Winslow resident awarded New Year honour for community work

Veronica Corben, who has awarded a BEM in the New Year's Honours list
Veronica Corben, who has awarded a BEM in the New Year's Honours list

A Winslow resident who founded the town’s Big Society Group has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

Veronica Corben, 66, founded the society in 2012 in a bid to identify and address the gaps in the provision of services across Winslow and the surrounding areas.

Veronica, known as Vron, said it was ‘a complete shock’ when she found out about her BEM, awarded for services to the community of Winslow.

She said: “It was a very humbling moment and I was totally overwhelmed - it was the last thing I expected.”

The society was set up to promote social inclusion for all age groups.

It has more than 100 volunteers and the number of projects it undertakes continues to rise.

Among the many projects it oversees are a community car scheme that enables non-drivers to access vital services or gives them an opportunity to meet friends.

In partnership with the North Bucks Patient Support Service, the society runs a professional telephone befriending service.

Other groups the society oversees are exercise groups, singing for pleasure, afternoon teas, a hard of hearing group and a Parkinson’s group.

For younger users there are weekly drop-in sessions at Winslow Community Library, an additional play scheme during the school holidays, as well as a holiday lunch club offering free home cooked meals to struggling families.

Vron said: “I never expected the society to end up on this kind of scale – it started off as a vision where I did not have any preconceived ideas of what I wanted to do.

“I am most proud of the fact that we have achieved so much with very limited resources.

“It is very difficult to pick out a project that I am most proud of, but a few I would like to highlight are the community car scheme and also the befriending service which we run alongside the NHS.

“The befriending service is the only one that we run which is telephone-based but I have seen first hand how it changes lives so I am extremely proud of that.”

The society became a charity last summer enabling it to get liability cover for its many and varied activities.

In 2014, Vron became the chair of the Aylesbury Vale Child Contact Centre ensuring the service was able to continue.

This came about through her daughter-in-law Lianne, who is the centre's co-ordinator.

Despite having very limited expertise in the field, Vron decided she wanted to take on a new challenge following her retirement and agreed to lead the centre.

She said: “Five years on, I am still learning all the time, but I have a real passion for the project and helping those who find themselves in a crisis situation.”

The centre, based at Aylesbury Methodist Church, provides a safe and neutral space in which children can meet a parent they do not live with.

Under Vron’s leadership, she has upgraded the training of staff, obtained funding and involved the expertise of local magistrates, judges and solicitors.

Vron said she was very grateful for the award but added she wanted to thank the many people who had helped on her journeys with both the big society and the child contact centre.