Family worker receives BEM in The Queen’s New Year Honours.
published on 7 Jan 2022
A Salvation Army family worker has been recognised in The Queen’s new year honours, receiving a medal of the order of the British Empire.
Kim Rogers, family worker at the corps in Oldham Fitton Hill, was one of just 122 people recognised for their exceptional service to the UK overseas or internationally across a range of fields including achievements made by Britons around the world to combat Covid-19.
Kim, 36, from Bardsley in Oldham, received the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to social inclusion and the community in Oldham, Greater Manchester. Kim recognised the social threats of Covid-19 and led the community support providing help to in excess of 1,500 people through a venture she co-founded with her friend, Charlene Burns also of Oldham, Real Education Empowering Lives (REEL).
REEL, which was founded in 2017, was originally formed to break down barriers to education, training and employment and works in partnership with The Salvation Army across Fitton Hill, Oldham, offering parent and baby groups, holiday initiatives, healthy eating courses, women’s groups and food parcels. REEL also runs an emergency clothing rack and during the first lockdown, the team challenged themselves by taking activities into a virtual form with women’s groups, dads’ groups, holiday activities and baby classes all run online via platforms such as Facebook Live and Zoom.
Reel and Kim, who was nominated by three unknown people, said: “It is really nice to be recognised, not just for me but for the whole team. We wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing without them.
“We have been really lucky with the community in Fitton Hill, we have volunteers who will go out of their way – taking donations home to wash for the emergency clothes rack. If we are short of items, we put a shout out on Facebook and people will rally round and donate. The community really pulled together and supported Reel and The Salvation Army. This is recognition for all of them.
“My husband Graham (also a family worker for The Salvation Army) has been my rock. He’s kept me grounded, looking after the kids, and setting up and developing the dad’s group. He deserves as much recognition; I wouldn’t be able to do it without him.”
One of the most innovative things that the group did during the pandemic was singing to the elderly and isolated to help tackle loneliness.
Kim, who is originally from the Isle of Man and came to live in Oldham in 2006, continued: “I think what inspired me during the pandemic was my dad, who I lost two and a half years ago. He worked in care for people with dementia and used to play a musical game ‘singo bingo’ playing music from different eras for them to guess the song.
“When we locked down my first thought was the elderly. Everyone was going through a crisis, but I knew they would be the most isolated and their mental health would suffer. I
thought ‘we need to go and sing to them’ and I think that came from my dad. We also did ‘singo bingo’. That really kept them going through those 18 months and now they are coming to us at The Brew (community hub and café run by The Salvation Army).
“I think that is what got us nominated, as well as doing the emergency stuff like food parcels, it was doing something a bit different with a focus on mental health.”
As a new mum when the pandemic hit, Kim could empathise with others who were missing out on parent and baby groups. Her and Graham set up online groups, as well as delivering sensory packs each week, and pens and paper for home schooling.
“The mums and dads have said it was a lifesaver for them. They appreciated that somebody cared and would do that bit extra. We personalised it and would have virtual birthday parties for each child,” she said.
The Salvation Army corps (church) at Oldham Fitton Hill is open five days a week offering programmes and activities for the whole community, working to improve the community through commitment, friendship, action, care, compassion, love and neighbourliness.
Kim added: “We had some people who could not leave the house who are now volunteering with us at The Salvation Army and for REEL. You can see the positive difference this has made to people, which is the biggest reward.”
Major Estelle Blake, church leader of The Salvation Army Oldham Fitton Hill said: “Kim is a fabulous member of our staff and church, she has given her personal time to support the community, not only with initiative ideas but personally supporting individuals with their own mental, emotional and physical health. As her manager I am proud and excited to see that the wider community will know of the fabulous person that she is.”
Later this year, depending on Covid restrictions in place at the time, Kim and Charlene will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace where they will receive their medals.