Thursday, November 30, 2023


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THE Royal seal of approval has been given to an Ards peninsula community.

Greyabbey and District Community Association (GADCA) and its volunteer group, Friends of the Abbey, have just been awarded The King’s Award for Voluntary Service.

This is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

The village of Greyabbey has what has been described as ‘its greatest asset’ – the 800 year-old Cisterican Abbey in the middle of the village, and from where it got its name.

Friends of the Abbey volunteers, working as a trusted partner of the Historic Environment Division of Department for Communities (DfC), are involved in caring for, and sharing the story of Grey Abbey.

The gardening team’s work includes looking after a rare physic garden and the guided tour volunteers share the story of the Abbey with visitors from far and wide. All voluntary donations made by visitors are used initially to care for the Abbey, but funds are channelled as well, by GADCA, into benefitting the village community in a variety of ways, such as free community celebrations of the Jubilee and the Coronation in recent times.

The King’s Award for Voluntary Service recognises outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee and, following his accession,  King Charles emphasised his desire to continue the award. Recipients are announced annually on November 14, the King’s birthday.

GADCA and Friends of the Abbey is one of 262 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups across the UK and Channel Islands to be given the prestigious award this year.

Representatives will receive the award crystal and certificate from Mr Gawn Rowan Hamilton DL, Lord Lieutenant of County Down.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Sue Newell said they are ‘absolutely delighted’ to receive this honour.

“It recognises great commitment, over many years, by volunteers, most of whom are Greyabbey residents,” she said.

“The generosity of our visitors to the Abbey has enabled us to fund lots of projects to benefit our local community, which is gratifying in itself. However, we never expected to have the group’s efforts recognised in this way, so you could say we are really chuffed.”

Sue also paid tribute to the many other volunteers in the village who give of their time to help the community in numerous ways.

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