Four local people, including Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe, have been named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List 2016.
The list was released at 10:30pm this evening (Wednesday, December 30) and includes two people in line for an MBE - Cllr O’Keeffe, for services to the community in Lewes, and Howard Wood, from Plumpton, for services to education.
Marilyn Nolan and Jean Olney have both been honoured with a BEM for voluntary service to the community in Newhaven and Mayfield respectively.
Paul Morrison, formerly Chief Superintendent for Sussex and Surrey Police, and Olivia Pinkney, Deputy chief Constable for Sussex Police, will also both receive the Queen’s Police Medal.
After hearing the news, Cllr O’Keeffe said: “I just can’t believe it’s real. It’s such an honour and so amazing to have this recognition. I would do the job without it [the recognition] because I love it, but this is wonderful as a thank you.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do without my four children. They came along to all sorts of events with me when they were younger, and looked after each other. The support of all my family and friends has been superb.”
Ruth became a town councillor in 1999, a district councillor in 2003 and a county councillor in 2005. She served as Vice-Chair of Lewes District Council from May 2012 to May 2013 and again from May 2014 to May 2015, when she became Chair of the council. She is leader of the Lewes Independent group and has served as the town’s Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
As well as all of that, Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe has set up a number of community groups that continue to flourish, including Lewes Little Garden, which is a group of volunteers who undertake litterpicks, tidy-ups and plantings around the town of Lewes, and a door-to-door Sunday bus service for elderly and disabled residents in Landport.
She is also Chair of When Skies Were Always Blue, which distributes smalls grants to local groups, and LACEWINGS (the Lewes Association for care of the Environment with interests in Nature Gardens and Schools), as well as a Governor at Wallands School and Western Road School, where she successfully campaigned for the installation of new windows.
As Chair of Lewes District Council, Cllr O’Keeffe is also visiting 52 charities within the district - one a week - and hopes to raise enough money to give each charity £100 by May 2016.
She said: “I find the job so enjoyable. I love people and I love talking, and this job combines the two. I am involved with a lot of residents groups as well, so I find out what the people of Lewes are talking and thinking about.
“I think being a member of all three local councils better allows me to help people, as their concerns will be the responsibility of at least one of the councils I’m on.
“It is just so rewarding to see positive things happen, particularly when you’re involved from the beginning to the end, and especially when it benefits the community.”
Jean Olney is in line for a BEM after helping raise more than £100,000 by leading a volunteer group which supports the Hospice in the Weald.
Last year, the 84-year-old was also presented with a Civic Award by Wealden District Council in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the community.
Her fundraising efforts have involved staging concerts, organising lunches, hog roasts, bridge drives, flower demonstrations and coffee mornings.
Pam Coleman, from Hospice in the Weald, said: “Jean is a lovely lady who has been fundraising for Hospice in the Weald since 1995. She formed a Friends Group within her community devoting her time to organising events and raising money so that we can continue to care for our patients, families and carers. Without people like Jean we just wouldn’t be able to offer the services we do. A heartfelt thank you to Jean from everyone here at the Hospice.”
Father Nigel Prior, Vicar of St Dunstan’s, Mayfield said: “I am delighted with the news and believe it is very well deserved and a wonderful reflection of her great team work throughout the parish of Mayfield and Five Ashes.”
Mrs Olney is also involved with the Mayfield arm of the charity Friends of the Holy Land set up in 2009 which works in close co-operation with Christian churches in the region and the UK.
Marilyn Nolan has also been awarded the BEM for her outstanding contribution to work for the community after helping to raise thousands of pounds for leading sight loss charity RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People).
The 69-year-old, who has also volunteered for five other charities during the past three decades including Meridian Mature Citizens Forum and The Barn Theatre, has collected Sooty boxes in East Sussex since 1989.
The volunteering stalwart was inspired to help RNIB, which provides practical and emotional support to people who are blind or partially sighted, by her own mother, Carlyne, who had sight loss.
Marilyn’s other work in the community has included baking cakes to benefit several other local charities, being treasurer for the local junior football club (DaSH JFC) and donating more than 75 pints of blood, benefiting more than 225 patients.
Paula Woolven, Marilyn’s daughter, said: “She is an outstanding example of sustained and selfless voluntary service and an inspiration for people of all ages who have started volunteering themselves, due to her influence.
“Marilyn is a one woman unstoppable force for good in her community and I am proud to call her Mum.”
Marilyn started volunteering in 1980 when Paula, then aged eight, told her primary school teacher that ‘her mum would help’ to save cooking lessons which were threatened with closure. Marilyn not only took over the lessons, but continued to hold them for ten years after her daughter had left the school.
Helena Pellier, RNIB’s volunteer fundraising manager, said: “Marilyn is an amazing person and volunteer who has been a tremendous addition to the Sooty box collection team at RNIB for nearly 30 years.
“Without people like Marilyn, who literally go the extra mile to help to help others, we wouldn’t be able to provide the services that we do.”
Howard Wood, who has been honoured with an MBE for services to education, was formerly a teacher at Oathall Community College, in West Sussex.
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