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BEM for Community Support Work by Parish Volunteer

Published on: 3 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 6 Jan, 2022

The British Empire Medal

By Martin Giles

Alexandra Sanderson thought it was a spoof when she opened a letter in November informing her she had been shortlisted to receive the British Empire Medal for her community work.

Luckily she showed the letter to her husband whose father had received an MBE. He said, “No, that’s real!”

But she told no one else until the official announcement on New Year’s Day.

Still sounding surprised, Alexandra told The Dragon “I would never have expected anything. Quite honestly it should be a community award because I’m just one tiny, little cog in an amazing community.”

During the lockdown, Alexandra joined Carla Morson’s Coronavirus Support Group in Ash. Alexandra continued: “We did a lot to make sure everybody had the contact number which I added to the St Mary’s parish magazine. Then together, Carla and I launched the food parcels project because I was doing a lunch club during the week from the chapel at the time, and we had to close it.

Alexandra Sanderson setting up for Friday Cafe at St Mary’s on Vale Road.

“After that, the vicar, Neil Lambert, who is inspirational, and I ended up having to deliver the food we were getting for the lunch club. Then we got together with Carla and turned it into a food parcels project which is still going now.

Alexandra Sanderson and her 10-year-old daughter Lucy on a Zoom call.

“Every Friday and every Wednesday we’re taking food to people in the local community who need it. Then there was all the children’s work which I normally do through the various church groups, the baby groups, community cafe… we just had to find innovative ways to do that in lockdown. So there were lots of Zooms and outdoor events, whatever was possible really.

“We know people’s stories and we try and provide whatever support we can to just be alongside them in their hour of need.”

Formerly a Barclays Bank employee, who has lived in Ash Vale since 2008, Alexandra now works for St Mary’s parish for 16 hours a week: “But,” she adds cheerfully, “it often turns out to be more like 60!”

Celebrating the award has had to be restrained because of the ongoing pandemic: “It would have been irresponsible to have a get together because of the Covid risk. We were isolating anyway over Christmas because my daughter had tested positive. But we did all have a glass of champagne together and another with my parents on New Year’s Day.”

It is not yet certain when the medal will be presented but it will be at a local ceremony, she has been advised.

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