Goldthorpe Salvation Army minister Territorial Envoy Alison Sykes is among those named on the Queen’s 2017 Birthday Honours list, and will be appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for service to families in Dearne, South Yorkshire.
Living in the town for the past 22 years, Alison, 44, raised her two children as she volunteered and worked in a number of volunteer and paid posts with families – from parent-and-toddler groups to schools’ and youth work. She is currently the leader of Goldthorpe Salvation Army, where she supports families experiencing challenging circumstances - for which she was nominated to receive an MBE.Alison said: "Lives are changed at The Salvation Army every day over a cup of tea as people open up and invite us into their lives."
She said: "I was surprised to read the letter from the Cabinet Office telling me I’d received this honour – I couldn’t believe it. I’m thrilled to be honoured in this way, although, the real privilege for me comes every day when I’m invited by families into their lives to stand with them as they face tough moments and to provide love, support and guidance as they start taking steps to move forwards."
Alison started volunteering for The Salvation Army 17 years ago, having attended the parent-and-toddler group and been encouraged by the former ministers to become more involved.
She said: "I grew in confidence through the trust they placed in me, which led to me taking on more responsibility and eventually becoming the minister in charge here three years ago. We all have God-given value and potential and by caring and loving people we can see them grow and flourish."
People seek support at The Salvation Army for a number of reasons, whether they’re experiencing issues with housing, addiction, learning difficulties, unemployment or even financial, relationship or other crises. At the hall on Straight Lane, the community drop in provides a welcoming space for people to pop in. Alison is on hand as people begin to address some of the ongoing challenges in their lives and she offers friendship, guiding them to job-search facilities, lifeskills programmes (including sewing, cooking healthy meals on a budget, baking, bike repair), providing practical assistance or accessing help from other agencies. Sitting on a number of local boards and working alongside a number of agencies has Alison well placed to guide those who seek support. Through her care, people find a safe haven at The Salvation Army, a welcome, a cup of tea and a listening ear as they then work together towards a solution.
All we do is built on a love for and a commitment to these families, providing time and space for people and being willing to help where we can. I’m proud of how far so many have come – it’s an encouragement and a healthy reminder that challenging circumstances can be turned around and by loving people it can and will happen and that’s when we see lives transformed.’