunk in. It’s good to be recognised and receive an honour for something I love doing and something that’s very close to my heart.”
She set up the awards to pay tribute to social workers – and it has since grown into a ceremony which this year was attended by education secretary Nicky Morgan.
Her concept of awards ceremonies for social workers has since spread as far as Australia.
There is also an MBE for Angela Doughty, 80, of Walgrave, who set up the Wilby Riding for the Disabled Trust in 1996 to pass on her passion for the therapeutic qualities of animals, in particular horses. The trust, which is now based at Moulton College, uses ponies bred at her previous home in Wilby.
Children up to the age of 11 at schools in the Kettering and Northampton areas use the riding school, and Mrs Doughty said the honour was recognition for her team of volunteers.
She said: “It is difficult to describe how I feel. I was very surprised when I found out.
“I have been very lucky in my life that I have been brought up around animals and I have always found them a huge help. We found the ponies can help children who have problems with social or communications skills.”
Meanwhile, a British Empire Medal (BEM) has been awarded to Robert Denton, 76, for services to the community in Rothwell. He spent 22 years as bailiff of the Rowell Fair Society after 12 years as deputy.
Mr Denton was also a district councillor for 16 years, as well as a special constable between 1960 and 1994. He spent 42 years teaching, including 23 years as headmaster of Walgrave Primary School.
He said: “When the letter passed through the letterbox you think ‘Oh my goodness’.
“I’m thrilled to bits to get the honour but you do feel very humbled by it – there are other people in the area who put as much into the community as I do.
“But I feel proud to be appreciated. It’s a lovely feeling.”
A BEM is also given to Chris Boucher, of Wellingborough. The 78-year-old has spent 56 years volunteering with the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Mr Boucher is currently chairman of Wellingborough and District Talking Newspaper for the Blind, acting as both reader and recording engineer for two decades.
He said he was “overwhelmed” to be honoured, adding: “I never thought I’d get anything like that. It came completely out of the blue. It’s very nice, very rewarding, to have the work recognised.”
Elsewhere, there was an OBE for Joan Tice, of Teeton, for charitable services through the Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, and an MBE for Sally Smith of Northampton for political service. Geoffrey Spokes, ex-watch manager at Long Buckby Fire Station, receives a BEM for services to the community.