Haverhill charity named the best of a kind in Suffolk

From left: Henry Wilson, Ann Merrigan, The High Sheriff of Suffolk, William Kendall, Lesley Ashford-Smith and Pastor Paul Turner at the High Sheriff's Awards
From left: Henry Wilson, Ann Merrigan, The High Sheriff of Suffolk, William Kendall, Lesley Ashford-Smith and Pastor Paul Turner at the High Sheriff's Awards

A Haverhill charity that helps people to lift people out of poverty has been named the best community organisation in Suffolk - the first time it has ever won an award.

REACH Community Projects was named the 2017 Community Organisation of the Year at the High Sheriff’s Awards for Suffolk when they took place at the Hoffman Building in Snape Maltings recently.

The awards are given out by the High Sheriff, William Kendall, in partnership with Suffolk Community Foundation and the event was hosted by BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Lesley Dolphin and Suffolk Community Foundation’s Development Director Tim Holder.

Henry Wilson, projects director for REACH, was there to collect the award - a new experience for him.

He said: “I don’t think we’ve ever had any recognition in that sense.

“It’s just great to have an award really. We’ve never had anything before so we were just really honoured.

“I was really chuffed just to be shortlisted. I thought that was great news, I never expected to win, I never did, so to win was just amazing.”

REACH was founded by River of Life Community Church in 2005 first as a debt counselling organisation with Christians Against Poverty, which included the still-running Haverhill Foodbank and Haverhill Furniture Bank, before adopting the name Reach Community Projects in 2010.

Highly commended at the awards in the Volunteer of the Year category as a runner up was Lesley Ashford-Smith for her work at REACH Community Projects.

Lesley’s commitment was praised by Mr Wilson, who said: “She is like a dog with a bone, I think that is pretty much how I would describe her, in a nice way.

“She just can’t let something go.”

Each winner was presented with a small salver to keep, with the larger salver to be returned for next year’s event.

REACH received £1,000 for winning the Community Organisation of the Year Award and a further £250 thanks to Lesley’s runner-up spot in the Volunteer of the Year category.

They also received a trophy and certificate.

The money will be spent on the refurbishment of the REACH Resource Centre on the Clements estate with some of it also going towards their Client Aid resource.