Volunteer Margaret rewarded after 25 years of helping others

Margaret West with her trophy as Fylde Woman of the Year
Margaret West with her trophy as Fylde Woman of the Year

A dedicated volunteer who has spent 25 years improving the lives of hundreds of people has been named Fylde Woman of the Year.

Margaret West was handed the trophy at a luncheon held at the Clifton Arms Hotel on Sunday.

Scout leader Rose Marshall and youth worker and entrepreneur Elaine Gregoire, who co-founded the Streetwise Youth group in Warton, were both highly commended.

The event, staged by Fylde MP Mark Menzies and the Lytham St Annes Express, celebrated the often unheralded work carried out in Fylde.

Mr Menzies said to the gathered guests: “The judges told me that this year, they genuinely struggled to narrow down the field, before they had an even tougher time picking the winner.

“It has been a delight reading about what feels like a secret army of community champions making our borough all the better.

“But they shouldn’t be secret. That’s what today is about. Sharing the success stories in this room.”

Among those shortlisted, were In Bloom co-ordinators, cubs leaders, those fighting against isolation, homelessness, addiction and domestic violence, those helping young women tackle peer pressure and young people to achieve their best, those helping thousands of people get fit and take part in sport, charity fund-raisers, and even a sporting world champion.

Mr Menzies added: “A lot of people will know of our eventual winner, but many won’t – and that’s because she is known for quietly going about her business, helping as many people as possible, with the minimum of fuss.

“A true community champion whose efforts have gone perhaps not unsung, but certainly below the radar for far too long.

“She is the reason this celebration exists - to make sure more people know about the valuable work in our community that should be on the front pages.”

Mrs West, who lives in St Annes, received several nominations. For the past 25 years, she has operated a drop-in centre.

Her original base was in the United Reformed Church Hall in St Georges Road. But now, with a small band of volunteers, she offers a hot meal and a place to chat twice a week from the Aspire Building in St Albans Road, to some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

Mrs West said: “I commend the judges because the work we do is not fashionable.

“A lot of people don’t like to recognise that this work is needed in their area, but it is.

“I would like to dedicate this award to volunteers across Fylde for the incredible amount of work they do. They make it such a special place to live.”

Judge Martin Evans, landlord at the Hand and Dagger in Salwick, presented Rose Marshall with her award and said: “Rose’s group is so popular it has had to be split into two nights to cope with demand.

“And she also works at Pear Tree School on the buses, but does so much more.”

Canon Godfrey Hirst, presenting the award to Elaine, said: “She not only runs Streetwise, which regularly attracts more than 70 children to it, she has also found grant funding for events such as Time 2 Shine, and she opens up her home for parent and baby placements so new parents can develop the skills and confidence needed to raise a child.

“She also runs Lighthouse Leaving Care, and is a foster mum and mum-of-four who has managed to launch a Caribbean soul food company.”

The award ceremony finished with a special lifetime achievement award, handed out by the judges to event organiser Katie Fieldhouse for her vast contribution to life in Fylde. She has been a businesswoman, founded the Fylde Feast for Ten initiative, has spent years working as a carer, works with St Cuthbert’s Church, and among others has helped Trinity Hospice and the League of Friends of Clifton Hospital.