Territorial Envoy Alison Sykes attended Buckingham Palace on Thursday 16 November to receive the honour.
Mother-of-two Alison has lived in Goldthorpe for 22 years and has volunteered and worked in a number of roles supporting families – from running parent-and-toddler groups to schools and youth work. The 44-year-old is currently the leader of Goldthorpe Salvation Army, where she supports families experiencing challenging circumstances - for which she was nominated to receive an MBE.
She said: “It still hasn’t sunk in that I’ve been appointed MBE.
I’m thrilled to be honoured in this way on behalf of my community, because this honour recognises the bravery of the families here who allow us into their lives to journey with them through their toughest times. I’m fortunate to have the privilege every day to be invited to be part of that journey and to provide love, support and guidance without judgment.
“People in Goldthorpe are fighters – they don’t give up; they keep trying no matter what knocks them back and what’s lovely to see is the ripple effect of those who come to us for help who then go on to help their neighbours and others too.”
Alison and the team offer support from the church and community centre on Straight Lane, which often attracts as many as 70 people. Many local organisations and businesses support the work, such as by donating food to the feeding programme run by Alison and her team.
Alison started volunteering for The Salvation Army 17 years ago, having attended the parent-and-toddler group and been encouraged by the former church 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 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, financial difficulties, relationship problems or other crises. At The Salvation Army 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.
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. 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.”