Saturday 20 January 2018

Fundraiser almost binned MBE letter

Irish Water has apologised over a letter mix up.
Irish Water has apologised over a letter mix up.

A veteran charity fundraiser almost missed out on an MBE honouring a life-time of dedication - after mistaking an official Cabinet Office letter for a European elections flyer.

Barbara Smith admits she came close to binning the letter confirming her inclusion in the Queen's Birthday Honours after assuming the words "Prime Minister" were part of a party political leaflet.

The 82-year-old is estimated to have drummed up around £750,000 for Action for Children since first lending her support to the charity aged just four.

As well as setting up a shop, the pensioner marked her 80th birthday with a sponsored sky-dive after rejecting a suggestion to hold a cake sale and coffee morning.

Explaining how she nearly threw away the letter offering her an MBE a fortnight before last month's Europe-wide poll, Ms Smith told the Press Association: "It said on it that it was urgent and personal and from the Cabinet Office, and I thought, I bet this is for the European elections.

"When I took it out of the envelope the first words I saw were Prime Minister and I thought that must be what it was.

"We had had such a lot of leaflets from various parties and when I started to read it properly I couldn't believe what it was. I had to keep re-reading it for the next few days."

She added that it had been "awful" having to wait five weeks before she was able to tell friends of the decision to honour her achievements for the charity, which helps thousands of vulnerable children, young people and families around the UK.

Ms Smith, from Derby, remembers selling booklets of "Sunny Smiles" as a child and was at pains to thank all those who have supported her fund-raising efforts down the decades.

"I'm absolutely delighted to receive the honour but I would never have been able to raise so much over the years without the generosity of those who've donated and the support of my close friends," she said.

The honour comes a year after Ms Smith, whose mother was a supporter of the same charity, was awarded an accolade from the Institute of Fundraising.

Praising Ms Smith for her "extraordinary" support, Action for Children's chief executive Sir Tony Hawkhead said: "Her tireless efforts over an amazing 78 years have helped us improve the lives of countless vulnerable children, young people and families.

"She is an inspirational lady and an exceptionally dedicated supporter - even going so far as to throw herself out of an aeroplane to raise funds.

"I would like to extend both my congratulations and a heartfelt thank you to Barbara on behalf of everyone she has helped at Action for Children. This honour is truly deserved."

Press Association

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